(This story may not be appropriate for minors and sensitive readers.)
Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it. – Waris Dirie
Just like girls don’t know much about what it is like to be a boy, boys don’t know much about what it is like to be a girl. Everything you hear, read, observe or conclude about the opposite sex is obviously second hand information. These opinions are based on heresay, media, popular culture, religious texts, books, magazines and family upbringing.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and everyone with a tongue makes ample use of this right.
Somewhere in history, the balance of this world tilted in favour of the men of this world, leaving the women of this world hanging, to put it nicely.
To say females have been discriminated against since the beginning of time is as gross an understatement as saying Harry Potter did a few teeny-tiny things for world literature. Since forever, women and girls has suffered unmentionable atrocities, violence, unfairness, abuse and cruelty at the hands of their male counterparts. And we seem to digest and accept this inevitability right from the womb.
Don’t act like a girl, we love to say. Be a man, is our catchphrase. This is not for girls you know, we often hear.
There is rape, there is dowry, there is girl child infanticide, there is domestic violence, there is molestation, there is parental abuse, there is ignorance, there is bias. And then there is female genital mutilation.
Mutilation is a big word, a harsh word, a word you don’t throw around easily. Its significance to the plight of women is beyond the realms of fear that you and us could imagine.
As per an estimate, at least 13 crore females across the world today have seen living hell. And millions will see this living hell in the near future. Subjected to mutilation of their genitals, these women have been put through unimaginable pain and trauma when they were young, and their pain continues to make their lives a misery, keeps them up night after night; a pain that painkillers can’t fix, neither can any other damn thing in this man’s world.
Prevalent excessively in the Middle East and Africa, female genital mutilation or female circumcision is the act of removing the female’s clitoris, inner and outer labia, and/or the enclosure of the vagina. These parts of the female body are not only quite sensitive, but are important body organs that are of utmost significance to menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is typically categorised into four types: the first being the removal of clitoris and the clitorial hood. The second of the type includes the removal of the clitoris as well as inner and/or outer labia of the female. The third type called infibulation, and this is where things get worse, includes the removal of all external genetelia from the female body, leaving behind a small pinhole to allow the flow of urine and menstruation fluids. Once type III FGM is carried out on a girl, her legs could be tied from her hips to feet for up to 40 days to ensure the surgical wound heals and forms a tissue. The fourth type includes a myriad of other lesser-practiced mutilation that are carried out as rituals.
Type III is the most disturbing, and the most painful, type of genital mutilation. If a female was subject to this type of mutilation, her husband or a female “aide” of the husband may use a knife or some other sharp object to allow the husband to perform sexual intercourse. In certain cases, the area has to be cut open to enable child birth.
And if that scares the bejusus out of you, there’s more.
Middle-aged women with no medical background usually carry out female genital mutilation. Barring Egypt, Sudan and Kenya, hardly any reports suggest the use of medical professionals for the procedure in countries and regions where the practice prevails.
At times there are men, too, who conduct the procedure. It has been reported that these men & women who conduct the procedure can mutilate genitals of as many as 20 females at a stretch.
Because these circumcisers have no medical background or knowhow, usually sharp objects such as knifes or razors are used to carry out the circumcision. Anaesthesia is generally not used, and in most regions the procedure takes place with the female fully conscious.
In certain cases, sharp edges of glass, rocks and even fingernails have been reportedly used for the circumcision. Impossible? No. Inhumane and barbaric? Yes.
FGM is visibly rampant in the Middle East and Africa. An estimate suggests that as many as 91% of women in Egypt are circumcised, and we are too busy playing with dead ‘mummies’ to care about living, breathing women. In 2002, Kenya criminalised FGM, but that hasn’t stopped the communities and the people of Kenya from continuing the practice, neither have the authorities been able to do something to curb it.
It is worth noting that while popular culture has linked the practice to certain religions and sects, there is no evidence in any religious scripts to suggest that religion supports, or promotes, this heinous crime.
Practitioners suggest that genital mutilation of women ensure better hygiene, marital satisfaction and religious adherence, but science has always refuted all claims made by supporters of FGM.
The World Health Organisation has ruled out any health benefits of FGM. In stead, the WHO has been creating awareness about the ill-effects of genital mutilation, which include chronic pains, cysts, infertility, and pregnancy complications.
There have been comparisons between male and female circumcisions, backers of FGM suggest that if males can be circumcised, why not females?
We’ll tell you why.
In no way can male circumcision be compared to the female circumcision. There is a reason why female circumcision and female “genital mutilation” are synonyms. While male circumcision is scientifically proven to have numerous benefits, in some cases male circumcision is absolutely necessary. Besides, male circumcision has minimum health risks, if not none.
To say that genital mutilation ensures marital satisfaction is tantamount to saying women encourage and enjoy being mutilated and violated. Let’s face this ugly truth that is dancing naked in front of our eyes: female genital mutilation is practiced to ensure a woman’s loyalty. It is practiced to ensure that women don’t derive any pleasure from sex and hence don’t go looking for it. It is practiced to ensure that sexual activities are so utterly, unbearably painful, that a husband bears no fear about his ownership of his wife, in and out of bed. And it is practiced so as to instil fear and lifelong pain among little girls, so they learn obedience, loyalty and the fact that sexual pleasure is the man’s prerogative. Only the man’s. Pain and fear can be hers.
Female genital mutilation does ensure marital satisfaction, but only to those sort of men who are less humans and more animals.
A woman’s beauty has sailed ships, started wars and destroyed civilisations. That is what they tell you. What they forgot to mention is that branding women, objectifying them, making them a sexual vessel is what they do to rob women off this power of beguiling men, this power that rests in the alluring, seductive eyes and in that secret place hidden between their legs. And they do this by forcing her to lower her gaze and by dismembering and maiming her body.
Decades of protests, education, and what not, has somehow started to usher in a little change. It has sowed the seeds of acceptance and awareness towards the fact that men and women stand together, hand in hand, at equal pedestals. There’s no winner, and there’s no loser.
But, even so, a vice as disturbing as female genital mutilation still exists. If you think our country is above such wrong practices, you are the one who is wrong. FGM has been documented in India, and is practiced, albeit with utmost secrecy.
It all boils down to a simple question: why? Why should females be put through so much pain, so much torture, when there is no scientific or religious evidence to support this, for the lack of a better word, vandalisation? In regions where this evil is rampant, elaborate marriage-like-celebrations precede the day of procedure.
To put it crudely, demand for circumcised girls is simply more than that for uncircumcised ones.
Female genital mutilation is instilled deeply in certain cultures of the world, and it cannot go away one fine day because we wish it to. But what is atrocious is that a crime as heinous and as frequently rampant as this is barely talked about in popular culture, or in the mainstream media. Sure, when rumours about ISIS ordering genital mutilation made rounds, most media outlets gave it significant coverage. But how many media outlets covered what actually FGM is? How rampant it is? Why is it done? How does it affect you and me?
Forget the media, how many of us actually wrote Facebook posts about it? Because let’s be honest, that is what we do when something is on our mind. We talk to Facebook about it.
Why is it that FGM doesn’t raise our morbid curiosity? Why doesn’t it fuel our anger on behalf of the millions of women who have been denied the ownership of their own body and the right to make decisions about it?
Is it because FGM does not concern us? Perhaps. Or is it because it is too gory, too wild, too incomprehensible for our minds which seek rainbows and fairytales, far removed from the harsh realities of life? Is it wrong to say that we are so selfish that we would happily ignore bad things if they don’t concern us? The Gaza war does not concern us, so we will ignore it. Genital mutilation of millions of innocent girls does not concern us, and so we will ignore that too.
Every minute, seven girls have their genitals mutilated. Seven.
The first step in solving a problem is to recognise there is one. We haven’t even done that yet.
Irrespective of whether you are a boy or a girl, a male or a female, we are sure everything you just read would have broken a small part of you.
The purpose of running this story is not to scare you, neither do we intend to sensationalise the problem. The purpose of this story is to educate you and everyone else about this gory barbaric act that exists today, was around yesterday and will exist tomorrow if we do not raise a finger now. In countries where this is prevelant, nine out of ten girls are subject to this. Over 13 crore women are already victims of this, and the number is growing steadily by the day.
Innocent wives, sisters, daughters and mothers, have been subjected to this savage, gruesome act of chauvinistic dominance. Do you think these innocent girls and women deserve so much pain? Does anyone deserve this kind of physical and mental torture?
If we start recognising this problem, if we start acknowledging this problem, if we start talking about this problem and raising our voice about this problem, don’t you think there will come a day when the world will actually be rid of this problem, one country and one girl at a time?
Yes, it is a long, hard battle path. But the victory at the destination will be well worth it. The gratitude of millions of women and the people who love them will be ours.
Don’t be selfish. Don’t be self-centred. If it doesn’t concern you, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We are humans, let’s not forget our humanity.