Female genital mutilation (FGM) is currently practiced in 28 countries in Africa, and it is predicted that up to 140 million women worldwide have undergone the procedure. In many communities, it is believed that the practice reduces a woman’s libido. For this reason, and because of the procedure’s inherent medical risks, the practice is widely opposed by the Western practice as demeaning to women.
However, there is a different practice common in Rwanda, just south of Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia, where extreme female genital mutilation is widespread. During the four months I lived in Rwanda, I hadn’t heard of this practice until my very last day there when a friend told me that Rwandan girls will pull on their labia to increase pleasure. She added that around the age of 13, girls will have parties where they pull on each other’s labias. While this immediately reminded me of a Chelsea Handler story about a sleepover where middle school Chelsea and her friends masturbated for most of the night, I had a hard time believing that this occurred in Rwanda’s conservative society. So of course I googled it, and found out that it is a procedure practiced across the country. While technically it is classified as female genital mutilation by the country, many argue that it mutilation has too negative of a connotation for this practice. Women in Rwanda regard it as a source of pleasure and female empowerment. It increases pleasure for both males and females, and the botanicals used during stretching sessions even have positive health effects! For these reasons, many suggest that this practice in Rwanda not be given the name female genital mutliation. While it is changing the shape of the female organs, it has exactly the opposite purpose the cutting of the clitoris, and shouldn’t be associated with that damaging practice. If women feel empowered by the practice, and get more pleasure from sex (as long as they choose it willingly), it shouldn’t be associated with something so negative.