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Female circumcision, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is a very dangerous surgery. It is done to girls of any age, from a few days old to right before their wedding. The most common age is three. In most countries where FGM is practiced the clitoris is considered dangerous to the man. At one point they thought that if a penis touched a clitoris, it would shrivel up and fall off. Girls in Africa and parts of Asia are genitally mutilated for family honor, cleanliness, protection against spells, insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband, or to terrorize women out of sex. In the late 70’s and early 80’s parts of Europe and the United States used circumcision as a way to “cure” over-sexed or neurotic women. No matter what the excuse for it, Female Genital Mutilation is a form of sexual abuse. There are three types of Female Genital Mutilation. The first type, Sunna, meaning tradition, is the only form that can correctly be called circumcision. Sunna is the removal of the tip of the clitoris. The second, clitoridectomy, is the most commonly practiced type. Clitoridectomy is the total removal of the clitoris and the adjacent labia (also know as the ‘lips’ of the vagina). The third type, Infibulation, is the most severe and harmful type. In infibulation, the entire clitoris and both labia are removed. Then the remaining tissue of the vulva are pinned together by catgut or silk sutures. A tiny slit, for urination and menstruation, is left open by inserting a sliver of wood, a matchstick, or reed into the vagina. After the surgery, the girl is bound from hip to ankle and kept immobile for 40 days. This allows scar tissue to form. All three types result in many harmful effects. Most of the effects of FGM are caused by the surgery taking place in an unsanitary environment. Kitchen knives, scissors, razor blades, or pieces of glass are the most common instruments used for the cutting. Unless performed in a hospital, the cutting tool is generally rusty and very dirty. Instead of sterilizing the instrument between surgeries, it is placed on dirt, ashes, or cow dung. This results in many infections. Using the same tool on several girls also promotes the spread of HIV. Due to loss of blood and pain many girls suffer from shock. Many women suffer from pelvic complications. Also urinary retention and urinary tract infections are common among circumcised women. Due to loss of blood many of the girls suffer from week bones, often resulting in fractures and breaks. The loss of the clitoris makes it impossible for the woman to have an orgasm. If the person performing the surgery-either a mid wife or a barber- has bad eye sight or is unsteady, surrounding organs may be damaged. There are no positive effects to Female Genital Mutilation. There is no definite origin for FGM, but there is a myth that may have something to do with it. The myth is about Lamia, a beautiful seductive woman. Lamia would “unite” with young warrior men inside a cloud. When the cloud would lift, Lamia was left standing with a pile of the warrior’s bones around her feet. The bones were being gnawed on by a snake. The myth is that during intercourse, Lamia’s clitoris “ate” the young warrior. This myth was known throughout the world with only a slight change from culture to culture. This myth may be what started female circumcision. In conclusion Female Genital Mutilation is sexual abuse. Women who have experienced it, live in pain due to what was done to them as a child. Most of the women are too afraid of either the men in their culture or changing tradition, that they won’t speak up against it. No one should have to live in pain and fear all their lives. Word Count: 644

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