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As you are reading this article there are between eight and ten million women and girls in the Middle East and in Africa who are at risk of undergoing one form or another of genital mutilation In the United States it is estimated that about ten thousand girls are at risk of this practice Awa Thiam the Senegalese writer and activist notes that FGM in a variety of its forms is practiced in Middle Eastern countries the two Yemens Saudi Arabia Iraq Jordan Syria and Southern Algeria In Africa it is practiced in the majority of the continent including Kenya Nigeria Mali Upper Volta Ivory Coast Egypt Mozambique and Sudan Even though FGM is practiced in mostly Islamic countries it is not an exclusively Islamic practice FGM is a cross-cultural and cross-religious ritual In Africa and the Middle East it is performed by Muslims Coptic Christians members of various indigenous groups Protestants and Catholics to name a few FGM has often been referred to as female circumcision and compared to male circumcision However such comparison is often misleading Both practices include the removal of well- functioning parts of the genitalia and are quite unnecessary Both rituals serve to perpetuate customs which seek to regulate and keep control over the body and sexuality of the individual However FGM is far more drastic and damaging than male circumcision A more appropriate analogy would be between clitoridectomy and penisdectomy where the entire penis is removed The term FGM covers three main varieties of genital mutilation Sunna circumcision Consists of the removal of the prepuce andor the tip of the clitoris Sunna in Arabic means tradition Clitoridectomy also referred to as excision Consists of the removal of the entire clitoris both prepuce and glans and the removal of the adjacent labia Infibulationalso referred to as pharaonic circumcision This most extreme form consists of the removal of the clitoris
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