Female Circumcision in Sudan: Future Prospects and Strategies for Eradication
M. Mazharul Islam and M. Mosleh Uddin
International Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Jun., 2001), pp. 71-76
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Full Text (PDF): Female Circumcision in Sudan_Future Prospects and Strategies for Eradication
Context: Female circumcision–also known as female genital mutilation–is widely practiced in some parts of Sudan. Information about attitudes toward the practice, the reasons why women support it and the social and demographic predictors associated with support for it are needed for development of eradication strategies.
Methods: In a survey on reproductive health, approximately 1,000 ever-married women were randomly selected in each of three areas-Haj-Yousif and Shendi in the north, where female circumcision is widely practiced, and Juba in the south, where it is relatively rare. Interviewers collected data on the prevalence of the three types of circumcision, their social and demographic correlates, women’s attitudes toward the practice and their perception of their husbands’ attitudes.
Results: Some 87% of respondents in Haj-Yousif, almost 100% of those in Shendi and 7% of those in Juba have been circumcised. Pharaonic circumcision-the most severe type-was reported by 96% of circumcised women in Shendi and 69% of those in Haj-Yousif, but only 31% of those in Juba. However, a small but significant shift from Pharaonic to Sunna circumcision appears to have occurred in Shendi and Haj-Yousif in recent years. Overall, 67% of respondents in Haj-Yousif, 56% of those in Shendi and 4% of those in Juba support continuation of the practice; more highly educated and economically better off women are less likely to be supportive in the two high-prevalence areas. Social custom is the most commonly cited reason for favoring continuation of female circumcision in Haj-Yousif and Shendi (69-75%), while better marriage prospects are the most frequently given reason in Juba. Based on the women’s perceptions, men are more likely than women to favor discontinuation.
Conclusions: Female circumcision seems to be declining slightly in some areas of Sudan. A culturally accepted policy and political commitment to eradicate the practice are needed. Education and economic empowerment of women would help lower support for the practice. A mass media campaign publicizing the risks of female circumcision and the fact that female circumcision is not obligatory for Islamic women would also be helpful.