Saturday, November 21, 2009

Female Circumcision (genital mutilation) Explained

Below is the correspondence I wrote to an inquiring young lady regarding my thoughts on female genital mutilation or the procedure of a clitorectomy as part of the social customs of the people of central Africa.

When trying to understand a problem what helps most of course is to try and answer the question why??? What is the cause and effect.

I know that in social structures in which virtually all males are able to mate, incentive for production among males is very high and over all there is lower crime, conflict and in general peace and social stability.

Humans are voracious when it comes to the consumption of resources and as such highly developed competitive advantage infrastructures for resources and to compete for access to females are essential for the development of a stable thriving economy. Males will fight, commit crime and kill each other to acquire territory and resources if need be. All the lines between countries were established by competition and bloodshed between males. All of these things go hand in hand.

So I would presume that the practice of clitorectomy would serve, at least in theory to prevent female promiscuity and thus preserve social stability. (Female polyandry or promiscuity by definition creates an extreme dichotomy in the mating dynamic in which some males get multiple mating opportunities and others if not most get none. However, the practice of clitorectomy to achieve equal access to females seems like quite a drastic measure to achieve such ends.

So I presume that there must be some sort of force conducive to female promiscuity in these societies or at least a volatility of the social structure that is ordinarily stabilized by other, more natural means which ordinarily would have the same effect of creating equal access to females. The practice of clitorectomy must be an alternative and adapted means of accomplishing the same ends.

Typically female promiscuity goes hand in hand
with availability of resources directly to the female without need of efforts from a male to provide them..or an institution in which males are forced to provide them both in and out of a mated pair bond of marriage. Female promiscuity or polyandry is typical in a communal or communistic social structure. I imagine it is also prevalent when access to resources is not stable within the economic system and between males or control over scarce resources changes hands quite often.

To me, such drastic measures to curb female promiscuity must have an equally drastic causational or volatile and unstable force....

I suspect it has something to do with unstable and fluctuating access to resources between social groups and males. Ordinarily the natural competition between males serves to stabilize the system but I suspect it is the scarcity of resources all together in Africa that leads the implementation of other, more drastic measures to achieve it. So it seems to me that since stability could not be achieved by natural means, out of sheer desperation female promiscuity was "cut off" so to speak and strong social taboos and morals most likely followed which further condemned female promiscuity.

As crazy as it sounds, it might have worked, conflict between males subsided or at least became not as pronounced, the system stabilized, economic competitive advantage structures began to develop and equal access to females followed. This system was reinforced by the "back up system" of forced and morally implemented female monogamy through clitorectomy. At very least the use of clitorectomy may serve to dampen conflict and buffer volatility in the social and economic infrastructure.

Is this phenomena of human behavior unfortunate, reprehensible and in an ideal world should be avoided, yes. But the solution is not condemnation but understanding, then and only then can we take reasonable action to end the practice.

Here you can see the preponderance of clitorectomy is prevalent in the area of Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan in the east which is the geographic epicenter of this practice including parts of southern Egypt. You will see that it is most prevalent in Sierra Leone and the southern part of Mali to the west as well. It would be wise to find out the variables here. Are resources plentiful here? Are these the most volatile or stable competitive advantage infrastructures (economies) in Africa? What makes this area and central Africa in general different from the other areas? How does the sociopolitical climate differ in these areas? Where are there the most "warlords" or gangs of males fighting for resources? Indeed you may find there is more to clitorectomy than the "patriarchy"

I've taken the map above and tried to correlate the prevalence of FGM to religious affiliation but found no matching patterns.
This further leads me to believe that the practice of FGM has sociological roots or is more rooted in the behavioral ecology of the region due to a more environmental or impediment to stability rather than a deeply held belief pertaining to the deeper spiritual element of their psyche.

This further leads me to believe that the practice is an abject adaptive practice of practicality or a forced means to an end that could not be achieved in a preferable fashion. Again I believe this practice is one of desperation to bring order to chaotic social dynamic in the region.

Another FGM map by percentage

We know that the Drylands subject to longer and more severe droughts are in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Mali, Senegal. This is just a single variable but do you see the correlation to resources?

You are a very smart woman and I see you are studying neurobio. I urge you to expand your scope of understanding away from the feminist world view to a broader, more humanitarian and scientifically objective understanding of the human condition.


Ron said...

I think it's nonsense to fuss with understanding before condemnation. Both are appropriate for an atrocity that must be stopped.

And males are 5 times as likely (globally) to have pleasure-receptive parts non-consensually amputated.

Bwec said...

Lack of truth leads to anger and anger leads to hate and both lead to suffering..

You can't change a situation for the better if you don't understand the causes.

Anonymous said...

this makes me sick to my stomach to read.

Bwec said...

"this makes me sick to my stomach to read."

Yes clitorectomy is a desperate measure for a desperate environment. Females are hypergamous in their mating preference. When there are scare resources it does not allow for a proper competitive echelon among males.

Even with clitorectomy Africans in these regions have been unable to establish higher forms of governance because territory and resources are still fought over by males. Females would not have it any other way : )