Year published: 2008

Female circumcision has been the source of enormous and bitter international controversy. It is always been viewed as a harmful and devastating procedure on women where it becomes a public health concern in several countries. This procedure in other nations had adverse health effects. In the Philippines, female circumcision is also being carried out by the Yakan tribe of Basilan. However, there had been no study describing the process of female circumcision among Yakan in Basilan. Thus, it is important to document this practice to enhance understanding of possible implications on the health of Yakan female that undergo such practice. This qualitative study was done to explore, and document the socio-cultural beliefs and practices regarding female circumcision among the Yakan tribe of Basilan, Philippines. Fourty-three respondents which consisted of three Kah Dayang (Person performing female circumcision), five religious leaders, five girls who were to undergo the practice, five male respondents and twenty-five females who already underwent female circumcision were included in the study. Observational approach, one on one in-depth interview and focus group discussion was utilized in the study. Descriptive analysis of the results was employed. Results showed that all respondents have common beliefs regarding female circumcision. Female circumcision beliefs include cleanliness reason, dignity, honor and religious duty. They also believe that this practice should be done because it is stated in the hadith (words of Mohammad S.A.W), written in one of the ayat (page) of the Holy Quran. Female circumcision for them is obligatory since it is sunnah(the way the prophet lived it) to practice it with the Holy Qur-an their basis. In performimg female circumcision, the Yakan tribe practiced the scraping technique using an unpointed knife. This technique employs scraping the labia majora until it becomes erythematous; assuring not to bleed the labia majora is obligatory for this group. A tawal (whispered prayer) is uttered to the child which marks the end of the practice. Results also showed that female circumcision in this area has no risk on mental health of the respondents. The impact of the practice to their mental health was advantageous since this people believe that being circumcised seemed to give worthwhile meaning to their lives. With regards to physical health, the dull tolerable pain which lasted for about an hour which was described by the 5 years old girls respondent after undergoing the practice was one of its consequences. Another was the erythematous labia majora which may lead to further vulvar inflammation and infection. The used of unsterilized unpointed knife could also imposed susceptibility to tetanus. Although this consequences were evident, respondents are still in favor of the practice mainly because of religious belief. They believe that female circumcision is written in the Holy Qur-an and obligatory thus Yakans as muslims are expected to respect and follow Allah's direct revelation in the Holy Qur-an regarding female circumcision.