We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Clitoridectomy - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
Chapter: verse lookup What is This? Select one or both translations, then enter a chapter and verse number in the boxes, and click "Go."
:
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result

Clitoridectomy

By:
Paula Sanders
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Clitoridectomy

Clitoridectomy, commonly known as female circumcision, has historically been practiced in some areas of the Islamic world. The practice is pre-Islamic in origin and its distribution should be attributed to indigenous cultural norms rather than specifically religious requirements. It is known primarily in a number of African societies, Islamic and non-Islamic, in the area extending eastward from Senegal to the Horn of Africa. The operations referred to collectively as clitoridectomy range from excising only the tip of the clitoris to total excision of the clitoris and labia, and total excision with infibulation. This most severe form of the practice, total excision with infibulation, is referred to commonly as either “pharaonic” or “Sudanese” circumcision and is attested primarily in Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and parts of Ethiopia. In those areas where it is practiced, clitoridectomy is not limited to Muslims. In Egypt, for example, clitoridectomy has a long history among the Coptic population. On the other hand, it is relatively unknown among non-Muslims in Sudan. It is not practiced in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Iran, or Turkey, and it is practiced unevenly in Java.

The Arabic terminology used to refer to the practice is khafd or khitān, the latter term being used also to refer to male circumcision. There is no mention of it in the Qurʾān, although there is evidence of its existence in the traditions of the Prophet, who condemned the severe forms of the operation as being harmful to womenʾs sexual health and recommended the minor form of the operation (excising only the tip of the clitoris) if it were to be performed. Generally, the schools of Islamic law regard it as a recommended, but not obligatory, practice. Although explicitly religious justifications may be invoked, the rationales given for continuing the practice are generally not expressed in religious terms. The most common justification is that it is “the custom”; however, numerous other reasons are also given, for example, the control of female sexuality and the preservation of virginity. Failure to perform clitoridectomy is believed by some cultures to result not only in promiscuity and adultery, but also in infant mortality, infertility, and poor general health. In addition, in the cultures where it is practiced, uncircumcised female genitalia are considered to be ugly, and uncircumcised women are considered, for diverse reasons, to be unmarriageable. The practitioners of clitoridectomy are ordinarily women, many of whom are also midwives. Because clitoridectomy is often performed under septic conditions and is associated with a variety of medical complications, better educated parents, especially in urban areas, may seek medical professionals to perform the operation on their daughters under sterile conditions. In some countries where clitoridectomy was widespread, it has been prohibited by law for a number of years (e.g., Egypt and Sudan). In recent decades, clitoridectomy has become a highly politicized issue in the context of human rights and womenʾs rights campaigns dedicated to eradicating genital mutilation.

See also CIRCUMCISION; PUBERTY RITES; and RITES OF PASSAGE.

Bibliography

  • Bell, Heather. “Midwifery Training and Female Circumcision in the Inter-War Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.”Journal of African History39, 2 (1998): 293–312.
  • Braddy, Cathleen M., and Julia A. Files. “Female Genital Mutilation: Cultural Awareness and Clinical Considerations.”Journal of Midwifery and Womenʾs Health52, 2 (March–April 2007): 158–163.
  • Giorgis, Belkis Wolde. Female Circumcision in Africa. Addis Ababa: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 1981. U.N.publication with an extensive annotated bibliography.
  • “Khafḍ or Khifād.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 2008.
  • Saadawi, Nawal El. The Hidden Face of Eve. Translated by Sherif Hetata. London: Zed Books, 1980. Considered a classic statement on clitoridectomy by an Arab feminist.
  • Wensinck, A. J.“Khitān.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, edited by P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 2008.
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Look It Up What is This? Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice