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Infibulation, in its modern use of the word, is the practice of surgical closure of the female labia majora by sewing them together to seal off the female genitalia, leaving only a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. This is usually done on young girls around the onset of puberty, to ensure chastity. It is usually linked with female circumcision, or removal of the clitoris and, usually, the labia minora as well, in order to render women theoretically less sexual. Female circumcision is often confused with infibulation, but they are distinct procedures.
They are usually performed without anesthetic and in unsanitary conditions, and without the consent of those infibulated.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Many of the subjects of these practices have experienced severe infections and reproductive disorders as a result of these practices, and even death. Infibulation is usually reversed at the time of a girl's marriage by simply cutting the connected tissue.
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 contributes to the development of organ damage and incontinence resulting from prolonged and unsuccessful efforts to give birth (obstetric fistula).
Historically, infibulation has referred to the suturing of the labia, or suturing the foreskin of the male. This has been 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.
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