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Russian Muslim official defends female circumcision after researchers discover its practice in Dagestan

Earlier today, Ismail Berdiev, the chairman of the North Caucasus Muslim Coordinating Center, told the radio station Govorit Moskva that female circumcision is a healthy, “purely Dagestani custom.” 

“As far as I know,” Berdiev explained on air, “it's done to calm a woman's zeal somewhat. There's absolutely no health problem here.”

Berdiev was responding to a new report by the organization “Russian Justice Initiative,” which found that female circumcision is practiced in the certain areas of Dagestan, one of Russia's predominantly Muslim republics in the North Caucasus. Russian Justice Initiative found cases in remote villages where girls under the age of three (and sometimes as old as 11) were circumcised. 

The ritual—removing all or part of the clitoris and sometimes the labia—is carried out to reduce sexual sensitivity, in order to “prepare” women for their role as wife in a patriarchal family. The surgery is conducted at home by a religious figure.

According to the United Nations, roughly 200 million women in the world have undergone some form of female circumcision. The practice is most widespread in Africa.

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