Having your daughter circumcised is horrendous. Nevertheless, the total or partial removal of the external female genitalia is a common use in thirty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Over 200 million girls and women have been circumcised. Why would parents do that to their daughter?
Parents want to prevent falling out of grace within the community. They depend on the community for their livelihood. For this reason, they behave according to the prevailing norms and values and don’t deviate from them.
Circumcision is seen as a way to protect your daughter from sex before marriage, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It allegedly prevents your daughter from adapting a ‘loose moral’. A daughter who has sex before marriage results in the parents losing their honour and respect from the community.
A daughter must be circumcised to find a suitable man, because all boys and men have learned they should not accept an uncircumcised woman.
The larger and more impressive the ceremony of a circumcision is, the bigger the impression on your fellow villagers. This acquires status within the community. No matter where in the world you live, everyone thinks it’s important how people look at you and what they think about you.
In many cultures, the circumcision is a transitional ritual which prepares the daughter for adult life. After the ritual circumcision, a girl is no longer a child, but an adult woman who is ready for marriage.
By cutting away “unclean” or “non-feminine body parts” a girl becomes a real woman.
A circumcised daughter is worth more. To marry a girl, the groom’s family is required to pay a dowry in many countries. If the girl is circumcised a higher dowry can be requested.
The daughter often says she wants it. Because she doesn’t know any better. She was raised with the idea that this is one of the most important moments in her life. This is why she will not want it any other way.
It is said that through circumcision of the woman, the man experiences more pleasure during the act of sex.
Female circumcision is a gross violation of the human rights of girls and young women. It carries enormous health risks. It can lead to serious bleeding, infections, cysts, urinary-, menstrual- and sexual problems, complications in child birth with possible death as a consequence for mother and child. Women have absolutely nothing to gain from it. They are forced to live with a lifetime of physical pain and psychological problems and usually receive no medical or psychological care.
With educational sessions for parents and the girls themselves, we have prevented girls from being circumcised in recent years. In Tanzania, we provided an alternate transition ritual where the girls received shelter during the period of the transition rite and were given resilience training, alternated with sport and play activities and parents vowed to not have their daughters circumcised.
Terre des Hommes, together with Pan Nederland and DCI-ECPAT, is part of the Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA). This alliance pleads with governments and local authorities for better policies and enforcement of legislation to protect girls and women against these harmful practices.