Wednesday, 18 January 2012

FGM / Female Circumcision in Oman

I had not expected my first blog to be about such a sensitive topic in Oman, but after reading Dhofari Gucci's post and Mimi's on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Oman and some of the responses I had to write something.

Reading about FGM through Sablat Oman and other well regarded discussion bulletin's in Oman, I came to realize that the types of FGM practiced in Oman vary and religious opinion in the matter varies too.

Type I: Clitoridectomy
           Definition: is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of the skin surrounding the clitoris) from WHOThis type of FGM is practiced all around Oman in different variations. 

Type II: Excision:
            Definition: partial of total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision  of the labia majora (the labia are "the lips" the surround the vagina) from WHOThis type of FGM is, I believe, mainly done in Dhofar, sadly. 

Reading about the subject in the different discussion groups, I came to find that many Omanis do not understand the proper Islamic form of female circumcision (though in my opinion, the whole practice is un-Islamic).  You may hear many married Omani women claim they have been circumcised and are happily married, but then you hear a different story from their husbands. Anyway, some of these happily married women have had a ritual-paper cut type of circumcision. Strangely and luckily, they do not cut anything off from the female genitals. Yet, these women still believe they have been circumcised and stand wholeheartedly with the practice. Some do not find out about that paper cut until they have visited an Ob-Gyn, but many others honestly believe that they had their clitoris cut off and their sexual tension has been fixed and they will forever be pious women! 

So, what do these women do? Since hospitals no longer allow circumcision between its walls, these desperate Omani women who think the world of this practice, look for that damned old lady (Nadia's description) to perform it on their own daughters. They will put the future of that little girl in the hands of an old lady who God knows what her vision and hand skills are like. She may pull and cut the whole or a small piece of the clitoris off, or the little girl may be lucky to have that paper-cut ritual. Who knows. 

Some Omanis who live up north travel all the way to the UAE to have FGM done to the little girls. Apparently it is practiced their too. Sometimes I think that it is a good thing hospitals are allowed to do it in UAE. At least it is done in a clean room with sanitized equipment. With the education and directions from the Ministry of Health, these little girls can get the paper-cut "surgeries" instead of those pull-and-cut "mutilation" that is done around here these days. 

A lot of women do not understand that the clitoris is almost exactly the same to the penis in its anatomy. Maybe more education is needed here. I don't know, but don't you think that our Omani men are a bit too sexual? Maybe the head of their penises should be cut off. Just a teeny bit of it. You know, these days we need more pious and sexually fixed men. Just saying. *sarcasm*

I honestly do not understand why Dhofari women with type one or two FGM still support this practice. Why would Mimi's sister perform this on her daughter while holding a master's degree is beyond me. On a brighter note, the practice is starting to disappear up here in Muscat and the Wilayats around it. Not so sure about other places in Oman though.

Religion on Female Circumcision: 

Since many of the discussion forms refer to religious explanations to why circumcision is required, I thought I need to lay those "Islamic" reasons here. But, before I do that, lets explore to the definition of female circumcision in Islamic context:
  • A saying by Um Attyah -God Bless Her-: "A woman who used to perform circumcision in Al Madina, the Prophet said to her: 'Do not abuse, that is better for the woman and loved by her husband'." Narrated by Abu Dawood and corrected by Al Albani. And his saying "Do not abuse" means do not overdue in the cutting of a small piece of the foreskin and do not remove it completely. 
  • What Muslim narrated of Aisha -may God be pleased with her- that the Prophet -peace be upon him- said: "If two circumcised meet, then cleansing is a must". The two circumcised refers to the man and the woman.
  • When Ahmed AlKhalili was asked: "What is the final verdict on female circumcision," he replied with "female circumcision is encouraged in Islam provided that it does  not lead to any damage, and it is not obligatory but as it was said 'an honor for couples'. She has to be circumcised where there is no abuse as the Prophet said to the woman who performed circumcision 'do not abuse' which means do not overdue in removing the excess skin. If there was the experience and the ability to take without abuse and no harm done to the girl, then there is no objection in performing it".
There are many weak Prophet's sayings that people refer to in order to put some validity in the practice. However, from the sayings above, we see that in the Islamic context, circumcision is identical to the one performed on men. The proper way is to remove the excess skin that covers the clitoris. Different sects in Islam have different reasons to why this practice is done to women. The two main contradictory reasons are:
  • A woman is a very sexual being and is always on heat (they are cats all of a sudden), removing a small piece of the clitoris fixes her. It regulates her sexual tension. Also, the clitoris in Middle Eastern woman is very big, and when aroused, it is erected. A man is put off by the site and does not allow him to enjoy the intercourse. 
  • The excess skin over the clitoris should be shaved off a little bit because it exposes the clitoris, which gives a better sexual experience for the women, and it is cleaner for her because it reduces the possibility of getting urinary tract infection and removes the foul smell from the genital areas.
I hope this post sheds some light to the practice. My main purpose here was to explain the practice. Awareness is mandatory and as Nadia has mentioned, the Ministry has failed terribly. I have also seen many threads written about the topic in Arabic and have been closed because it turns into a heated discussion. Also, one last note, I have always thought that men were kept in the dark in regards to this practice. It is true to some extent. However, many do support the practice and sometimes override their wife's decision not to perform the practice on their daughters. 


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for this information.

  2. From people I have spoken to involved in the medical/health services in Oman, there is a general feeling that removing this practice will involve a gradual process of changing attitudes rather than legislation. However, it seems that the overwhelming attitude among professionals in the Omani health services is that this practice must end, which is good.

    1. I agree. Introducing a legislation while ignoring the general attitude towards FGM is not the best path. There was no awareness and campaigns against the practice, but it was dictated to them that they must stop a tradition they have carried for centuries. It simply does not work.

      Thank you for commenting.

  3. In my opinion anyone who support FGM need mental help. Cutting the awra of a little girl is not needed medically or for sexual reasons. Because there is so much pressure put on women to be covered up and be extra conserative in Salalah i think this increases the sexuality of men as they are not used to seeing women in a loose hijab (minus a few families ive seen with my own eyes whose women breast feed infront of non mahram and use far too much makeup etc) and this causes them to fantasise more about women in wierd ways. The majority of women in Salalah have no idea of their basic islamic rights and the court systems/ government don't support females rights groups either which is a crime against the female population on Oman as a whole.
    I just hope a women's revolution happens where the uneducated are enlightened by the educated and in the long run makes changes to the ruling system so that all women have the rights and benefits.

    1. With all due respect, claiming that people need mental help for simply carrying a tradition that has been practiced for centuries is not the right description. Lets not forget that these people wholeheartedly believe that they are following the sunna. We should not expect them to wake up fully understanding the consequences of such a tradition. The Ministry of Health still treats FGM as taboo. Thinking if you don't talk about it, it will somehow manage to disappear.

    2. Hi I know this is really late, but I am glad i somehow found this blog because just yesterday I was told no such thing as FGM exists in Oman by a Omani woman. I explained to her what FGM was and she said that she had some type of "excision" done but that it was not FGM it's something "different" thus suggesting that her "procedure was without side effects and that is was done for the benefit of the woman. This is very perplexing because the Omani woman is quite young not yet 21 and a university student. I don't mean to suggest that all university students are like-minded but in a day and age of technology and exposure to more knowledge from around the world I had erroneously assumed that she would be against any human right violation to women on any level: traditional or not.