Social Context – FGM in iran
Female circumcision is an integral part of the societies that practice it, where patriarchal authority and control of female sexuality and fertility are givens. In communities where a person’s place in society is determined by lineage traced through fathers, female circumcision reduces the uncertainty surrounding paternity by discouraging or preventing women’s sexual activity outside of marriage. The practice originated as one form of control of fidelity of women particularly when men were ought to away for long time. Salam and De Waal link this to the social acceptance of the women to be accepted by the communities and societies (Salam et. al., 2001). This is what their husbands, relative expect them to do with their daughters for their better future.
Although the societies that practice circumcision vary in many ways, most girls receive little education and are valued primarily for their future role as sources of labour and producers of children. In some communities, the prospective husband’s family pays a bride price to the family of the bride, giving his family the right to her labour and her children; she herself has no right to or control over either.
There is a belief that female genital mutilation stimulates fertility in women, decreases any homosexual urges, and increase loyalty to the woman’s arranged spouse. In many cases, infibulation is performed to preserve the woman’s virginity and loyalty for her husband by sewing up her vaginal opening, to be unsealed exclusively for her spouse on the wedding night. It ensures her fidelity as well as giving extra sexual pleasure to the man, thus contributing to serving the male desire (Lindorfer, 2007). In certain communities, mutilation is carried out as part of the initiation into adulthood.
Lindorfer mentions in his book about some supporting beliefs are associated with hygiene and aesthetics. In FGM-practicing communities, an unmutilated woman is considered unclean. They also live with the perception that the women’s clitoris grows in size if not cut (Lindorfer, 2007, 48). In addition, they believe that female genitalia are unsightly and dirty and cutting will make girls pure; once she is married her cooking will be considered halal.
FGM has beautifully embedded in the social fabric of practicing communities, who have an abundance of reasons to justify the act of removing a part of women’s bodies. WHO associates the justifications with the ideologies and histories of practicing societies, founded on gender inequalities and the patriarchal control of women’s sexuality (Sultana, 2012). In this regards, a long list of reasons ranges from myths to economic factors. Whatever varied perception or reason behind the practice of FGM, there seems to be a common thread running through traditional societies that these are male dominated societies where resources and power are generally under male control (Scott, 1999). However it is inaccurate to suggest that all women are under that generalisation. It is important to know that some women benefit from a certain degree of authority within socially prescribed roles and even in oppressive situations you can come across extremely strong women who defy all kinds of suppression (Butler, 2004).
One important factor behind FGM economy, the women performing FGM on girls and women are called Excisors. They are known to receive economic gains from executing the practice, and by which it becomes an important source of their income60. In some cases during the FGM ceremonies the girls receive gifts from their parents and friends; in return parents also receive a much higher “bride price” for their daughters being mutilated, than of those who have not.