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The practice of female circumcision in African and Muslim societies in Africa.

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The purpose of this study is to ascertain the reason for the continuation of the practice of female circumcision in certain African and Muslim societies in Africa, despite attempts at abandonment by many international aid agencies, researchers, governments and individuals. The girls and women belonging to the respective communities who have been subjected to the practice of female circumcision are experiencing detrimental effects to their health and well-being. A multidisciplinary, critical and analytical approach has been utilized throughout the study. This study traces the practice from earlier times to the present era. The respective areas where this phenomenon exists have been illustrated. The physiology of the practice of female circumcision provides details on the procedure, the complications that result from the practice are highlighted, and the practice of female circumcision within the South African milieu is also indicated. Religion and culture as well as ethics and morals in the context of African Traditional Religion (ATR) are discussed, thus facilitating a critique of the religion. Various key beliefs and concepts that give rise to the practice and its continued persistence have been elucidated. Likewise, female initiation rite, with and without the practice of female circumcision, has been mentioned. Moreover, the reason why diviners have been singled out as the most suitable persons to campaign against female circumcision have been addressed. The retaining of the practice by societies that converted from African Traditional Religion to Islam in earlier centuries is clarified with focus on the manner by the clergy accommodated the practice into Islam. This thesis focuses on the need for clergy and diviners to be included in campaigns to discontinue the practice. The erroneous focus on the sexual aspects is ascertained. The perpetuation of the practice due to the emphasis on fertility and ancestor veneration is also highlighted. This study has indicated why the practice persists in African and Muslim societies and offers effective solutions towards abandonment of the practice. The concept of cultural hermeneutics has been applied to the practice and to ancestor veneration. This theory indicates that the beneficial aspects, that is, the ethics and morals in African Traditional Religion and in ancestor veneration should continue to remain intact and only such teachings that actually condone the practice should be expunged. Anti-campaigners should consider the application of the aforementioned theory as outlined in this thesis at their gatherings. A plea is made that female initiation rite should be retained because it provides education to initiates, but the cutting involved in female circumcision should be abolished. This thesis affirms that all the Aḥādīth (Traditions of Prophet Muhammad that some Muslim Jurists had cited to justify the practice in Islam are unauthentic. Therefore, it is pertinent for Muslim jurists to effectively condemn this practice. By abandoning the practice, the health and welfare of the girls and women from the practicing communities would substantially improve. Undoubtedly, the implementation of this change will encourage social transformation.


Doctor of Philosophy in Religion and Social Transformation. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College 2015.


African traditions in the study of religion in Africa., Female circumcision (Islamic law) -- Africa., Female circumcision -- Africa -- Religious aspects., Islam -- Africa -- Customs and practices., Theses -- Religion and social transformation.