Article

Intergenerational Transmission of Female Genital Cutting: Community and Marriage Dynamics: Household Decision Making and FGC Discontinuation

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Abstract

Objective This study examined how characteristics of households and communities are implicated in the intergenerational transmission of gender inequality and particularly female genital cutting (FGC). Background Human capital perspectives suggest that socioeconomic inequality predicts FGC continuation. This study contributes to discussions of institutional change by examining the association of decisions to forego FGC with household decision making patterns and community gender norms. Method Multilevel logistic regression was deployed to analyze a pooled sample (N = 12,144) of six demographic and health surveys from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, and Nigeria. A series of models examined how decision making styles, both at the household and community levels (2,524 demographic and health survey cluster aggregations), and community levels of FGC correspond with the risk of having a daughter cut. Results The results show that daughters are less likely to be cut when parents make key household decisions jointly. Autonomous decision making by women at the community level was associated with lower odds of daughters being cut. However, at the community level, the impacts of women's household decision making were attenuated when FGC was more prevalent. Conclusion The findings suggest that women's decision making status is an important factor in FGC abandonment, although that association is less robust when FGC is highly institutionalized. This study provides new insights into how women, families, and communities can disrupt the intergenerational transmission of behaviors associated with institutionalized gender inequality.

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... Both practices became associated with maturity, courage, the ability to withstand pain, health, fertility, purity and, importantly, respect for authority and traditional institutions, including (possibly) religion. In contemporary communities, those who are most supportive of FGM/C are older women (for example, mothers, mothers-in-law and older co-wives in polygynous households), usually the primary decision makers for young women to undergo FGM/C [66][67][68] . This pressure is stronger in societies where the frequency of FGM/C is high 57 . ...
... A recent study in Indonesia and Zambia (both countries where FGM/C is practised) showed that parents in societies practising bride-price invest more in their daughters' education 55 . Since education is among the strongest negative predictors of FGM/C cross-culturally 66,67 , the practice of bride-price could paradoxically facilitate the abandoning of FGM/C, at least in urban, more educated communities. ...
... Lastly, several anthropologists have noted that FGM/C and MGM/C are often considered equivalent and complementary by those who practise them 67,73,74 . This is supported by the observation that public awareness of negative sexual and health consequences of FGM/C leads to more unfavourable views of male circumcision among MGM/C-practising immigrant communities in Western countries 75 . ...
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Genital mutilation/cutting is costly in terms of health, survival and reproduction, and the long-term maintenance of these practices is an evolutionary conundrum. Previous studies have suggested a mate-guarding function or various signalling functions of genital mutilation/cutting. Here we use phylogenetic comparative methods and two global ethnographic samples to study the origins and socio-ecological correlates of major types of female and male genital mutilation/cutting. Male genital mutilation/cutting probably originated in polygynous societies with separate residence of co-wives, supporting a mate-guarding function. Female genital mutilation/cutting originated subsequently and almost exclusively in societies already practising male genital mutilation/cutting, where it may have become a signal of chastity. Both have originated multiple times, some as early as in the mid-Holocene (5,000-7,000 years ago), considerably predating the earliest archaeological evidence and written records. Genital mutilation/cutting co-evolves with and may help maintain fundamental social structures, hindering efforts to change these cultural practices.
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... 55 65 Some determinants were only examined in one study and showed a positive association with FGM/C such as mother's underage marriage, 17 high village FGM/C rate, 22 cultural influence to perform FGM/C or community acceptance 55 or being an undocumented migrant. 28 There was no statistically significant association between FGM/C status and women's decision-making ability, 59 women's ownership of land 39 and domestic abuse 39 (online supplemental table 4). ...
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This study examines the intergenerational transmission of two gender attitudes (gender role ideology and work role identity). It draws on a life course perspective and panel data on mothers to assess the relationships between daughters' attitudes and (a) mothers' attitudes and employment experiences, as well as (b) the daughters' own life experiences. We find that mothers' gender role ideology in the 1950s was positively related to their daughters' gender role ideology as adults in 1988 and that social change over this 30-year period contributed to greater mother-daughter congruence in gender role ideology and work role identity by the 1980s. However, daughters' own status matters most in predicting their work role identity, suggesting the importance of both behavior and broad historical changes in moderating intergenerational transmission processes.
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This article examines the politics and discourses surrounding female circumcision, and explores ethical approaches to its study for feminist anthropologists. First I present an overview of the international debate on these operations, and review the literature on "female genital mutilation." Unfortunately these writings that are meant to help empower African women can "colonize" them (after Mohanty, 1991). Second, the current debates around the practice in Mali are discussed. The issue has become a metonym for politically, ideologically and economically motivated discussions on gender, age, caste, Islam and Westernization. /// Cet article explore les discours et les relations de pouvoir qui entourent et sous-tendent les débats sur la circoncision féminine. L'auteure explore des approches éthiques qui pourraient être adoptées par les anthropologues féministes. Tout d'abord, un survol historique des débats sur la scène internationale est présenté, incluant une revue des publications sur les "mutilations génitales". Malheureusement ces écrits qui se veulent libérateurs pour les femmes africaines peuvent avoir comme conséquence de les coloniser à nouveau (cf. Mohanty, 1991). Dans une deuxième partie l'auteure présente les résultats de ses recherches sur les débats actuels sur l'excision au Mali. Le débat sur l'excision fonctionne comme une métonymie à travers laquelle sont débattue d'autres grandes questions sociales et politiques sur les rapports sociaux entre les sexes et entre les jeunes et les aîné-e-s, sur la stratification sociale par castes, et sur les mérites comparés de l'Islam et de l'occidentalisation.
Article
Objective To investigate the relationship between women’s autonomy and attitudes toward female genital cutting (FGC) and having a daughter with FGC in Eritrea. Methods Data from a nationally representative sample of 8754 women aged between 15 and 49 years from the 2002 Eritrea Demographic and Health Survey were analyzed. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine significant predictors of the practice of and attitudes toward FGC, including women’s autonomy. Results Sixty-three percent (n = 3168) of women sampled had at least one daughter who had undergone FGC and 50.1% (n = 4848) of women believed FGC should continue. When controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, the odds of supporting the continuation of FGC were greater among women who justified wife beating (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.43; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.23–1.66). Among women who participated in household decisions, the odds of them supporting the continuation of FGC were less than among women who did not participate in household decisions (aOR 0.87; 95% CI, 0.75–0.99). Conclusion Interventions addressing women's autonomy, specifically attitudes toward gender norms and increasing women’s involvement in household decisions that carry a greater responsibility, may be a useful approach to reduce the support for and practice of FGC.
Article
Female circumcision is still practiced in different parts of Egypt, impacting women's health and well-being. Existing studies often portray parents' representations of the practice as positive and homogeneous, with little attention paid to the true diversity of views within a community. This study draws on social representations theory to highlight such nuances, while identifying the psychosocial factors that shape parents' decisions to circumcise or not circumcise their daughters. In-depth interviews with 11 mothers and five fathers were conducted in rural communities in the Al Qalyoubeya and Benisweif governorates. Thematic analysis revealed the co-existence of positive, negative and ambivalent representations of female circumcision amongst parents and within the individuals themselves. Although some parents positively represent female circumcision as ensuring the daughter's chastity, safeguarding her femininity and preserving community identity, they feel distress about its potential harms, such as pain, bleeding and terrifying experience on the daughter. Fathers further acknowledge its negative impact on marital sexual relationships. In some cases, parents challenge the ritual and refuse to circumcise their daughters. In light of a theory of change that emphasises the role of community dialogue in renegotiating health-damaging social practices, along with evidence of diverse views amongst parents, this study argues that sensitively facilitated ‘community conversations’ might provide parents with opportunities to debate their opposing views and allow for the construction of health-enabling social representations. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
In recent years, gender-based violence in South Asia has been of great concern to scholars and policymakers alike. This study explores the effects of women's relative resources on several dimensions of intimate partner violence in India, and tests whether economic resources allow women to “bargain” for less violence, or exacerbate the violence they face. To explore both possibilities, I use data from the 2005–06 Indian National Family Health Survey. The findings indicate that women with relatively higher education, employment, or earnings status than their spouse face more frequent and severe violence than women with lower status. Together, these findings suggest that women's superior material power bases threaten patriarchal norms and are responded to with the use of violence.
Article
This study was designed to test empirically the value of the distributive justice framework in terms of understanding wives' sense of fairness about the division of family work, as recommended by Thompson. Operationalizations of many of the social-psychological cognitions suggested by the framework are presented. In a sample of 234 dual-earner wives randomly selected from metropolitan areas of the western United States, there was qualified support for the framework. Feelings of appreciation were the strongest predictor of fairness. Deciding together how things would be divided was also a strong predictor. Other effects on fairness were indirect, however; they affected the division of family work, which, in turn, influenced wives' sense of fairness. More psychometric work will be needed, and replication with different samples is necessary, but the distributive justice framework appears to have significant merit for understanding wives' perceptions of fairness about family work.
Article
Understanding how the idea of culture is mobilized in discursive contests is crucial for both theorizing and building multicultural democracies. To investigate this, I analyze a debate over whether we should relieve the “cultural need” for infibulation among immigrants by offering a “nick” in U.S. hospitals. Using interviews, newspaper coverage, and primary documents, I show that physicians and opponents of the procedure with contrasting models of culture disagreed on whether it represented cultural change. Opponents argued that the “nick” was fairly described as “female genital mutilation” and symbolically identical to more extensive cutting. Using a reified model, they imagined Somalis to be “culture-bound”; the adoption of a “nick” was simply a move from one genital cutting procedure to another. Unable to envision meaningful cultural adaptation, and presupposing the incompatibility of multiculturalism and feminism, they supported forced assimilation. Physicians, drawing on a dynamic model of culture, believed that adoption of the “nick” was meaningful cultural change, but overly idealized their ability to protect Somali girls from both Somali and U.S. patriarchy. Unduly confident, they failed to take oppression seriously, dismissing relevant constituencies and their concerns. Both models, then, influenced the outcome of this cultural conflict by shaping the perceptions of cultural change in problematic ways. Given the high-profile nature of “culture” in contemporary politics, these findings may very well extend to other issues that crystallize the supposed incommensurability of feminism and multiculturalism, as well as the wider debates about how societies can be both diverse and socially just.
Article
Genital cutting has been a key ritual event of initiation in Kuria society since anyone can remember. While changes surely occurred to the ritual as it was passed between generations, social and health concerns have quickly and radically reshaped it. In this article, I examine recent changes to the tradition, trace the concomitant social compromises and shifts in community ideology and practice, and identify how guiding social norms have been reshaped. Health concerns on the part of insiders and human-rights concerns on the part of outsiders have stimulated some Kuria to modify their opinions and change long-established customs. First, sterile procedures were introduced to circumcisers in the mid-1990s in response to the danger of HIV transmission. Then in the late 1990s, a clergyman, wanting to reduce the risks to the initiates but to preserve the ritual, brought a trained nurse to a mission in the community to operate on girls. During the 1998 ritual (it occurs every two to three years), about sixty girls were cut there. In 2001, a Kuria circumciser performed female genital cutting (FGC) at the mission, thereby obviating concerns about interethnic and interclan witchcraft. In the 2004–2005 season, after years of campaigning, international NGOs introduced an alternative rite of passage. They brought together more than 200 girls from throughout the district to attend workshops instead of genital cutting; on their way home, however, most of those girls were pressured or forced to undergo genital cutting anyway, fulfilling the cultural norm that requires initiation candidates to return home only after they have been operated on. Locally, the circumcision controversy has generated a language that frames the issues in terms of modernization theory's starkest contrasts—using terms, characterizations, and language unheard of in the community even a few years ago.
Article
This article reviews campaigns against female genital cutting (FGC) directed at Maasai communities in northern Tanzania. The authors argue that campaigns against FGC using educational, health, legal, and human rights–based approaches are at times ineffective and counterproductive when they frame the practice as a “tradition” rooted in a “primitive” and unchanging culture. We suggest that development interventions that do not address local contexts of FGC, including the complex politics and history of interventions designed to eradicate it, can in fact reify and reinscribe the practice as central to Maasai cultural identity.
Article
We analyzed determinants of women's employment with data for 40,792 women living in 103 districts of 6 Arab countries. We tested a new theoretical framework that addresses the roles of needs, opportunities, and values at multiple levels. At the microlevel (individual, family), socioeconomic factors, care duties, and traditionalism were important; at the macrolevel (district), economic development and societal norms were important. Women's education seemed most influential. Interaction analyses showed that returns on women's education depended on their partner's education and on the economic development, labor market structure, urbanization, and strength of traditional norms in the district in which women live. Our results stress the importance of a comprehensive approach toward women's employment in these countries.
Article
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Article
This paper uses data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth to examine social, demographic, and economic correlates of planned and unplanned childbearing among unmarried women. I look at who has births outside of marriage, who plans births outside of marriage, and how childbearing patterns vary for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. I find that low education increases the likelihood of planned and unplanned childbearing outside of marriage for all race and ethnic groups. The same holds for cohabitation, although effects on planned births are notably stronger for Hispanics than others. Finally, spending time in a single-parent family as a child increases planned and unplanned childbearing among White women, with modest or no effects among Blacks or Hispanics. Results suggest ways in which the meaning of childbearing depends on the context in which it occurs.
Article
Drawing on British data from the 2002 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) module on ‘Family and Changing Gender Roles’, this paper is an exploratory attempt to assess the extent to which newly emerging ‘individualised’ patterns of money management in intimate relationships, are coming to be associated with shifts towards greater equality between partners, in terms of who has the final say over large expenditure decisions, and the implications this has for overall satisfaction with the relationship and happiness with life in general. Our findings show that while in general, keeping money partly separate was associated with a relatively high level of male control, which was more visible to female respondents than male control in other systems, a minority of (sometimes) higher earning, cohabiting women with partly separate finances, were able to make autonomous decisions about spending, possibly by using their own personal spending money. However, the analysis also indicates that when either men or women made autonomous decisions about spending, both male and female respondents were less satisfied with family life, as well as with life in general, than those who made joint decisions.
Article
This paper begins from the understanding that women's empowerment is about the process by which those who have been denied the ability to make strategic life choices acquire such an ability. A wide gap separates this processual understanding of empowerment from the more instrumentalist forms of advocacy which have required the measurement and quantification of empowerment. The ability to exercise choice incorporates three inter-related dimensions: resources (defined broadly to include not only access, but also future claims, to both material and human and social resources); agency (including processes of decision making, as well as less measurable manifestations of agency such as negotiation, deception and manipulation); and achievements (well-being outcomes). A number of studies of women's empowerment are analysed to make some important methodological points about the measurement of empowerment. The paper argues that these three dimensions of choice are indivisible in determining the meaning of an indicator and hence its validity as a measure of empowerment. The notion of choice is further qualified by referring to the conditions of choice, its content and consequences. These qualifications represent an attempt to incorporate the structural parameters of individual choice in the analysis of women's empowerment.
Article
The relationship between religious obligations and female genital cutting is explored using data from Burkina Faso, a religiously and ethnically diverse country where approximately three-quarters of adult women are circumcised. Data from the 2003 Burkina Faso Demographic and Health Survey are used to estimate multilevel models of religious variation in the intergenerational transmission of female genital cutting. Differences between Christians, Muslims, and adherents of traditional religions are reported, along with an assessment of the extent to which individual and community characteristics account for religious differences. Religious variation in the intergenerational transmission of female genital cutting is largely explained by specific religious beliefs and by contextual rather than individual characteristics. Although Muslim women are more likely to have their daughters circumcised, the findings suggest the importance of a collective rather than individual Muslim identity for the continuation of the practice.
Article
Recent reviews of intervention efforts aimed at ending female genital cutting (FGC) have concluded that progress to date has been slow, and call for more efficient programs informed by theories on behavior change. Social convention theory, first proposed by Mackie (1996), posits that in the context of extreme resource inequality, FGC emerged as a means of securing a better marriage by signaling fidelity, and subsequently spread to become a prerequisite for marriage for all women. Change is predicted to result from coordinated abandonment in intermarrying groups so as to preserve a marriage market for uncircumcised girls. While this theory fits well with many general observations of FGC, there have been few attempts to systematically test the theory. We use data from a three year mixed-method study of behavior change that began in 2004 in Senegal and The Gambia to explicitly test predictions generated by social convention theory. Analyses of 300 in-depth interviews, 28 focus group discussions, and survey data from 1220 women show that FGC is most often only indirectly related to marriageability via concerns over preserving virginity. Instead we find strong evidence for an alternative convention, namely a peer convention. We propose that being circumcised serves as a signal to other circumcised women that a girl or woman has been trained to respect the authority of her circumcised elders and is worthy of inclusion in their social network. In this manner, FGC facilitates the accumulation of social capital by younger women and of power and prestige by elder women. Based on this new evidence and reinterpretation of social convention theory, we suggest that interventions aimed at eliminating FGC should target women's social networks, which are intergenerational, and include both men and women. Our findings support Mackie's assertion that expectations regarding FGC are interdependent; change must therefore be coordinated among interconnected members of social networks.
Article
El presente documento desarrolla el tema de la erradicación de la mutilación genital femenina desde el punto de vista holístico del Fondo de Población de las Naciones Unidas - UNFPA. El texto explica la prevalencia, tipos e impacto de la mutilación genital femenina, razones de esta práctica, tendencias, cambios positivos y buenas prácticas.
Article
This paper is about how female circumcision/female genital mutilation (FC/FGM) was viewed by women and men aged 18-89 in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, now that it has been against the law for almost 15 years. The findings come from 11 months of field research, participant observation and interviews in 2008. The practice of FC/FGM was an important issue in Bobo-Dioulasso, even though prevalence seems to be falling. The most important argument for continuing it was not a traditional role, but the need to control female sexuality - regarded as very active - not to negate it, but to ensure morally acceptable behaviour. When I talked about female genital cosmetic surgery it emerged that Bobolaise women used various substances to enhance sexual pleasure for men, both to keep the relationship and to protect the gifts and money many women needed to survive and for their children. FC/FGM was seen as a socio-cultural obligation, necessary to achieve a respectable status. Other forms of genital modification were seen as a means of satisfying male sexual needs, though vaginal tightening to hide sexual experience was also a way of demonstrating respectability. What emerged overall is that Bobolaises had their own perspectives about all the forms of female genital modification that were discussed.
Article
Summary Impact evaluation studies routinely find that lending to women benefits their households. However, a number of them also find that this may not empower the women concerned. This seemingly paradoxical conclusion is confirmed by our study with respect to a lending program in rural India. We investigate this result by examining a combination of loan-use data and borrower-testimonies. We find that loans procured by women are often diverted into enhancing household's assets and incomes. This combined with woman's lack of co-ownership of family's productive assets, we conclude, results in her disempowerment. If empowering women is a crucial objective, then the patriarchal hold on productive assets must be challenged.
Article
To study the prevalence of and reasons for female genital mutilation in an Egyptian village population. A survey of all 819 households in an Upper Egyptian village near Assiut was conducted in 1992. The mothers of 1,732 girls under 20 years of age were interviewed to obtain information about their daughters. When possible, fathers and grandparents were also interviewed. Respectively, 62%, 36.6% and 1.1% were girls who had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), were to undergo the procedure and were not to have the operation. A total of 67% of the fathers of girls who had undergone FGM and 92% of their mothers were illiterate. FGM was performed most often when girls were 5-9 years old. Almost all procedures (97.5%) were performed by dayas; 1.3% were performed by barbers. A razor was used in 80.7% of the cases, and a knife in 18.5%; in less than 1% (0.7%) of the procedures were medical instruments used. The most prevalent reason for FGM was that it followed customs and traditions (77%). Serious bleeding (5.7%) and pain (3%) were the most commonly reported complications of the procedure. The study raises a number of questions about the experience of FGM by young girls, the reasons for maintaining this practice and the kinds of interventions which might be effective in eliminating it.
Article
We describe the individual and household characteristics associated with intimate partner violence (IPV) in the Philippines, using data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS). We also examine 56 in-depth interview transcripts to explore the context of IPV. We focus our analysis on patterns of household decision-making as a measure of the interpersonal dynamics between husbands and wives. Thirteen percent of women in our sample reported IPV. While economic factors are often implicated in the cycle of violence in households, we find employment status and relative earnings do not predict IPV. Lower levels of household wealth and urban residence are associated with a higher likelihood of IPV. Patterns of household decision-making emerge as strong predictors of violence. The greater the number of decision-making domains men dominate, the more likely they are to use IPV; however, we also find that when women dominate household decisions, they are also more likely to experience IPV. Only 6% of women reported IPV when all household decisions were made jointly compared to 25% when no decisions were made jointly.
Article
Evidence that 97 percent of ever-married Egyptian women were circumcised in 1995 fueled interest to understand the levels, determinants, and consequences of this practice. Qualitative data suggest that ideologies of femininity, pressure to conform to behaviors characterizing womanhood, and constraints to other opportunities perpetuate women's support for female genital cutting in Minia, Egypt. While the practice remains prevalent in Minia, age-specific probabilities of genital cutting are lower among daughters than mothers and among younger than older daughters. A mother's education is negatively associated with, and her circumcision status positively associated with, her intent and decision to circumcise a daughter. Increasing reliance on doctors to perform the procedure is positively associated with urban residence and father's education, indicating a need to understand local meanings of modernity. Overall, increasing girls' access to higher education may contribute to further declines in female genital cutting in this setting.
Article
In this article, I analyze women's decisions to have their daughters circumcised based on data from 7,873 women in Kenya collected in the 1998 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. I use multilevel models to assess the degree to which women s decisions are correlated with the decisions of other women in their community, in addition to studying the effects of socioeconomic characteristics measured at both the individual and community levels. I find some support for modernization theories, which argue that economic development leads to gradual erosion of the practice of female circumcision. However, more community-level variation is explained by the convention hypothesis, which proposes that the prevalence of female circumcision will decline rapidly once parents see that a critical mass of other parents have stopped circumcising their daughters. I also find substantial variation among different ethnic groups in the pace and onset of the decline of female genital cutting.
Article
Reliable evidence about the effect of female genital mutilation (FGM) on obstetric outcome is scarce. This study examines the effect of different types of FGM on obstetric outcome. 28 393 women attending for singleton delivery between November, 2001, and March, 2003, at 28 obstetric centres in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan were examined before delivery to ascertain whether or not they had undergone FGM, and were classified according to the WHO system: FGM I, removal of the prepuce or clitoris, or both; FGM II, removal of clitoris and labia minora; and FGM III, removal of part or all of the external genitalia with stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening. Prospective information on demographic, health, and reproductive factors was gathered. Participants and their infants were followed up until maternal discharge from hospital. Compared with women without FGM, the adjusted relative risks of certain obstetric complications were, in women with FGM I, II, and III, respectively: caesarean section 1.03 (95% CI 0.88-1.21), 1.29 (1.09-1.52), 1.31 (1.01-1.70); postpartum haemorrhage 1.03 (0.87-1.21), 1.21 (1.01-1.43), 1.69 (1.34-2.12); extended maternal hospital stay 1.15 (0.97-1.35), 1.51 (1.29-1.76), 1.98 (1.54-2.54); infant resuscitation 1.11 (0.95-1.28), 1.28 (1.10-1.49), 1.66 (1.31-2.10), stillbirth or early neonatal death 1.15 (0.94-1.41), 1.32 (1.08-1.62), 1.55 (1.12-2.16), and low birthweight 0.94 (0.82-1.07), 1.03 (0.89-1.18), 0.91 (0.74-1.11). Parity did not significantly affect these relative risks. FGM is estimated to lead to an extra one to two perinatal deaths per 100 deliveries. Women with FGM are significantly more likely than those without FGM to have adverse obstetric outcomes. Risks seem to be greater with more extensive FGM.
Article
In African populations practicing female genital cutting (FGC), beliefs exist that these procedures enhance reproduction and that their medicalization may diminish adverse effects, yet available findings are mixed in part for methodological reasons. We use data from a representative sample of ever-married women aged 17-55 years in Minya, Egypt, to examine the effects of type of FGC and type of circumciser on a woman's risks of primary infertility and pregnancy loss. Contrary to previous studies in Egypt, neither type of circumcision nor type of circumciser is associated with adverse fertility outcomes among circumcised women in Minya.