There are different reasons for the practice of female genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is performed for a variety of reasons which differ from community to community; and sometimes, even from generation to generation. The reasons include a combination of social, cultural, aesthetic, “hygienic” – and sometimes religious – factors.
These are some of the reasons why female genital mutilation is practiced:
- The belief that some parts of the body are unclean and unfeminine/male. So, they erroneously believe that those parts should be cut off for the female to be perfect and/or clean.
- Some communities believe that removing certain parts of the female genitals which they consider ugly, makes the female beautiful.
- It is seen as the proper way to raise a girl.
- Seen as a way to prepare a girl for adulthood and marriage.
- In some communities, it increases marriageability because it is a condition for marriage in such places.
- Social pressure to do what others are doing.
- The desire to be socially accepted and fear of being rejected by the community. Those who do not conform to the practice are usually ostracized and so, some people still conform to the practice even though they know it is harmful because they want to be socially accepted. Studies carried out by the United Nations found that this is the biggest reason why most people perform FGM.
- Believed to lower the female’s libido, thereby helping her to resist “illegitimate” sexual acts. In the same vein, it is believed to ensure virginity before marriage, as well as, fidelity on the woman’s part in marriage.
- Even though, there are no religious texts that direct that female genital mutilation be performed, some people believe it has religious backing and is a religious requirement. Some religious leaders support it, and some lend their voices to its elimination.
- People held in high regard (like medical personnel, community leaders, the circumcisers, and religious leaders) in some communities uphold female genital mutilation.
- It is considered a part of the cultural tradition passed down from forefathers in some communities.
- When people move into communities where FGM is practised, they may adopt it.
A lot of wrong beliefs contribute to the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting.