A clitorectomy, also called a clitoridectomy, is an operation that results in the removal of part of a female's genitals. Often referred to as female circumcision, it typically involves the removal of the clitoris but may include the removal of a female’s labia as well. There normally is no medical reason to perform this type of surgery. It is usually performed in places in which it is considered a cultural or religious tradition. For example, some cultural groups consider clitorectomy procedures an effective way to prevent females from enjoying sexual intercourse with men who are not their husbands or to make them clean and pure.
There is a good deal of controversy surrounding clitorectomies. Many people consider these operations barbaric and assert that they are unnecessary mutilation of the female body. Additionally, the surgeries are typically performed on young girls who are too young to give informed consent. Often, the surgery is performed against the girl’s will as well. While there are some countries in which clitorectomies are considered normal, it is against the law in many others.
Laws against clitorectomy procedures may help some girls, but they are not effective for preventing the surgery everywhere. In some jurisdictions in which the surgery is illegal, people perform them in secret. Often, the surgery is performed by people who do not have suitable training and use unsterilized tools for cutting. Many of these procedures are even performed without anesthesia.
While many of the arguments against clitorectomy procedures focus on the assertion that they are inhumane, there are also medical consequences of this type of procedure. In some cases, for example, a female may develop excessive bleeding or an infection because of the procedure. Sometimes her body may even go into shock.
There are also long-term effects that a woman may suffer because of a clitorectomy. For example, she may suffer from pain during intercourse or even have difficulty having sexual intercourse at all. Sometimes cysts and excessive scarring develop, and some women may also suffer from infertility as a result of the procedure. If she does get pregnant, she may even have trouble having a vaginal birth because of scar tissue.
Some people who opt to have clitorectomy procedures performed on their female children do not have the clitoris removed but instead opt to have it nicked. This procedure involves putting a small cut in the clitoris for the purpose of observing religious ritual. While this procedure is less traumatic to the body, it is still considered controversial.