HomeWMSU Research Journalvol. 28 no. 1 (2009)

Muslim Women and Circumcision: “A Study of Intergenerational Practice and Its Continuity In Southern Philippines”

Olga Czarina Velayo Belisario



The study aimed to describe the factors that influenced the perceived functions and dysfunctions of the practice of female circumcision, and whether these functions affect its continuity among intergenerational Muslim women in Zamboanga City. The research design was exploratory in nature and utilized two sets of key informants; two religious leaders and 16 informants who were generally non-related mother-daughter sets. The mother group was older than the daughter group. The snowball technique was used to achieve the sample size and a face-to-face in-depth interview was used in gathering the data essential in the study.

The study revealed that age at circumcision influenced the perceptions of the women in the practice of female circumcision and that low and middle income women tended to observe this practice. The perceived functions and dysfunctions were significantly found to have a symbiotic relationship that directly affected both the practice and its continuity. The study indicated that women’s strong adherence to religion and social conformity were the factors that largely influenced their perceptions of female circumcision, making the practice highly symbolic and ritualistic. Practitioners of female circumcision were also a factor that influenced the practice and its continuity. The strict observance of segregation of sexes in the Muslim community provided the practitioner and the women an avenue in which the practice was easily handed down, carried out, and observed by three generations of women.

There were four types of circumcision that emerged in this study as described and experienced by the women in Southern Mindanao. These were mild in form as compared to the ones practiced in some parts of the world. Suffice it to say that the Philippine’s types of circumcision were more humane, depicting a somewhat harmonious marriage among religion, social and traditional practices.