Some African women are forced to have their clitorises cut off and vaginas sewn up to show that they are still chaste when they get married. Horrific right? So why is it that western women are now paying ££££s for surgeons to give them a "trim"?
Firstly, there are different types of female circumcision of varying degrees of mutilation according to the World Health Organisation who view it as a human rights violation.
The most extreme is the pharaonic circumcision when the entire clitorise is removed, as well as the inner and outer labia, scraping off the sides of the vulva and then joining them together and sewing them up. A small opening is left so that the woman can pee and menstruate.
Pretty bad right? The WHO estimates that 100 to 140 million girls worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital mutilation.
The justifications for female genital circumcision are a mix of cultural and social factors within families and communities. The country where FGC is most prevalent is Egypt, followed by Sudan, Ethiopia, and Mali and it is practiced out in the open by a variety of faiths. In places where FGC is practiced, if a girl is not circumcised she is often outcaste and will never get married.
In Africa, this lady says everyone in her tribe will die if a woman with a clitorise has sex and gives birth.
This disturbing video shows an infant going through the procedure. Afterwards her legs are tied together to allow the wound to heal.
Community and religious leaders often uphold the practice. In Egypt, a female circumcision ban was issued in 2007 after the death of a 12-year-old girl, but it didn't last long. Egypt's health minister Dr Ali Abdul Fatah Omaar later declared to the world: "We have no plans to ban this operation by introducing legislation, but we are looking at ways for it to be carried out by qualified doctors and under proper medical supervision."
In some parts of the Middle East FGC is practiced in secrecy. In Iraqi Kurdistan they practice Sunna circumcision, the most common form in the Islamic world, which requires removal of the clitoral prepuce, sometimes called a hoodectomy. Some Muslims who practice FGC try to attribute it to a tradition taught by the Prophet Mohamed, but opponents including other Muslims, argue that it is not a religious practice at all, but rather a cultural tradition that is rooted in poverty, lack of education, and superstition.
So why are western women now increasingly electing to have surgery to make their lady bits look like a porn star's? Many western women consensually agree to a similar type of Sunna circumcision in its less invasive form, which is an elective surgery undertaken to "improve" their sexlife in cases where the hood of the clitoris is too tight, according to Circlist.com, a pro-circumcision website.
Is extreme genital grooming such as vaginoplasty just another form of genital mutilation, albeit consensual? And is it really consensual - are not the culturally based misogynistic views and images we encounter just another form of brainwashing?
Women who think that they have a "mutant" vagina a la Cronenberg's Dead Ringers may want a 'fix'. And surgeons like Dr. Robert H. Stubbs are always ready and willing perform their ('art') work... for a fee of course.
These before and after pictures are of a labia minora reduction and clitoral unhooding (known as a 'Toronto Trim'), and a labia majora augmentation, by Dr Stubbs, a Canadian cosmetic surgeon who claims to be part surgeon, part artist and "a descendent of George Stubbs, the famous British painter and anatomist".
Something for the weekend? I'll have the "Horatio Caine"...
...as opposed to the "Abu Hamza".
So if a person pays ££££s for their lady bits to be cut up it's accepted as long as some crackpot is making money from it in the name of capitalism.
The pro female-circumcision group Cirlist.com has more before and after pictures and discussion here.
For more information about Female Genital Mutilation in Africa go to the World Health Organisation here.