Country: Saudi Arabia
Population: 28.83 million
Estimated prevalence among women aged 15-49: Unknown
To date there have been no widespread studies in Saudi Arabia to estimate the prevalence of FGC. There has been one small study conducted with 130 sexually active women who had experienced FGC and 130 sexually active women who had not been cut in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. These women were either Sudanese or Somali immigrants. It has been suggested that FGC in Saudi Arabia occurs mostly amongst the African diaspora.
The most commonly practiced form of FGC in Saudi Arabia is type I, which is locally called ‘Sunna’. ‘Sunna’ cutting consists of the removal of the prepuce and/or the tip of the clitoris, although it has been noted by prominent local doctors that to do this without causing harm is not possible. According to Dr. Khabbaz of the King Abdulaziz University Hospital, sunna circumcision is “the simplest type and what is most commonly performed here [Saudi Arabis]”.
FGC in Saudi Arabia is typically performed shortly after birth by a ‘daya’ (traditional birth attendant) or an elderly woman without anaesthesia and with primitive instruments.
FGC is legal in Saudi Arabia.
History of FGC:
It has long been rumoured that FGC in Saudi Arabia occurs in the Southern region bordering Yemen. But no reliable data exists to confirm or deny this statement. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has a large immigrant population with countries of origin including Egypt, Somalia and Sudan, where FGC is very common.
It is also suggested that FGC occurs for religious reasons. This is the opinion of Sheikh Yussif al-Badri, a rather notorious Egyptian cleric who considers the practice demanded by Islam. In an interview with the BBC, he is proud to announce that this view is now taking root in Saudi Arabia and Libya and more and more people are abiding by it.
Current efforts to abandon FGC:
There has been one study conducted to try and gauge understanding on FGC in Saudi Arabia. This was done by Dr Sharifa Sibini at the King Abdulaziz University Hospital in Jeddah, on behalf of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Dr Sibini argues that "female circumcision is detrimental to women's sexual satisfaction" and therefore needs abandoning, but “the change must come from inside, not from outside, because otherwise they will reject it."
For this study, Dr Sibini interviewed 260 women who were attending the obstetrics and gynaecology clinic at King Abdulaziz University Hospital between February 2007 and March 2008. Half had been subjected to FGC and half had not. The team asked them to complete an Arabic-translated version of the female sexual function index (FSFI) questionnaire on their attitudes towards sex and their experience during intercourse. "To our knowledge, there is no study in the literature to assess female sexual dysfunction after female genital mutilation," said Sibiani. They found that women with FGC were no more likely to suffer pain during intercourse or experience lowered sexual desire. However, FGC made them less likely to experience arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction during sex.
There have been no widespread studies conducted to obtain information regarding FGC in Saudi Arabia. FGC is legal and there seems a lack of initiative by the state and society alike to gain an understanding on FGC . In addition, Saudi and Iranian authorities do not let NGOs operate without restriction, especially when they deal with sensitive social issues such as FGC, limiting the ability of organisations to help abandon FGC.
A central problem regarding FGC in Saudi Arabia is the religious justification. There are Saudi religious clerics from the whole of the country strongly defending FGC. For example, Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, a popular TV-preacher, insists that genital cutting is religiously prescribed for men and women alike. Sheikh Mohamad Alarefe, a popular Saudi Arabian Islamic theologian and a professor at the King Saud University, sent a tweet to his almost 8 million followers on Twitter which stated that “circumcision is a noble act to do to women. There’s nothing wrong with doing it.” Finally, in a recent fatwa, Sheikh Al-Hajji Al-Kurdi from the Saudi Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs endorsed FGC, stating that sunna cutting is allowed.