Female genital modification, or mutilation, (FGM) is a topic that has been debated amongst anthropologists, as well as the general population, for quite some time now. This process, which is practiced in different areas of the world including parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, involves removing all or part of a woman’s external female genitalia for no medical reason. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that there are four different types that can occur including a clitoridectomy, which is removing all or part of the clitoris, or an excision, which is complete or partial removal of the labia minora and clitoris. The next, most extreme form of modification is infibulation, in which all external genitalia is removed and the two sides of the vulva are stitched together and the final category is other, which includes all other damaging practices to the female genitalia. In some of these cultures, FGM is something that is celebrated; however, many other cultures view this as a gruesome violation against human rights.
The main reason that female genital modification is difficult to defend with cultural relativism is because of all of the negative consequences that can occur as a result. This procedure, which has absolutely no health benefits, only harms a woman’s body, despite whatever cultural or spiritual benefits it is believed to have. For example, during or immediately following this surgical procedure that uses no anesthesia, women can face severe pain that can send their body into shock or even death, urine retention, hemorrhages, or open sores and injuries in or near the genital region. Other long term consequences include severe pain during urination, sex, and menstruation, as well as chronic bacterial, urinary, and wound infections. Furthermore, many of these procedures, depending on where in the world they occur, are done by traditional practitioners with unsterile devices including knives, razors, scissors, and even pieces of glass or...
References: Shweder, Richard A. 2000. “What About “Female Genital Mutilation”? And Why Understanding
Culture Matters in the First Place.” Anthrogology 03/04: 145.
World Health Organization. 2013. “Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet.” Last modified
February 2013. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
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