Female Genital Mutilation – a term that shoots horror down the spines of many women who have suffered silently. This less-talked about topic needs attention – a lot of attention.
Imagine someone cutting off your genital parts without anaesthesia and leave you bleeding for days. Imagine the trauma. Can you imagine it? YOU CANNOT.
Let’s begin talking about Female Genital Mutilation by quoting this:
A Kenyan newspaper, Daily Nation reported on April 20, 2017, ‘A link to Kenya emerged on Tuesday in the case of a US doctor charged with violating a law prohibiting the practice of female genital cutting.
Federal prosecutors argued in a Detroit courtroom that Dr Jumana Nagarwala, 44, should be denied bail due to risk of flight stemming from her ties to Kenya and India. Dr Nagarwala, a US citizen who practices medicine in a Detroit hospital, was arrested last week while boarding a flight to Kenya.
If convicted on charges of what is often referred to as female genital mutilation, Dr Nagarwala could be sentenced to life imprisonment.’
While this case has come to light, there are plenty other cases that stay in the darkness.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a process of remove some or complete portions of female genitalia often with the idea of ‘keeping a woman away from experiencing pleasure.’
As per data released by UNICEF in 2016, 200 million women living today in 30 countries – 27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen – have undergone the procedures. However, these horrific procedures are not limited to only these countries or communities. They happen in ‘developed’ and ‘educated’ countries as well.
Most girls are cut before the age of five. FGM is conducted anytime before a girl attains puberty.
FGM is often called as khafd, khifad or tahara in Arabic. In Bambara, it is called as bolokoli while in Igbo it is called as iwu aru or isa aru. Bambara and Igbo are both languages native to African nations. It is also widely known as khatna.
This barbaric procedure is generally performed by traditional circumcisers without any anaesthesia! There is also a likeliness that non-sterile blades can be used – without any post-operation care.
There are four forms of FGM:
Type 1 (clitoridectomy) – removing part or all of the clitoris.
Type 2 (excision) – removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
Type 3 (infibulation) – narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
Other harmful procedures to the female genitals, including pricking, piercing, cutting, scraping or burning the area.
If the mere description of the procedure can be so ghastly, how monstrous would it be for the girls? They are children unaware of what is going on. The short term and long term effects of this practice would include bleeding, infection, pain, swelling etc. It can create serious health complications in the future – not to mention the mental trauma.
Here is the story of an FGM survivor as it first appeared on Cosmopolitan. It will give you nightmares and make you want to do something about the issue.
What I vividly remember is my sister and I were playing, and a woman came and took us. This was in The Gambia, and I was 6 and my sister was 3 at the time. This woman was known in the village, and she told us she was taking us somewhere to see something. Like little kids do, we tagged along. We went into a home, and immediately women grabbed and blindfolded us and tied us to some thick bushes.
I could smell the leaves, the dirt, everything around us. I knew we were no longer in a home setting, but outside somewhere. There was loud drumming and older women were singing songs, which I was too young to understand. I could hear other kids crying out in pain, but I didn’t know why.
I was dragged to a fence covered in leaves, and they took the blindfold off. I could see the other girls bleeding and sobbing in pain. I saw an old woman holding a knife so sharp I could see the drops of blood sliding down the edge. It was the blood of the other girls.
Three other women were holding down my arms and legs, and another was sitting right on my chest, covering my mouth. They try to put pressure on you, so you don’t cry for the next girl to hear. I can still feel the weight of her today. I can still visualize all their faces as I talk about this. I can see what each one of them looks like and the emotions that they had — so empty, like they didn’t see me as a human being.
The cutting happens very fast. What the cutter does is hold on to your clitoris to make sure she gets that and scrapes everything else that comes along with it — all of the labia, if they can. I fought the whole time, and as a result, only my clitoris and part of my left labia are cut. The other side is still intact. My mother told me recently that when this happens they will often wait until the girl has a child. Then they will finish the job, cutting everything off they didn’t get the first time.
After all the girls in my group were cut, we were left to bleed into little dirt holes for hours. Finally, when it became dark, we were taken to the home of the woman who did the cutting and crowded into one room to heal. We were there three months. We ate out of one shared bowl.
In the morning, we would wake up, line up, and receive our “treatment.” They took dried leaves and placed them on the wound and that would stay on for two to three days. Then they would rip it off and put another one on until the tissue began to scar. Every morning a woman came in to teach us songs, and if we didn’t memorize the words, she would beat us. We were also taught, every day, that if we ever talked about this, if we even mentioned it, they would kill us.
I became friends with these girls. We bonded and ended up going to school together. I learned two of them later died in childbirth, which was too difficult for them because of FGM. They bled to death.
At the end of the three months, there was a ceremony to celebrate that we had gone through the rite of passage. My mother came to pick us up, and I kept asking, “Why did they do this to me? Where were you?”
She just responded, “They told you not to say anything, right? Then don’t talk about it.” I never got an explanation until years later. I work in health care now, and I have so many questions about my health that has to do with something so significant regarding my genitalia. So I pressed my mother again. She finally said she did it to protect me. She said, “If I were to take you out of that equation, you would be regarded as an outcast, an unclean person. You would not be a part of us. And I don’t want anyone to be an outcast of our society. This is who we are.”
She also admitted that she couldn’t be there when they took us — even though she arranged for it — because it was too painful for her.
I know 100 women who I am related to, all of them will be cut. My uncle’s wife now took over in our village, and she’s the one who has the knife. All my nieces and any girl born in my family will be cut.
My sister came to the U.S. for her education, and she was the one who helped me come here as well. She cannot have kids as a result of her FGM. I have two daughters now and had to be cut open again to have each one. But I had them here, with a doctor. Back in Gambia, I could have died. My girls will be the only ones in my family who will not have to go through FGM. I know if I ever have my daughters in Gambia, they will do to them what they did to me. My mother assured me of this. I will never take them back. My family will never see them.
There are millions of women out there whose stories are unheard. Let’s spread awareness about this devilish practice.