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Circumcision Exposed
Rethinking a Medical and
Cultural Tradition

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Male Genital Mutilation (Circumcision)
A Feminist Study of a Muted Gender Issue

Seham Abd el Salam ©
Cairo, June 1999
B.Sc in Medicine, Graduate Diploma in Medicine, Graduate Diploma in Art Criticism,
MA Anthropology

Post masters Fellowship Research - Supervisor: Professor Cynthia Nelson
American University in Cairo, School of Humanities,
Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology Department

English Version translated by: Azza Ali (Ph. D) and Seham Abd el Salam

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Appendix (1): Respondents

Distribution of Respondents by Gender:

Women: 12      Men: 11

Distribution of Respondents by Profession:

Medical doctors: 11      Non medical professions: 12

Among the respondents who are medical doctors there are three gynecologists/obstetricians ( Dr. Yara, Dr. Khadiga and Dr. Dr. Nazmi). The others (Dr. Fahmi, Dr. Salma, Dr. Laila, Dr. Mona, Dr. Afkar, Dr. Hazem. Dr. Hussam, Dr. Nader) are from other different clinical and academic medical, non-surgical specialties.

Respondents with non-medical professions include two anthropologists (Hureya and Nousa). The rest of the respondents (Dina, Samia, Aisha, Nehal, Seif, Abou el Foutuh, Salah, Fathy, Sa‘eed, and Mostafa) have various other professions in the areas of humanities, law, development, and art.

Three respondents are Christians (Dr. Nader, Hureya, and Nehal). The others are Muslims.

Three respondents are over 60 years of age (Dr. Nazmi, Dr. Laila, and Hureya). The others range between 30-50 years old.

All respondents have declared attitudes against FGM, and most of them have actual field activities against it.


Appendix (2): Questions that were used to steer the discussion about MGM

Introductory Questions:

Do you consider yourself an intellectual? Why?

What is your conceptualization of gender?

Do you have a special attitude towards gender issues?

General Information (beliefs/knowledge):

What do you know about male circumcision?

Is male and female circumcision practiced in your community? (Residential area, social stratum, creed group)

If yes: at what age do boys and girls get circumcision done to them? Why?

What is the difference between male and female circumcision?

Is there a difference between a boy/man who has had circumcision done to him and another who has not?

What is the difference between them?

Is male circumcision necessary? Why?

Do you know what the male prepuce is composed of?

Do you know what the function of the male prepuce is?

Useful function(s)

Harmful function(s)

What is the source(s) of your information?

For respondents who say that the prepuce is useful:

Does it have an alternative analogue?

For respondents who say that the prepuce is harmful:

Why does it exist in every newly born male?

Is it a congenital anomaly?

Do you think that there are other harmful body parts?

Are there other congenital anomalies with such a high prevalence?

Are there any potential advantages that could be gained by a (child, adolescent, adult male) through circumcision?

Are there any potential hazards which could be experienced by a (child, adolescent, adult male) because of circumcision?

Personal Experience:

Do you remember a personal experience with male circumcision? (Male respondents’ self- experience, a brother, a son, a relative, a friend, a client (in case of medical doctors)

Were you/them (afraid - happy - consenting - non consenting)?

How did your (your male relatives' or clients') feelings impact on your/their family (insisted to do circumcision - revised their position and canceled circumcision - postponed circumcision to another time)?

Who performed your own (son’s/male relatives’) circumcision? Where?

How much is cut from the foreskin?

Was there a concomitant event in the family or the community (Mulid - harvest - summer vacation - winter vacation - the circumcision of other children… etc.) Why?

How did you (your son/male relatives) feel at the time of circumcision, and just after it?

Did these feelings alter your/their previous opinion about circumcision?

For respondents who were circumcised as older children or adolescents:

Did any one tell you before circumcision? Who?

Did they tell you the reason(s) of doing this to you (your child in case of mother respondents)?

Who insisted on getting circumcision done to you (your son/male relatives)?

Were there any objections from other family members? Who was for or against circumcision? Why was she or he for or against it?

What was the opinion of your male/female kin? How did they behave towards your (your son’s) circumcision as an idea and/or event?

Were there any special provisions? ( party - clothes - food - fumigation - songs -procession… etc.?)

After your (your male relatives’) circumcision, did you hear about Mushahra? Were you (they) provided with anti-Mushahra measures? Explain.

For medical doctors:

Have you ever performed male circumcision as part of your medical profession/training?

What pathological signs or symptoms did these boys show?

In case of tight prepuce, was it complicated by infection? Did you start by giving medical non-surgical treatment?

There are other body parts liable to frequent infection, (e.g. eye lids and teeth) or to malignancies (e.g. male and female breasts, male prostate, female cervix), and an individual can survive their loss, do you agree to perform "preventive surgeries" to remove such body parts?

Have you ever operated on healthy intact individuals without pathological signs or symptoms?

Socio-cultural Attitudes:

Why do we Egyptians circumcise boys?

What would happen to a boy if he is not circumcised?

Do you think that a man can marry without going through circumcision? Why?

Has male circumcision anything to do with sexual behavior?

Are there countries or cultures that do not observe male circumcision?

If yes: What do you think about them?

What do you think about their ethnic, class, health and moral backgrounds?

Do you think that they experience any complications (dirt, sterility, diseases, others)?

If no, I tell them information about world prevalence of MGM. Then I ask as those who said yes:

Do you know any children, adolescents, or men in your social network who are not circumcised?

What do you think about their status (health, sex)?

What do they think about their own status?

Is there a relationship between circumcision and virility?

Is a non-circumcised man able to marry and reproduce?

What would be your attitude if a non-circumcised man proposes to marry you (for single female respondents) or your sister (for all respondents)?


What is men’s main objective from performing sex: reproduction, self-pleasure, spouse pleasure, pleasurable interaction with spouse?

Does male circumcision have an actual link to religion? Which religion? What is the source of your information? Can you mention the relevant text?

According to your belief, what is the range of God’s might? What is the wisdom behind creating a fault and ordering people to correct it?

For married respondents:

Did you have circumcision done to your sons? If not, do you intend to have it done to them? Why?

For single respondents:

Do you intend to have circumcision done to your future sons? Why?

Then I brief them about the anatomy and physiology of the male prepuce before I ask:

After getting this information, what do you intend to do if you hear that someone is going to circumcise their son?

If you are attending a public seminar and one of the audiences said that male circumcision is beneficial and not harmful, how are you going to react?

Appendix 3: The information that I gave to the respondents about the structure and function of the male prepuce

Anatomy of the Penis and Mechanics of Intercourse
Reproduced online at:

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