Mothering Forum banner

FGM debated in Pittsburgh

920 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  baybee
Thought this was very interesting from the perspective that the same arguments that are used to allow MGM on this continent are used to justify FGM in Africa.

Doctor and Supermodel Debate
Female Circumcision

By: Christal Hall

T wo women who have been circumcised and who have differing opions of the process' morality brought their arguments to the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Catherine Uzoma of Howard University and supermodel Waris Dirie spoke Wednesday night at Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on the topic of "Female Circumcision in Africa: Diverging Perspectives."

The event, a part of Black History Month, was sponsored by the African Student Organization and co-sponsored by Pitt's department of Africana studies, the department of anthropology and the University Center for International Studies.

Uzoma is health behavioral specialist who has organized and participated in many forums addressing the issue. Uzoma, a Nigerian, defended some forms circumcision and said both she and her daughter are circumcised.

There are, she said, three different types of femal circumcision: sunna; clitordectomy, also referred to as excision; and infubulation, also referred to as pharonic cicumcision.

Sunna circumcision is the removal of the tip of the clitoris. A clitordectomy involves the removal of the entire clitoris and the removal of adjacent labia.

Infibulation, the most extreme form, is the removal of the clitoris and the adjacent labia. It also involves the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina, where they are secured with thorns or sewn together with catgut or thread. A small opening is kept to allow passage of urine and menstrual blood. An infibulated woman must be cut open to allow intercourse on her wedding night, and she is closed again afterward to secure fidelity to her husband.

"African women and daughter are treasures," Uzoma said. "They would not subject their daughters to something they don't know about."

Uzoma said circumcisions are done for cosmetic, hygienic, safety and sexual purposes. When circumcision is performed for cosmetic purposes, it is thought to make the genitalia look better.

She added that it's done for hygienic reason because bacteria can hide behind the clitoral hood and because some people think removal of the hood can enhance sexual pleasure for the woman.

Sometimes, circumcision is performed to prevent rape and to ensure virginity until marriage, Uzoma said.

The procedure can result in death, serious infections, possible infection with HIV, abscesses and small benign tumors. It also has long-term effects including the possibility of urinary tract infections and reproductive tract infections.

Dirie, a Somalian supermodel and a special ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation for the United Nations Population Fund, objects to all forms of circumcision. She has written a book, "Dessert Flower," which chronicles her transformation from a desert nomad to a supermodel and social activist.

Dirie, who was circumcised at age 5, had to take a deep breath as she approached the podium after hearing Uzoma speak.

"I disagree with everything she says. I'm so enraged I can't even speak," she said.

"Girls are dying from gangrene, and all you can say is, 'It's the African way,'" said Dirie of Uzoma's comments. "Well, I'm African, and I don't like it-it's not the African way."

Dirie said she clearly remembers the day she was circumcised; she underwent the process because she had no choice and was held down.

"I was forced to become a woman, and it was unfair that I had to go through so many changes," she said.

Dirie quickly opened the floor to questions and comments from the audience, composed of people with varying ethnicities, cultures and opinions.

"I don't approve of circumcision. If you are born with a clitoris then you are meant to have one," said Pitt Africana Studies professor Brenda Berrian.

Other audience members thought the circumcision issue had to be handled delicately.

"Everything has to be examined within its own context, whether it's social, political, or economical," said Pitt senior Christolyn Carter. "You can't be ethnocentric. You should look at it with a clear focus and cultural perspective. Female circumcision is a human rights and cultural issues. Nothing is as simple as it seems."
See less See more
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
Unbelievably similar to MGM. Wow. If any mother out there feels ok and actually thinks circumcising her son is a good thing, then turns around and calls these African mothers irresponsible and cruel, they are hypocrites of the worst kind. Just read it and it sounds like a ringing endorsement for not circ'ing males, yet with a situation flipped around for Africa.
For what its worth, she is not an MD. She is a PHD in public health. Anyway, she should know better! Here is her contact info at Howard University Hospital
: :

Catherine U. Uzoma, MPH., Ph.D., Director
HUH International Health Services
Howard University Hospital
2041 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20060

Phone: (202) 865-4427
Fax: (202) 865-7777

Outside Washington Metro Area: 1 (877) 865-4427
Email: [email protected]
See less See more
Thanks for posting the contact info and her background. I'd like to write to her but have no idea what I could say. I have always believed that we need to clean up our own backyard here in N. American before pointing fingers at other cultures. Episiotomy, unnecessary cesarean section and male circumcision are all abusive practices which must be stopped on the N. American continent. I believe that, as we become a kinder, gentler culture, that change will inspire others to give up harmful rituals as well. Perhaps this woman could be a bridge between N. American and Africa. When someone who believes so strongly in the "perceived benefits" of genital mutilation has a change of heart, it causes a big ripple in the pond.

What would you say to her if you wrote?
1 - 4 of 4 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.