Religion & FGM

FGM is not required by the founding doctrines of the three great monotheist religions


Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in various regions of the world: Africa (e.g. Egypt, Mali, Guinea) but also Asia (e.g. Indonesia, Malaysia), the Middle East (e.g. Iraq, Iran), Latin America (Colombia, Peru), Europe. They are practiced by various communities, whether religious or not.

Although FGM is practiced by Christian (e.g. Gambia, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Eritrea), Muslim (e.g. Indonesia, Djibouti) and historically by a Jewish community in Ethiopia (Falashas) communities, the practice is not actually imposed by any religion, monotheistic or not.

Christian religion

FGM is not mentioned, let alone recommended in the Bible. They are in fundamental contradiction with the Christian principle of respect due to the human body, which is thought to be sacred. (El-Damanhoury I., 2013) 

Proponents of FGM sometimes use Genesis 17:10-14 to justify the practice, according to which God ordered Abraham to circumcise every child in his household in his home. Except that he never mentioned women (Christianize). Some Christians explain that circumcision is biblical because it is present in the Bible. A theology professor refuted this: the Bible does not require that women be circumcised (Offiong A. V., 2018).

Jewish Religion

FGM is not mentioned in the Torah or in any other source that serves as Jewish law. It is therefore a mutilation of the human body, a practice forbidden by Jewish precepts. (El-Damanhoury I., 2013)

Muslim religion

Today Islam is the religion most commonly associated with the practice of FGM, and is frequently used to justify it. It has been observed that respect for Islamic law sometimes even becomes the primary motive for the practice, yet :

FGM cannot be defined as an “Islamic” act in view of the four main sources on which Islamic obligations are based (Lethome Asmani I, Sheikh Abdi M., 2008 ):

  • Quran -> FGM is in no way present in the text.
  • Sunna -> Hadiths that may have been used to justify FGM have been denounced as inauthentic (Lethome Asmani I, Sheikh Abdi M., 2008 ). Moreover, there is no evidence that the Prophet’s own daughters or those of his companions were excised. It appears that the Prophet would not order something that he would not carry out himself.
  • Ijma’a -> there is no consensus among Muslim scholars and major schools of thought on FGM. Therefore, it cannot be practiced in the name of an overall consensus of scholars on the issue.
  • Qiyas -> Some proponents of FGM argue that it is the female equivalent of male circumcision and that the same rules of Islamic jurisprudence could therefore be applied to it in the name of the principle of qiyas. Conversely, many other clerics point out that FGM is not similar to male circumcision and therefore cannot be subject to the same religious injunctions and affirmations. 

Three observations can be drawn:

  • FGM is not an act required by Islam. 
  • FGM is in contradiction with commandments that are well recognized by the sources of Islamic law: do no harm, do not change Allah’s creation, do not punish an innocent person (where FGM is used to anticipate the ‘fault’ – sexual relations before or after marriage – in little girls).
  • FGM is contrary to the human rights recognized by Islam: the right to life, the right to physical integrity, the right to sexual pleasure in marriage for a woman. (Lethome Asmani I, Sheikh Abdi M., 2008 )

FGM is therefore not required by any of the three monotheistic religions. In fact, FGM was observed before the advent of these major religions and is also practiced by animist communities.

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