“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Saturday, March 7, 2009

International Women's Day. Stop Female Genital Mutilation!



March 8th we celebrate International Women's day. Women have influenced life since the dawn of mankind, whether anyone wants to admit this or not. We have been suckled, nurtured protected and loved at one time or another in our lives. We are influenced every day by women. Be it our Mothers, sister, friends, neighbors or strangers. So let us think about the women in our lives and what they have done for us and what they bring to our world.

FGM. Do you know what these three letters stand for? Female Genital Mutilation. A horrible mutilating disfiguring of women done because it is believed by many to ensure a man's progeny was his and also to insure women were not sexual beings. This is not known to be truly the whole reason and is open to speculation.

Female Genital Mutilation is usually done to girls between the ages of three and six, although the age can vary, and are done by the women of the family and village. It is performed in secret and leads to disfigurement and problems for the girl later in childbearing years. In order for a girl to have sex most often surgery is needed. In order to give birth more surgery is needed. More than 100 million women and girls are estimated to have had FGM.

What does this say about the women of the world? Are they so expendable? Are they worthless in the eyes of so many? Some say uncut women are considered more likely to be promiscuous, unhygienic and prone to diseases such as Aids. Attempts have been made to justify this horrific practice on religious grounds. Some die hard Muslims insist that women must undergo genital cutting to remain faithful to the purest teaching of Islam, even though it not mentioned in the Koran and only in uncertain expressions in the Hadith (a collection of oral traditions about the life of the prophet Mohammed).

It is known by a variety of names, the most common being female genital mutilation (FGM), female circumcision, or simply "cutting". It involves removing part or all of the clitoris, the surrounding labia, and then sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood. There are no anesthetics involved, just a little girl held by her legs, spreading them apart and then using a piece of glass, a rusty razor blade or filthy knife and then cutting off the clitoris and labia and ending by sewing the raw edges together. A pack of mud and herbs are then put on the wound and the girl is held in isolation until she has healed, usually several weeks.

The real unsettling story is the fact that this practice is still happening in Britain today! By conservative estimates there are 66,000 women and girls living in Britain that have been mutilated. Because of the secrecy, finding and punishing the cutters, who are often flown in from their home countries is extremely difficult. The families have had the ways of cutting in their cultures for hundreds of years and to eradicate this belief is damn near impossible.

I cry as I write this because of the complete ignorance in this matter. You hear of it, possibly you have seen pictures but who has any idea of long term results of this practice. Genital mutilation may leave a lasting mark on the life and mind of the woman or child who has undergone it. The psychological complications may be submerged deep in the child's subconscious and may trigger behavioral disturbances. In the longer term,
women may suffer feelings of incompleteness, anxiety, depression, loss of trust, chronic irritability and frigidity. Many women and girls, traumatized by their experience but with no acceptable means of expressing their fears, suffer in silence. I urge all women to stand up and say enough is enough!

This year lend your voice. Help educate these women and help them see what they are doing and how wrong it is. If this is their choice then let them choose as adults, not be forced as very young children who have no say so in this cruelty. There are charities out there who are trying to stop this barbaric custom. Stopfgmc is one such site that warrants a look.

Here is a petition that you can sign.
This website has some good information.
More info here.
Another source of info


5 comments:

A. said...

It's one of the most dreadful things I have ever heard that is being done to women. And, as you say, still being done everywhere there are immigrants from those societies where it is practised.

In 2007 I started translating a blog in French that was being written by a young French woman who had been cut at the age of four. She had been taken back to Senegal from Paris. She had no recollection of the procedure, but had suffered all sorts of psychological problems and was seeking reconstructive surgery to try to overcome them.

This is a great post, and I hope it gains the attention it deserves.

ADuu said...

Happy Women's Day!Good luck to all women!

askcherlock said...

This is such an important issue, and I am so glad you are bringing it to the fore. I have also written about this horrible issue of women being mutilated then shunned, but you have personal insight that is so very relevant. We must not allow this atrocity to continue.

Bakar500 said...

I am so mad and frustrated just to hear about the horrendous situation women in Africa are going through. Every time I see on tv those celebrity women just getting drunk in clubs, bars and having "fun" and doing nothing about helping other women in the world, drives me crazy. I already left you a comment on Qassia because this is outrageous, the whole world has to know about this.

Muffee said...

"It is performed in secret and leads to disfigurement and problems for the girl later in childbearing years. In order for a girl to have sex most often surgery is needed. In order to give birth, more surgery is needed."

There is evidence to suggest that many women are healthy after surgery (otherwise there obviously would be a much higher rate in mortality for females in the countries this occurs in since it's so prevalent). The FGC (female genital cutting, mutilation is a highly loaded word) that you're referring to that requires surgery for sex and birth is infibulation, which is in fact a dangerous kind of FGC and can cause problems later in life, however, this is the least prevalent kind of FGC.

While I can understand your disgust, you need to understand that you are being quite culturally insensitive to the many women who undertake this procedure willingly. In fact, in many of these societies, it is the elder women who push for the ritual more then the males. There have even been documented cases of men trying to stop FGC, however have been stopped by women.

It is not just Islamic Muslims who insist on the procedure, as you said, it's not listed in the Koran. Many Muslim people are very against it. There are listings of even Christians performing the procedure and in fact, FGC occured in Western society some 50-70 years ago to prevent acts of 'lust' and 'hysteria' in women. There are even 'vaginaplasty' clinics in America that 'fix' the problems with labias post child birth or for women who are just unsatisfied with their bodies.

"It is known by a variety of names, the most common being female genital mutilation (FGM), female circumcision, or simply "cutting". It involves removing part or all of the clitoris, the surrounding labia, and then sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood."

This is in fact, incorrect. There are three main types of FGC. First is the clitorectomy (removal of the clitoris), second is the total or partial removal of the clitoris and/or labia and thirdly, is the procedure which you described - infibulation, which is the sewing up of the vagina (which by the way, only accounts for 10% of all FGC procedures) and is the least common, although admittedly, the most dangerous.

"There are no anesthetics involved, just a little girl held by her legs, spreading them apart and then using a piece of glass, a rusty razor blade or filthy knife and then cutting off the clitoris and labia and ending by sewing the raw edges together. A pack of mud and herbs are then put on the wound and the girl is held in isolation until she has healed, usually several weeks."

It is not always done under these conditions. There are clinics with anasthetia with clean instruments where the surgery takes place.

There are documented cases of women who have undergone the surgery after being educated in Western society so one can not simply make the argument that women undergo the procedures ignorant.

So, I don't mean to be rude and I think it's good for people to be educated about this sort of matter, however, many people do not understand why this practice occurs. I myself was horrified about it before I started learning about how and why it really happens. Many women are happy with FGC. As an anthropology student, we realise how wrong it is for us as Westerners to push our culture onto different cultures who do not appreciate being told what to do or how to do it just because it seems wrong to us. Many terrible things have happened in the past because one culture thought they were 'right' about something and another wasn't. It is important for us to be sensitive to other people, even if we do not agree with them.

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