Female genital mutilation and other harmful practices
Research studies on the medicalization of female genital mutilation
Midwives and re-infibulation after birth in Sudan
The objective of this study was to explore midwives’ motives for re-infibulation after delivery and to assess the context of this practice . The principal investigator performed daytime observations of the overall context of 167 deliveries and took field-notes of what took place in the delivery wards of two public hospitals in the Khartoum area during regular visits between September 2001 and May 2003. These observations were followed by in-depth interviews with 17 women who worked as midwives at the same two hospitals.
Data on the 167 deliveries showed that 94 women had undergone infibulation, 36 had undergone different forms of FGM, and 37 had no form of FGM. For women with infibulation or an intermediate form of FGM, defibulation was performed before every birth. Re-infibulation was carried out between 2 hours and 40 days after the birth. The interviews and observations indicate that most of the midwives performed re-infibulation. Even midwives who expressed their dislike of the practice claimed that, if they did not perform it, somebody else would do so and would make a poor job of it. The midwives said that the procedure was often performed outside the hospital, in the home of the midwife or in the woman’s home.
The researchers identified a variety of motives for the re-infibulation by midwives – including strong pressure from the community (in which the midwives lived) to carry out the procedure, the fact that it was the “normal” thing to do after a birth, the need to carry it out for the sake of the husband’s sexual satisfaction, enhancement of the woman’s “value”, helping her to maintain her marriage, and the need to preserve the beauty of circumcised female genitals in a society where uncircumcised genitals are perceived as ugly. The researchers also pointed out that the practice of re-infibulation represented “a considerable source of income for the midwives”.
1. Berggren V, Salam GA, Bergström GS et al. An explorative study of Sudanese midwives’ motives, perceptions and experiences of re-infibulation after birth. Midwifery 2004; 20:299–311.