- CRITTER TALK
- MOVIE-TV-BOOK REVIEWS
According to UNICEF, cultures justify the female circumcision due to one or more of the following reasons.
Parents often make the decision for female babies, who have no say as to whether or not they want the procedure. Other young women choose FGM as a rite of passage so they will be “clean.” There are other instances in which a woman will opt for FGM the night after her wedding at the insistence of her husband. Whatever the reason, the procedure causes women and girls irreparable harm.
An FGM procedure which seals or narrows a vaginal opening must later be cut open to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. The woman endures repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks.
Young girl after FGM
Agnes Pareyio, a women’s rights activist, has undergone the FGM: She made it her goal to end female circumcision in her lifetime, and is one of the fiercest Kenyan activists. Here is her story.
It was 1970 and I was only 14 years old when, coming home from school one evening, I saw a group of people engaging in a huge feast in my home village… I asked my mother what was happening and why they were holding the party. She told me that it was for me and my sister because we were about to be initiated into adulthood.
“You are going to be women,” she said excitedly.
She told us that we would undergo “Emuratare,” the ceremony that initiates young Maasai girls into adulthood through ritual circumcision and then into early arranged marriages. I was both horrified and outraged…
I told Mom to tell my father that I was not going to be circumcised. She was furious with me but I stood my ground. My father supported my idea of not facing the knife, though this was usually not the norm. His decision infuriated my mother and I became a pariah. Even my elder sister and my so-called friends started calling me “coward.”
The social pressure and the mockery from my age mates became so excruciatingly intense that I finally gave in. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was not the baby they thought I was.
The initiation ceremony started the same night I announced I would get circumcised. A pot full of cold water was placed outside the “manyatta” (Maasai farmhouse) with an iron axe inside the pot. The pot had to stay outside overnight for the water to get as cold as it can get in Kenya.
My sister and I slept in the same hut where the bloody rite would take place. The circumciser joined us. At the crack of dawn, the doors were opened up and the ice-cold water from the pot was poured on our bodies to prevent excessive bleeding. I sat down with one woman holding me from the back, her arms pinning my hands to my body while two other women tightly stretched out and pinned my legs to the ground.
My peers milled around waiting with bated breath to see whether the coward was going to scream and wince in pain. I was determined to disappoint them and prove them wrong.
The circumciser approached me menacingly waving the blade in front of my face. She gorged out my clitoris and the labia majora and minora as I almost fainted. She then inserted two fingers into the fresh wound to make sure that the work was complete and that was nothing left.
When a French doctor, Jacques Lantier, attended an FGM procedure in Somalia he described how the labia majora and minora were separated and attached to each thigh using large thorns.
With her kitchen knife the woman then pierces and slices open the hood of the clitoris and then begins to cut it out. While another woman wipes off the blood with a rag, the operator digs with her fingernail a hole the length of the clitoris to detach and pull out that organ. The little girls scream in extreme pain, but no one pays the slightest attention.
After removing the clitoris with the knife, the woman lifts up the skin that is left with her thumb and index finger to remove the remaining flesh. She then digs a deep hole amidst the gushing blood. The neighbor women who take part in the operation then plunge their fingers into the bloody hole to verify that every remnant of the clitoris is removed.
The practice ensures a woman’s subordination to a man. Female circumcision is performed so women remain chaste. Men in certain cultures believe that performing FGM cuts off a woman’s potential to cheat and feels his wife is not shaming him by because she won’t want sex with other men. After FGM, sexual desire is eliminated.
Some men feel circumcision is mutilation; however, women who experience FGM suffer far more pain and long-term health issues that plague them for the rest of their lives.
What are your thoughts on FGM?