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Explain the ethical problems facing anthropologists who are carrying out their research in cultures that practice female circumcision (female genital mutilation).

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“Of course I shall have them circumcised exactly as their parents, grandparents, and sisters were circumcised. This is out custom.”

"I was genitally mutilated at the age of ten. I was told by my late grandmother that they were taking me down to the river to perform a certain ceremony, and afterwards I would be given a lot of food to eat. As an innocent child, I was led like a sheep to be slaughtered.”

Patricia Do Rosario

IB Anthropology

December 12, 03

Mr. Martin

        Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice that started in Africa approximately 2,000 years ago. It is mainly a cultural practice, not a religious practice. FGM, the removal of all or just certain parts of the external parts of the female genitalia, is an invasive procedure that is normally done on girls before puberty. This operation leaves them with reduced or no sexual feeling and pleasures. There are three varieties to this procedure: Sunna circumcision, clitoridectomy, and infibulation. Sunna circumcision is the removal of the tip of the clitoris and/or its covering, the prepuce. Clitoridectomy is the removal of the entire clitoris and the removal of the adjacent labia. Infibulation

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        The reasons for the continuation of FGM vary depending to the socio-cultural context of where it exists. There are psychosexual, sociological, hygiene and aesthetic, and religious reasons for why FGM is practiced. Those who continue this type of practice usually state these things: “It is our culture… It is our religious obligation… all our people have done it… it makes you clean, beautiful, better, sweet-smelling… you will be able to marry, be presentable to your husband, able to satisfy and keep your husband, able to conceive and bear children.” Women who usually do not get circumcised are considered to be prostitutes or members of an outcast group. Some cultures believe that female (and male) should be circumcised because it is a procedure that is necessary to be performed in order to convert a child into a real woman (or man). Female circumcision is often thought of to purify and to protect the next generation from dangerous outside influences. In some societies, men have been taught that only circumcised women make good wives.

        Anthropologists argue that women most probably have female circumcision to follow with their traditions, to enhance their femininity and beauty, to discourage the activity of masturbation, and to protect female “purity” and the society’s honor.

        Nonetheless, many have noticed that there are more negative aspects about FGM than there are positive.

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FGM is seen as a way of ushering a girl into womanhood, and sometimes girls who have gone through female circumcision look down on other girls who have not had this “rite of passage.” Many women grow up into believing that female circumcision is the right thing to do, while there are others that are conscious that FGM is simply a maladaptive tradition. In my point of view, I stand in the middle. However, I lean more towards the side where anthropologists should intervene with this practice because I think that many human rights are violated and that this cruel and harsh custom is harming many individuals who are technically considered to be “brainwashed”. Female genital mutilation causes many short as well as long term damages to a woman’s health. I understand that cultures want to pass on their traditions, but don’t they think about innocent children that go through severe pain just to satisfy a community? And what about those who become a victim of FGM and actually die?      



http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~africa/sources/clitorodectomy.html - do it arg.





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