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See also: Female genital cutting

Infibulation, in modern usage, is the practice of surgical closure of the labia majora (outer lips of the vulva) by sewing them together to partially seal the vagina, leaving only a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. The legs are bound together for approximately two weeks to allow the labia to heal into a barrier. The procedure is usually done on young girls before the onset of puberty, to ensure chastity. It is usually performed at the same time as female genital cutting (removal of the clitoris). The labia minora (inner lips of the vulva) are often also removed.

Infibulation is believed by practitioners to render women sexually inactive, unlikely to engage in intercourse, and the visibly intact barrier of infibulation assures a husband he has married a virgin.

The barrier produced by infibulation is usually penetrated at the time of a girl's marriage by the forcible action of the penis of her new husband, or, if he is unsuccessful, by cutting the connected tissue surgically. [1]

Female genital cutting is often confused with infibulation, but they are distinct procedures.

Both procedures are typically performed without anesthetic, in unsanitary conditions, on children well below the age capable of giving informed consent. Some subjects of infibulation have experienced infections, severe reproductive disorders, and/or death.

These practices have been widely condemned by other cultures as barbaric and cruel. According to the United Nations' End Fistula Campaign, this particular form of female genital cutting frequently results in organ damage, urinary incontinence, and obstetric fistula.

Historically, infibulation also referred to suturing the foreskin of the male organ. This was performed on slaves in ancient Rome to ensure chastity, as well as voluntarily in some cultures. Without removing tissue, it was intended to prevent sexual intercourse, but not masturbation. The use of the word 'infibulation' has recently been applied to the more severe African practice. Traditionally, the African practice was called pharaonic circumcision, and is not technically infibulation.



  1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali relates her experience and that of her sister in Infidel, pps 112-113,143
de:Beschneidung weiblicher Genitalien#Formen des Eingriffs

es:Infibulación fr:Infibulation gl:Infibulación it:Infibulazione no:Infibulasjonsv:Infibulation

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