These past couple of days, I have been extensively reading about an issue that has caught my attention- Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I hail from a country where FGM is not practiced hence my knowledge pertaining to FGM was limited to just the dictionary meaning.

For those of you who are ignorant like me, here is what I have understood so far. Female Genital Mutilation is cutting of the female genital organs, as the name suggest. A Somali Poet once wrote the below lines, explaining the destructive nature of the practice.

They called it circumcision,

I retorted mutilation,

They called it dignity,

I retorted inhumanity,

They shouted, “get out of our sight!”

Sorry sister, none couldn’t hear my plight.

(Siyad 2013)[1]

As defined by WHO, “FGM is 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.”

According to the UNICEF report, “more than 125 million girls and women who have undergone this barbaric and brutal procedure of FGM in the African and some of the Middle Eastern countries. Girls as young 5 years have undergone this procedure and often without any anesthesia with a simple blade or knife”[2]. Your own loved ones and trusted people become your biggest enemies when they pin you down on the table for this brutal act. All your requests, promises, crying and protest go in vain.

FGM is a seasonal practice as it generally takes place during vacation, giving girls time to heal. In many cases the girl’s legs are tied for up to 40 days to heal from the wound. The girls in most villages make rigorous preparation for this practice (in the name of custom) where they tread long distances during the dusk to take a bath in the icy cold waters of the river and return back only to be tied down for the procedure. Many have reported it to be more like a ritual rather than a procedure, where families rejoice on the occasion of FGM, leaving the poor girl tied up to heal. Maybe she can heal her physical wounds, but the psychological commotion which she goes through rarely heals and reminds her that she is the second class citizen in her own community.

FGM, I believe, like any other violence, is a way of controlling and dominating females. This raises a very serious question in my mind: “Do we really need to be controlled?” Maybe my point of view is wrong, but how else can you justify such heinous act? Various reports on FGM highlight the justification given by communities for this act, including.

1) To control the sexual desire of girls (and some go to the extent of saying to protect girls) to maintain their sanctity (or in a way that makes it more pleasing for the male)

2) It is a ritual and custom which, if not followed, may lead to being outcast from their community

My response to the question:

Who really are you trying to control?? Girls, really!!

Most of the violence against girls is not the fault of girls (the same has been proved by a number of researches conducted on the issue over and over again). Why don’t we actually try and solve this problem by focusing our energy on creating a safe society, where girls don’t have to live under constant fear. I read some website even quoting that FGM actually is not to control the sexual desire of girls, on the contrary, it is more pleasurable for men to have sex with a female who has under gone FGM. In a way, we are coming back to the same thought that everything in this world should revolve around men, as the superior sex, and the other sex does not play any role apart from being used like a sex toy.

In terms of feminist writers, the problem lies in objectification of women. I fully agree to that now. Females are expected to look and behave in a certain manner, which is camouflaged as culture by society, (physical body structure, hair, color etc.) in order to please superior sex (THE MALES)

With the Millennium Development goals (MDG) expiring in 2015, a debate has caught on across the globe on the future goals development agenda, particularly around girls, keeping them as centeral focus. The discussion is revolving around providing safe spaces and a support system to instill confidence in the girls and equip them to find solutions themselves rather than seeing them as easy targets in a vulnerable situations. Although I totally support this debate, if males (in particular the younger generation) are not involved in the entire process, I am afraid that our efforts will not achieve the desired outcome. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg; we cannot work on a solution based on just this issue. We need to go deep and address this peril in its entirety.

[1]Theories of Feminism VS multiculturalism in relation to FGM, by Louise Fahey, Published in academia.

[2] Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change, report published by UNICIEF, July 2013

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