PRISONERS OF RITUAL: An Odyssey into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein

PRISONERS OF RITUAL: An Odyssey into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An exhaustive account of the methods, medical and psychological ramifications, and cultural context of female circumcision in Sudan and other parts of Africa--all culled from unusually candid personal interviews and the author's own thoughtful observations. Written in the style of a doctoral thesis but interspersed with well-considered and most welcome personal impressions of Sudan and its people, this offers an appalling report on the nearly universal practice of female circumcision on Islamic Sudanese women, which ranges from a token scratch on the clitoris to a method popularly referred to as ""scraping the girl clean"" that leaves nothing but scar tissue and a pinhole-sized vagina. The latter is preferred as the most effective in protecting women from dangerous sexual desires and keeping them virginal and virtuous. An uncircumcised Islamic woman in Sudan threatens the honor of her family and is constantly assured that no one will marry her. Despite severe pain and frequent complications, women often adjust surprisingly well to, this mutilation, viewing it as an inevitable part of being female. Just as the tiny educated class of Sudan were the first to circumcise their daughters (to differentiate them from female African slaves, whom they considered oversexed), so they will also be the first to drop the practice, the author surmises. Still, Sudanese informers estimate that it may be 200 years before the custom is eradicated from the general population. A brief comparison to the American habit of circumcising infant boys for nonreligious reasons makes an interesting postscript, as do the author's anecdotes evoking the innocent delusions under which these African women bravely labor. Altogether an excellent, revealing study.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Harrington Park