Zambian girls report that family matriarchs and counselors pressure them to stretch their labia minora, but they dare not question the cultural practice. It is a social taboo to discuss the topic, and even medical practitioners are reluctant to speak about it openly. Now 22, Mwelwa says she did not dare to question her elders, but she did not understand why she had to stretch her genitals by hand. Her grandmother told her that stretching the labia minora made childbirth easier, she says. But this was different from what she heard from her classmates in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. She and her two cousins discussed the practice behind closed doors, she says. They quietly questioned its purpose and wondered whether their own labia minora were a desirable length, which they understood to be as long as their pinky fingers. Mwelwa says the process of labia stretching was excruciatingly painful, but she did not resist the powerful cultural influence of the women in her family and social circle. But women and girls report that peers and powerful cultural figures, such as family matriarchs, pressure them to stretch their labia minora.
You say 'vagina', I say 'vulva'
Labia minora elongation is one of the vaginal practices that some Zimbabwean women engage in during the pre-menarche age. This practice has not been thoroughly investigated in Zimbabwe. The objective of this study is to learn about the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of urban Zimbabwean men towards labia minora elongation. A qualitative study was conducted in Chitungwiza, Harare, in Thirty-one adult men were interviewed.
These days, we look at our vaginas — or more correctly, vulvas — much more than women or men used to. And as we get older or after childbirth, many of us are shocked to find the area has changed. First things first.
Labia stretching , also referred to as labia elongation or labia pulling , is the act of lengthening the labia minora the inner lips of the female genitals through manual manipulation pulling or physical equipment such as weights. It is performed for sexual enhancement for the benefit of both partners, aesthetics, symmetry and gratification. The labia and the whole vulva differ in size, shape, and colour from one woman to another. In that labia stretching is attempting to change this body part to fit an ideal, and that it is often done by older women to girls, it has been compared to female genital mutilation FGM and child abuse. Elongated labia are perceived to facilitate orgasm and female ejaculation , and are considered to enhance sexual pleasure for both partners. They also swell inwards, partially blocking the entrance to the vagina. The practice of labia stretching itself does not cause sexually transmitted infections including HIV. Such infections generally occur later in life through sexual activity. Some writers have asserted that there is a causal link between labia stretching and rates of infection. At the same time, there is evidence that labial elongation may benefit the sexual health and well-being of women.