Female circumcision, the partial or total cutting away of the external female genitalia, has been practiced for centuries. Often performed without anesthetic under septic conditions by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine, female circumcision can cause death or permanent health problems as well as severe pain. Despite these risks, its practitioners look on it as an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity, and some perceive it as a religious obligation. Opponents of female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), see it as a violation of human rights. .
Female circumcision is practiced in many forms. Type I, clitoridectomy, is the removal of the clitoral hood with or without removal of all or part of the clitoris. Type II, excision, is the removal of the clitoris together with part or all of the labia minora. Type III, infibulation, is the removal of part or all the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora and labia majora) and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening, leaving a very small opening, about the size of a match stick, to allow for flow of urine and menstrual fluid.
Depending on the country and specific group involved, a variety of instruments, usually crude ones such as special knives and even sharp stones are used to perform this procedure. In villages, instruments used to perform the procedure are usually not sterile. Often many girls are "operated" on during a single ritual ceremony. The practice is generally performed upon girls between the ages of four and twelve. Sierra Loene recounted her traumatic experience at the age of 10:.
"I was taken to a very dark room and undressed. I was blindfolded and stripped naked. I was forced to lie flat on my back by four strong women, two holding tight to each leg. Another women sat on my chest to prevent my upper body from moving. A piece of .