Friday, June 17, 2011

Female genital mutilation

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The sex-related article that I chose to write about deals with the topic of female genital mutilation, something we have discussed extensively in our Bio 41 class. The article begins with a little vignette of an old woman examining seven tiny knives �knives that are used for female circumcision, a ritual that was performed on her several years before and continues to be performed to this day. The article goes on to explain what female circumcision exactly is (the cutting out of part or all of the clitoris, vulva and labia) and indicates how widespread and common a practice it is, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic population of the continent’s west. However, attitudes about this practice are beginning to change, as the dangers associated with it are beginning to be conveyed through popular media, which in turn is slowing the custom. However, this quiet revolution is not getting rid of the coming-of-age rite altogether. Instead, older women who used to perform the circumcisions on adolescent girls are now becoming role models for them, acting as counselors and teaching the girls a variety of health issues during a period of seclusion. This alternative rite of passage is becoming more widespread, as last year more than 100 former circumcisers agreed to put down their knives and participate in this safer practice. African government is also changing its attitudes towards female circumcision, as at least eight sub-Saharan countries have passed legislation banning such a ritual. In fact, a historic court ruling even prevented a Kenyan father from forcing his daughter to undergo female circumcision. However, prosecutions still are rare, with such punishments forcing the practice to move underground. Despite the changing times, female circumcision is still performed, maintaining its important social and economic role. Regardless, the times are beginning to change as the fight to abolish this practice are going strong and making progress.

I think that this was an excellent article that is accurate, relevant and important. I obtained the article from a reputable source (Time Magazine), and therefore the information contained in it can be trusted. Additionally, a lot of the information presented about female genital mutilation coincided with the information that we learned in class, therefore reinforcing my belief in the accuracy of the article. I also feel that this is an extremely relevant and important issue to society, because, as the article stated, this is such a widespread practice, with up to 8% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa being subjected to such a horrible ritual. As fellow human beings, we cannot simply sit by and let this practice occur without being concerned. Just because it does not occur in our country (for girls, anyway) does not mean that we shouldn’t care about this topic. This inhumane and barbaric practice needs to be stopped and the more education we have about it, the more we will be able to help put an end to it.

However, I would need to know more than what this article provides in order to become more educated and explore this topic further. For example, I would like to know more statistics regarding the dangers and negative consequences of female circumcision. I would also like to learn more specifics about the cultural importance of this ritual, so I could have a better understanding as to why some societies think that female circumcision is a necessary and appropriate rite of passage. Additionally, I would like to learn more about other measures, (besides the one mentioned in my article) that countries are taking to eliminate this practice. It would be helpful to find out what legislation is currently in the works for outlawing or putting limits on this practice in various countries as well as what other alternatives exist as a substitute for female circumcision. To find any of this information, I would probably go to current health magazines or journals for the latest developments on this important topic.

Overall, I learned a lot from this article. Although we had learned about female circumcision in class, I was not aware that any alternatives to this practice currently existed. I thought it was very interesting that the cultures who perform this ritual are starting to revolutionize and create other rites of passage for adolescent girls. I think the idea of having women role models teach girls about sex and other health issues is a great step to eliminating the dangerous and unnecessary practice of female circumcision and hopefully this alternative is just one of many more to come.

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