Female Genital Mutilation Banned by Islamic Leaders in Mauritania

This week, 34 well-regarded Mauritanian religious and national leaders signed a fatwa, or Islamic law, banning female genital mutilation (FGM). The fatwa is considered a huge stride toward women's rights in the Islam world.

Female genital mutilation, or genital cutting, is a form of female circumcision. It entails removing all or part of the external female genitalia, including the clitoris and labia.

It is often practiced on girls between the time they're born and their early teen years. After the circumcision is complete, many experience severe bleeding, difficulty urinating, childbirth complications and, in some cases, death.

According to the World Health Organization, the procedure has no medical benefits.

Female circumcision is not a religion practice. However, it has become a "law by custom," says Jacqueline Castledine in an article posted on the Mount Holyoke College website.

She states, "The practice has become important to Islam because it is associated with female sexual purity. FGM is intended by its practitioners to both control women's sexual drives and also to cleanse women's genitalia by removing the clitoris, which is seen as masculine, a female penis."

The law was passed on Jan. 15, 2011, by 34 Mauritanian religious and national figures. It prohibits the practice of FGM within the country.

According to Magharebia.com  , "The authors cited the work of Islamic legal expert Ibn al-Hajj as support for their assertion that [s]uch practices were not present in the Maghreb countries over the past centuries."

This new law will certainly curb the practice of female genital mutilation in Mauratania.

"It removes the religious mask such practices were hiding behind," says Dr. Sheikh Ould Zein Ould Imam, professor of jurisprudence at the University of Nouakchott in a Magharebia.com article. "We do need, however, a media campaign to highlight the fatwa, explain it and expound upon its religious and social significance."

Many men and women -- both Islamic and not -- declared this a victory for female rights, saying the fatwa was long overdue.

"Where were those imams for the past decades, when [FGM] killed dozens of girls each year? Were the imams and circumcision victims on two different planets? Personally speaking, I find no answer to those questions. All I am trying to say is that we needed that circumcision-prohibiting fatwa a long time ago. I was victimized by that brutal custom when I was seven, and it left an indelible psychological scar," said Miriam, a 30-year-old housewife circumcised as a young girl.



Views: 81

Comment by Denise W on January 19, 2011 at 6:52am

I am positively thrilled about this long overdue fatwa. 


Now we need to find a way to outlaw ALL infant/child genital mutilation - female AND male circumcision, excepting cases of health preservation (such as blocked urethra or something) - leaving the option of circumcision up to the individual when s/he comes of age.

Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on January 19, 2011 at 9:33am
Sane Muslims finally doing something to stop their less sane coreligionists from fucking up the world? Good.
Comment by CJoe on January 19, 2011 at 11:18am
I'm so happy to read this!!!
Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on July 17, 2011 at 11:14pm

This insidious practice is also cultural - friggin' hard to get rid of - but this is certainly a start.

I live in Australia, and twenty years ago, a woman with whom I was acquainted. her son married an indonesian muslim. They took their fourteen month old daughter, back to indonesia, for her clitoris to be cut off. There are also muslim 'doctors' who do this cutting, in Australia, without the 'authorities knowing but would be criminally charged if found out.

There are a number of countries, including Ethiopian Jews, who have this practice.

It is now believed that it originated in Africa.

With the internet and global communication, everybody is becoming more aware of this insidious crap. The countries and religions that mutilate their girls, are slowly being picked off. Yahoo.




Comment by Sassan K. on July 17, 2011 at 11:49pm

Let's see the African Union ban this practice - one small country is a good step but not nearly significant when this practice continues - and the disgusting fact is that while it is against the law in the U.K. - U.K. authorities have failed to prosecute one Muslim father in the name of "not offending" and the failed policies of multiculturalism. Let's not fool ourselves, this is an Islamic practice.

Comment by Albert Bakker on July 18, 2011 at 12:35am

It is practiced primarily in Islamic populations but also it is a practiced primarily in North Eastern Africa. (In a band from east to west underneath the Maghreb) So this fatwa is at least from the right place directed to the right audience.

Prosecuting family members once the harm is done is one thing, important true, but preventing it from happening in the first place seems to me to be much preferable.


Even though female genital mutilation is a criminal offense in the UK punishable by 5 to 14 years in the UK and abroad by the FGM act of 2003, prevention does not seem to be a government priority.

Comment by Sassan K. on July 18, 2011 at 12:53am

Although without prosecution and the threat of prosecution - the practice keeps on repeating itself. It is a damn shame.

And female mutilation also takes place in some Arabic countries.

Comment by Alana on April 26, 2013 at 4:05am

I'm overjoyed to hear this!
Yet, there's no doubt that people will still do it.

Comment by Kairan Nierde on April 26, 2013 at 10:49pm

This is great news! Even if it is just the beginning of changing old traditions, having the practice outlawed is a great stride forward. 


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