One Woman’s Opinion on Female Genital Mutilation
Throughout history the words culture and tradition have been used to excuse the repetition of countless atrocities, usually with the aim of preserving male dominance.
In present day we have the objectification of women, teaching young girls that their most important feature is their looks. To more violent practices such as honour killings and female genital mutilation (FGM).
Because it is now easier for people to travel around the world, FGM is becoming a world wide problem. On the flip side this means that more people are becoming educated and we can help to rid the world of this crime.
I have been involved in a few online discussions on this subject and am amazed at the amount of people who do not know that it happens. So for those of you who do not…
Wikipedia describes it as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’.
To me this description does not describe the appalling level of suffering, immorality and depravity involved.
In extreme cases FGM is the total removal of a child’s clitoris and outer and inner labia. What is remaining is stretched together and, along with the vagina, sewn up, leaving a small hole. This is typically done with a razor or broken glass whilst the child is held down and given no anaesthetic. As you can imagine this causes mental and emotional problems, constant problems with urination, menstruation, repeated infections, problems with child birth and in some cases death.
The mildest form of FGM can involve shaving some of the clitoris off, pricking, scraping or burning the area.
There was a case in the news this week (November 2013) where two men were arrested in the UK for performing the procedure on a 5 week old baby. Unfortunately the prosecution have hit a stumbling block as the girl may not have had her British passport at the time and the procedure took place abroad. It’s a shame that they may get away with it because of such immaterial boundaries; they still did what they did no matter what country it was in.
Violence against women
Why? I hear you ask, why do mothers perpetuate this violence from one generation to the next.
The origins of FGM are unknown. But the reasons are always the same: to control women and their sexuality, to prevent waywardness and apparently the clitoris is dangerous and will kill a newborn baby, to mention a few…
The procedure is typically performed as a ‘coming of age’ practice, so that a man can know that his wife is a virgin. But the girls themselves can be told varying levels of myths and lies to make them actually want the procedure. They will be clean and pure, it will make them more fertile, men will want them because they are more feminine.
The problem is made worse by the lack of education. Children brought up in very insular communities are taught to believe what they are told and not taught to think for themselves. It is not until they leave these communities that they realise FGM is not a universal practice.
Although FGM predates modern religions, the prevalence is highest amongst Muslim and Christian women. Religious leaders from many backgrounds are now trying to distance themselves from it, claiming it to be a cultural practice. Some in a bid to stop the practise but unfortunately some as an excuse to carry on doing it.
This is where tradition and superstition becomes very harmful. This is not a cultural difference that we do not understand and should accept; this is life changing brutality, ruining the lives of young girls.
Until education is prioritised instead of using the lack of education as a tool to control people, this practice is going to continue. It is thanks to charities like Daughters of Eve (http://www.dofeve.org/) that a difference is starting to be made.
Until women all over the world are empowered, educated and allowed to make decision about their own bodies then I, for one, will not be able to rest.
Although the practice is illegal in the UK, thousands of young girls are at risk of being taken out of the country by family members for the procedure. So I think we should all start talking about it, whether you are male of female, TALK ABOUT IT in public with your friends, and stop it from being a taboo subject.
As a humanist and atheist I believe that this is the only life we have, the only body we will ever have, the only chance to experience the universe as a conscious human being.
What gives someone the right to take that away from you?