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Article promoting “female circumcision” is deeply flawed


May 1, 2021


Intactivists have pounced on an article in support of hoodectomy - a form of female genital mutilation. Author Kubra Jawher, a housewife and religious activist in Sri Lanka, maintains that removal of the clitoral hood is a religious duty for every Muslim woman. Her article was published last month on the website of an Islamic magazine. [1]


Jawher considers removal of the clitoral hood a religious obligation. She reportedly wrote in a 2019 Facebook post, “I think it's important for [female circumcision] to be mandatory as they have done in Malaysia... I really envy our Malaysian sisters. They can simply walk into any of a hundred clinics and get themselves or their daughters circumcised...” [2] In the current article she advocates for the procedure “at a much younger age including in infancy.” The World Health Organization classifies different types of female genital mutilation. Removal of the clitoral hood is classified as FGM Type 1a. [3] The UN has estimated that at least 59 countries have passed laws against FGM. [4]


Throughout the article Jawher refers to the procedure as "female circumcision." She strives to distinguish between "female circumcision" as "good" and "female genital mutilation" - which she recognizes as "bad." The religious arguments in Part 1 are outside the Circumcision Choice mission. This article will address Part 2, which contains claims of medical and sexual benefits.


Scrutinizing the article, it became clear that the author was both sloppy and lazy. She failed to read her primary sources to verify accuracy and context. She speaks glowingly of researchers - while misspelling their names. Entire sections of her article appear to have been plagiarized; some phrases are virtually identical, and she cites the same articles - even in the same sequence. [5] The studies she presents don’t support her claims. In addition - as we'll see from social media - Jahwer expresses bigotry against people who oppose FGM type 1a.



Alleged medical benefits


Jawher began by saying that "the clitoral prepuce is very similar to the male foreskin in both structure and potential harm when left without surgical removal." A fundamental difference is that the penis is part of the male urinary tract, so circumcision reduces the risk of a urinary tract infection. Since the clitoris is not part of the female urinary tract, removing the hood would not reduce the risk of UTIs. (Nevertheless Jawher makes that claim - as we’ll see below.) The clitoris contains several thousand highly sensitive nerves. The clitoral hood protects those nerves from overstimulation. [6] By contrast, a researcher who measured the effect of circumcision on glans sensitivity found "no evidence that neonatal circumcision decreases penile sensitivity, and no evidence that the exposed glans penis in circumcised men becomes less sensitive over time." [7] Our 16 functions article analyzes this and many other claims of foreskin functions.


Jawher quoted a passage by "Dr. Edwin D. Hirsch ... in his 1962 book Sexual Fear." The book was written by Edwin W. Hirsch. It's clear that Jawher didn't actually read the book; instead she cited a blog post that quoted the passage. [5] In the quoted passage Hirsch stated that cleaning the area below the clitoral hood would correct the problem of female sexual dysfunction; he did not suggest removing the hood. [8]


Next the author cited a 1922 study by “Clodi and Schoppers." Here, too she misspells a name; the author‘s last name is Schopper. Rather than review the actual study [9] Jawher quoted from an abstract written by R.E. Wobus published in a medical journal. [10] She claims that the study revealed that a germ that causes gonorrhea "thrives 'in the fissure between the clitoris and the prepuce' ... where 'they could find none in the urethra, vigina [sic] and cervix.'" Note the elipses, which indicates that words have been omitted from the quotation. Jawher omitted “in three cases,” dishonestly making it appear as if the researchers found the germ in general. Wobus reported that after further investigation, Clodi and Schopper found the germ in 26 out of 35 cases (74%), of which the germ was exclusively in the prepuce in four cases (11%). However Jawher falsely implied that the germ was found exclusively in the prepuce in 74% of cases.


She cited a 1923 article by "I Pilot and A.E. Canter (‘Studies of Fusiform baccilli and spirochetes’ The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1923.)” [11] (The last name of the second author is Kanter; Jawher has now misspelled three names in three consecutive paragraphs.) Pilot and Kanter examined the smegma from 36 patients, most of whom were in the “last months of pregnancy.” They found staphylococci present in 31 specimens. With most participants in the third trimester of pregnancy, the study results may have been affected by factors other than the clitoral hood. To prevent infections the researchers recommended “proper hygiene” - not hoodectomy.


She cited a 1958 article by C.F. McDonald, who wrote that smegma between the clitoral hood and the clitoris can cause “irritation, scratching, irritability, masturbation, frequency and urgency.” He described the case of a 2 year-old girl whom he suspected of having epilepsy because she frequently masturbated. McDonald claimed that upon removal of the clitoral hood, “the disorder disappeared.“ [12] He offered no scientific study to support the claim that FGM improves cleanliness and hygiene, and masturbation is no longer seen as a sign of mental or neurological illness. At least Jawher spelled his name correctly.


The author ignored a nineteenth century case study similar to the one McDonald described. In the 1891 case Dr. J.M. Sligh examined a 19 year-old Montana woman who was suffering from several recent afflictions, including painful, irregular menstruation, exessive itching, and frequent masturbation. The doctor found adhesions between the clitoral hood and the clitoris, determined that they were the cause of her problems, and hypothesized that masturbation was a subconscious response to the itching - an attempt to break the adhesions. Using a probe and his fingernails, Sligh simply broke the adhesions. By the next day the patient's health had improved dramatically, and she was restored to "perfect health" over the ensuing months. Thus Sligh achieved the same result as McDonald without excising any genital tissue. [13]


Jawher claimed that women whose clitoral hoods were removed are less likely to get UTIs. She wrote that a Dr. Royal Benson “found that UTIs [were] very likely caused by smegma buildup between the prepuse [sic] and the clitoris.” She said that Benson conducted a "hoodectomy, removal of the hood of the clitoris, in other words the skin or prepuce covering the clitoris to permanently prevent smegma accumulation."


A transcript of an interview with Benson presented a different picture. He didn’t prescribe surgery as a preventative measure. Adult patients came to him because they had experienced a loss of sexual pleasure. He examined each patient to determine how to proceed. He determined that surgery was appropriate for some patients. He explained, “The concept isn't to completely remove the hood... the concept of a successful hoodectomy is to remove the problematic [excess] tissue that is inhibiting the clitoris from protruding, thus keeping it from receiving the proper amount of stimulation." Thus, contrary to Jawher's assertion, Benson merely made an incision in the clitoral hood; he did not remove the hood.

Jawher also claimed that FGM Type 1a may prevent genital cancer and other complications. She offered no studies to support these claims.

Alleged sexual benefits

Jawher cited four studies to show that clitoral hood removal improves female sexual pleasure. The McDonald paper discussed earlier did not report a scientific study, but rather the physician’s observations. Several patients who had given birth three or more times suffered from dyspareunia - painful intercourse. “Examination revealed a rosary-like group of nodules under the prepuce of a hidden clitoris.” After removal of the prepuce and cleaning the genital area, the women reported greater sexual satisfaction. [10]


Similarly the Rathmann paper did not involve a study. The physician performed hood removal for some of his adult patients who were unable to experience an orgasm and who had a large prepuce that extended beyond the clitoris. [14]


We were unable to find a copy of the Crist study online. According to another source: “(Reports on Crist's circumcision of fifteen women, and provides a list of four conditions for when the surgery would be indicated: ’a) they could achieve orgasm only by masturbation and/or oral sex, b) they could have orgasm in the lateral or female-superior positions only, c) they stated, "it feels good, I get there, but suddenly it's over," d) they had a positive cotton-tip test, where patients felt a distinct difference when a cotton-tipped applicator was applied directly to the clitoris when the foreskin was retracted as opposed to application to the foreskin’ ... Crist's study concludes, ’Patients who have undergone this procedure have generally commented that they have enhanced sexual response.’)” [15]


The Thabet study involved 90 married women ages 18-28. Among the subjects: 30 were a control group that had not been subjected to any form of FGM; 30 had a clitoral hood removal; and 30 had a more severe form of FGM. The first group had visited a family planning clinic for contraceptives. The latter two groups suffered from various ailments (20 - premenstrual tension syndrome, 18 - backache, 12 - leucorrhea, and 10 - dysmenorrhea. [16][17]


Each participant completed a sexual assessment questionnaire about the state of her genitalia, state of femininity, level of genital and sexual knowledge, sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and sexual satisfaction. Participants in the control group and the hoodectomy group had similar scores on the questionnaire. The scores for the severely mutilated group were significantly lower than the other two groups. Thabet concluded, “Banning all types of circumcision is a good policy for preserving normal female sexuality.” The study does not support Jawher’s assertion that hoodectomy “improves sexual pleasure.”

To summarize, the first three of the four citations were not actually studies. They were physician reports on the treatment of women for problems related to painful sex or difficulty in reaching orgasm. The papers did not include a control group of women who were already sexually satisfied. The only paper that described a study did not demonstrate that hood removal enhances female sexual pleasure. None of the researchers advised clitoral hood removal for underage girls, nor as a preventative measure for women in general.



Anti-Semitic impulse

Jawher has produced a disturbing pattern of contemptuously calling people who expose the harms of hoodectomies "Zionists" - a codeword for Jews.


In an undated tweet Jawher wrote, "In spite of what the Zionist Loudmouths Say, it is Now Established that Female Circumcision is Harmless Compared to Male Circumcision!" [18] Author Tarek Fatah quoted a 2018 tweet - apparently written by Jawher on a suspended account - blaming "Zionists and anti-Islamic lobbyists" for fighting against FGM. (She attached a meme that promotes Dan Bollinger's discredited claim that 117 newborn boys in the United States die each year from circumcision complications.) [19] She concluded a February 4, 2019 comment on an online article about FGM in India with, “a good muslimah follows the fitra of circumcising and does not fall for Zionist misinformation regarding our religious duties." [20] Two months later she posted on Facebook, "Nas Daily, produced by a Zionist guy with a Muslim name just shared a video by this guy's Israeli girlfriend Alyne Tamir, wrongly comparing our Islamic female circumcision to the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation." [21] (emphases added)


An author's personal bigotry doesn't in and of itself disprove her argument. Jawher's false and misleading statements provide plenty of material to refute her claims about hoodectomy. It isn’t clear why she singles out Jews for her wrath, as they represent a small percentage among the human rights activists who speak out against all forms of FGM, including type 1a. Regardless, her anti-Jewish enmity toward those who seek to end the practice makes her work not only dubious, but toxic.



Conclusion

Kubra Jawher loudly declares that hoodectomy provides several medical and sexual benefits. She encourages Muslim women to subject themselves and their daughters to Type 1a FGM. Yet half of the papers she cited did not provide scientific evidence. She misrepresented the data of one study, and in another paper she misrepresented the surgery performed. Not one paper contained evidence that hoodectomy provides medical benefits for underage girls. Not one researcher recommended hoodectomy as a preventative medical procedure or for sexually satisfied patients.


Intactivists and religious advocates of hoodectomy make strange bedfellows. Both groups frantically seek to equate foreskin removal with clitoral hood removal - but for opposite reasons. The former seek to criminalize circumcision, while the latter wish to decriminalize FGM type 1a.


For example, Brian Earp of Oxford University commented about Jawher's article, "The arguments for 'female circumcision' rely on the same excuses as for male circumcision.“ [22] [23] Earp’s focus on Islamic rationalizations (in Part 1) is beside the point. The issue isn’t whether FGM can be justified on a religious basis, but whether it can be justified on a medical basis. And the fact that FGM defenders make similar claims about health benefits as circumcision defenders is not relevant. The issue is not whether both groups make identical claims, but whether or not such claims are valid and confirmed by scientific evidence. The AAP and CDC have cited hundreds of high quality studies that provide evidence for the medical benefits of circumcision. [24] [25] By contrast a cursory review of the evidence Jawher assembled shows that her entire argument disintegrates in a scholastic failure.


Intactivists have convinced themselves that they can end the practice of circumcision - if someday they can prove that circumcision is equivalent to the heinous FGM. Today is not that day.



Related

For a discussion on the reaction of the intactivist movement to female genital mutilation see our article

Intact America Part 6: One boy vs five hundred thousand girls




[1] Kubra Jawher; "Circumcision for the Muslim Woman, Part 2 of 2"; AlJumuah; April 15, 2021

[2] Kubra Jawher; Facebook post; May 18, 2019. Reported by Denise Noe; “Female Circumcision in Malaysia Part 1 - An Islamic Obligation or Customary Tradition?”; SIA Magazine; May 29, 2019

[3] "Types of female genital mutilation"; World Health Organization; 2018 [4] “FGM And The Law Around The World”; Equality Now; June 19, 2019

[5] Asiff Hussein; "Female Circumcision - an Islamic Perspective"; Sailan Muslim Foundation; January 2015 [6] Adrienne Santos-Longhurst; "Everything You Should Know About Your Clitoral Hood"; Healthline; updated July 12, 2019

[7] Jennifer A. Bossio et al; "Examining Sexual Correlates of Neonatal Circumcision in Adult Men"; Queens University; September 18, 2015

[8] Edwin W. Hirsch; "Sexual Fear"; Pyramid Publishing; 1962.

[9] Clodi and Schopper; "The Prepuce of the Clitoris and Gonorrhea"; Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift; May 13, 1922

[10] R.E. Wobus; “Selected Abstracts - Gonorrhea”; published in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume X, p 304; July 1925. “The authors found gonococci in the fissure between the clitoris and prepuce in three cases in which they could find none in the urethra, vagina and cervix... Therefore, twenty-six out of the thirty-five cases (74.3 per cent) showed gonococci in this situation. In four cases they were found there only.” (emphasis added)

[11] I.Pilot and A.E. Kanter; "Studies of Fusiform Bacilli and Spirochetes"; Journal of Infectious Diseases; 1923 [12] C.F. McDonald; “Circumcision of the female”; General Practice; September 1958

[13] Sarah W. Rodriguez; "Rethinking the history of female circumcision and clitoridectomy: American medicine and female sexuality in the late nineteenth century"; Journal of the History of Medicine, pp 335-336; July 2008 [14] W.G. Rathmann M.D.; “Female Circumcision: Indications and a New Technique”; General Practitioner; September 1959

[15] “Clitoral Circumcision”; Tantra. (A critic might accuse us of hypocrisy for using a secondary source here. Ideally we would have been able to read the paper itself; however we were unable to locate the paper online. A secondary source was the only way we could get any information. By contrast it doesn’t appear as if Jawher made any attempt to read the original papers which she cited and quoted.)

[16] Saeed Mohammad Ahmed Thabet and Ahmed S.M.A. Thabet; “Defective sexuality and female circumcision: The cause and the possible management”; Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research; February 2003

[17] The study also included a fourth group of 57 women with any type of FGM who developed clitoral cysts as late complications of FGM.

[18] Kubra Jawher undated tweet.

[19] Tarek Fatah tweet; April 2, 2018

[20] Chandni Shiyal; "Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in India: A Hidden Truth"; Café Dissensus ; May 25, 2016; Kubra Jawher comment #22335 posted on February 4, 2019

[21] Kubra Jawher Facebook post; April 3, 2019 - screenshot tweeted by Pagans For Secularism; September 13, 2019. Nas Daily is a Palestinian-Israel video blogger, a non-practicing Muslim born to a Muslim Arab family.

[22] Brian D. Earp tweet; April 17, 2021 - 9:26 AM (Pacific Time)

[23] Brian D. Earp tweet; April 17, 2021 - 9:39 AM (Pacific Time)

[24] Susan Blank M.D. et al; "Male Circumcision - Task force on circumcision"; Pediatrics; September 2012

[25] Male Circumcision"; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; August 22, 2018 #FGM #FemaleGenitalMutilation #FemaleCircumcision #FGMType1

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