|11-17-2008, 08:10 PM||#1|
Female genital mutilation denies sexual pleasure to millions of women
Female genital mutilation denies sexual pleasure to millions of womenTwo doctors in Saudi Arabia want to change cultural attitudes to female genital mutilation by gathering evidence of its links to sexual dysfunction
Genital mutilation is usually performed shortly after birth, but can take place during childhood, adolescence or before marriage.
It was encouraging to see the uncompromising light of science being shone on the practice of female genital mutilation this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual meeting in San Francisco.
Crucially, the illumination came from two specialists in reproductive medicine within Saudi Arabia, a country where FGM is frequently practised.
The results presented in their talk, entitled "Female circumcision is detrimental to women's sexual satisfaction", may seem so blindingly obvious as to be worthless. But as they explained, the study is part of an effort to build a collection of rigorous evidence about the long-term effects of FGM so that attitudes can be changed from within the countries where it is practised.
"I think the local people can make a change. If we can convince people that there is a complication, we can do something to change this tradition," said Dr Sharifa Sibiani from the King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah.
She said the study would be more powerful than any research carried out in the west, because local people would regard that as an attempt by foreigners to denigrate their traditions. "The change must come from inside, not from outside, because otherwise they will reject it."
The World Health Organisation defines FGM as, "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."
It affects 100m to 140m women worldwide and is particularly prevalent in parts of Africa. In Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Mali, for example, more than 80% of women have undergone FGM.
Typically, the procedure is carried out by a Daya (an elderly female birth attendant) when a baby girl is a few days old, but it can be done at any time during childhood, adolescence, before marriage or during a first pregnancy.
The scope of the operation – which is often carried out in non-sterile conditions using household implements – can vary considerably from removing the clitoris to cutting away all of the woman's external genitalia before stitching the wound back together leaving only a tiny hole for menstruation and urination.
Sibiani's colleague Prof Abdulrahim Rouzi said he knew of a case in which a newly married woman bled to death as a consequence of this more substantial form of FGM. "[My colleague in Sudan] saw an 18-year-old woman dying in front of him because her husband could not penetrate [during sex] – so he had brought a knife and cut her," he said.
Although FGM is most prevalent in Muslim communities, it pre-dates Islam (and also Judaism) and is not mentioned in the Qur'an.
For their study, Sibiani and Rouzi interviewed 260 women who were attending the obstetrics and gynaecology clinic at King Abdulaziz University Hospital between February 2007 and March 2008. Half had been subjected to FGM and half had not.
The team asked them to complete a questionnaire on their attitudes towards sex and their experience during intercourse. "To our knowledge, there is no study in the literature to assess female sexual dysfunction after female genital mutilation," said Sibiani.
They found that women with FGM were no more likely to suffer pain during intercourse or experience lowered sexual desire. However, FGM made them less likely to experience arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction during sex.
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