Cutting in the vaginal opening to "remove warts" (southieute) in Senegal

What, Where, Why?

An exploratory study by Senegalese sociologist Fatou Kebe is currently examining a practice of cutting women’s vaginal openings, justified by the “removal of warts” (Southieute in Wolof). According to Kebe, this practice is common in the Wolof community in Senegal but is also practiced by the Soces in Dakar. Most of the women practicing them are from the Wolof community. They are practiced when a newly married woman has difficulty having sexual relations with her husband. Women are expected to be virgins before marriage.

Genital warts are caused by certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus. They are therefore highly unlikely in people who have not had sex. Kebe’s preliminary study also indicates that there are no actual warts in women who undergo this practice. Health professionals deny the existence of “sothieutes” scientifically, while female practitioners, on the other hand, persist and confirm their existence. In fact, the intervention appears to have no medical justification. Instead, it is believed that women who are subjected to the practice suffer from vaginismus or do not consent to sexual intercourse. Therefore, the author considers this to be a form of FGM, and there is a strong case for further study and research on the subject. (CoP FGM, 2019)

This practice can be compared to that of Nigeria, described in a previous article, as it is practised to facilitate vaginal penetration. Further research should be done to find out the extent of the practice in Senegal, understand the reasons for it, and understand the possible consequences for the women who experience it. 

The Wolof community in Senegal is generally considered to be a community that does not practice FGM. According to the Senegal Health Demographic Study, prevalence is less than 1% among girls with Wolof mothers. (DHS, 2018) Therefore, recognition of this practice as a type of FGM would likely have an impact on the overall prevalence of FGM in Senegal as well as on national policies against FGM.

To learn more about the practice, an interview with Fatou Kébé conducted by the CoP-MGF as part of this discussion on FGM type IV is available online:

“The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation” is part of the “Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM” project, supported by the “UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM”.
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.

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