Friday, August 6, 2010

The Horrors of Female Genital Mutilation

No-FGMImage via Wikipedia

I have a bone to pick with our friendly readers and esteemed followers of this blog. For almost two decades beginning with the fall of the military junta in Somalia in 1991, the most burning issue posted on many Somali web sites and continuously debated over and over echoed topics related to the state of the Somali nation yet little attention has been given to social issues- especially the most excruciating practice that has caused unspeakable pain and suffering to our daughters, sisters, mothers, nieces, and grandmothers-living or dead.

It is a practice that is commonly known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)-a practice whose origins remain shrouded in mystery. Other than unreliable mythological explanations, questionable rationality, historical narratives devoid of relative validity, and philosophical thoughts immersed in objectivity, societies who practice FGM have miserably failed to come up with religiously and theoretically convincing evidence regarding its benefits to womankind.

Female Genital Mutilation-also known as FGM was coined by the United Nations to refer to a practice found in some African and Middle Eastern cultures whose origin goes back to the era of the pharaohs of Egypt (though no historical data exist to substantiate such claim) where women underwent the ritual of clitoridectomy which implied the removal of the clitoris, and infibulations meaning to surgically cut-off either the labia minora or labia majora or all at the same time.

Many reasons have been given as to why people of those days applied this agonizing procedure to their wives and daughters. One theory suggests that Egypt of those days was always embroiled in wars internally and externally which meant women and girls left behind became prey to servants and other men around them. We also learn from authorities familiar with the cultural practices of Egypt, Nubba, Abyssinia, and Somalia how women resorted to unusual artificial sexual procedures to satisfy their sexual desires in the absence of their men. One definition to infibulation is “to close off or obstruct the genitals of, especially by sewing together the labia majora in females or fastening the prepuce in males, so as to prevent sexual intercourse.” [1] The picture shown above depicts a female baby being circumcised probably without procedural anesthesia. The surgical tool being used in the operation, regardless of whether it is a double-edged Gillette or a Nacet blade could be contaminated and may have been used dozens of times.

To discourage a victim of circumcision from raising any objection to the procedure in adulthood, parents ensure their daughters undergo the cut at an early age. Here are some key facts from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding FGM:
• Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
• The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
• Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
• An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
• It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
• In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM.
• FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

For many women, FGM is a rite of Passage. The healing duration depends on the strength of the victim’s immune system. Medications used during convalescence include application of sifted ash to affected area, herbal medications, sprinkling of capsule powder (preferably antibiotics) or any feasible medication. In many societies where the practice is widespread, it is societal pressures that lead women to undergo the procedure as a precondition for marriage. [2] Regardless of the implications this pharaonic practice may have on women and girls, leaders who are strict in the observation of local customs condone the continuation of the practice as a deterrence for HIV/AIDS epidemic and other sexually transmitted diseases.

In some communities such as in Sudan and Somalia, the practice is so common that it is as if those engaged in the practice are going by the adage, “old customs die hard”. Almost 90% of women in Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia have had the cut in one form or the other. Worldwide, the practice is widespread in 28 countries. Feeling emotionally broken, females who feel affected most by the cut have a propensity to resort to atheism or other religious practices after renouncing the faiths they grew up in. In some documented cases, immigrant parents living in the west have been accused of taking girls back to countries of origin to undergo the cut.

While many who practice FGM cite religious references, some Islamic scholars disprove its use in the strongest terms. Those scholars who refute FGM claim it is neither obligatory nor supererogatory and that it is simply tribal customs that has been in continuation for millenniums. FGM leads to lacerations, microbes, and deformities. As you will see on a YouTube debate between two Arabic-speaking scholars conducted by a female moderator on memritv, 95% of Egyptian prostitutes are circumcised while 100% of prostitutes of the west aren’t. [3]

The agony faced by the millions of women who had the cut cannot be described in a simple essay. Removing the clitoris of a woman is like removing the penis or tongue of a man. Where there is no tongue, there is no sense of taste; and where there is no penis, penetration, climax, and erection are hard to achieve. No matter how many Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra a penis-less man consumes and no matter the power and pressure of suction of an erection pump, sexual satisfaction will remain an elusive attraction. We'll leave it to our experts to come up with remedial measures to save the rest who are waiting in line for the procedure from further harm.

[1] http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/infibulate

[2] Iraqi Kurdistan: Girls and Women Suffer the Consequences of Female Genital Mutilation, June 16, 2010
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/06/16/iraqi-kurdistan-girls-and-women-suffer-consequences-female-genital-mutilation

[3]
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