FGM: Slicing through progress.

Female circumcision is a brutal practice preformed on at least three million girls every year. That’s an average of eight thousand, two hundred, and nineteen a day. And that’s only in Africa.

Female genital cutting, which is more formally known as Female Genital Mutilation, is a ritual procedure that involves altering, injuring, or completely removing the female genitalia.

FGM can be classified into 4 different categories, depending on what and how much was removed, altered, or harmed in any way.

The first is Clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris or the fold of skin surrounding it.

The second is Excision, a partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, which is the inner fold of the vulva. The outer folds may also be removed.

The third category is called infibulation. Infibulation is the sewing together of the fold of skin, narrowing the vaginal opening. Infibulation is the most severe form of FGM and it involves the removal of the external and some of the internal female genitalia. It is mostly preformed in select areas in Africa, and only known to be preformed in Mali, Sudan, and Ethiopia, but may also be preformed in small communities in other African countries.

The fourth category includes all other harmful procedures, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing.

The cutting is usually preformed by the local circumciser, a woman with little to no education, and no medical training who cuts all the girls in an area. The areas it is usually done in is unclean and unsafe. The woman who circumcises uses whatever she can get her hands on. Scissors, razor blades, pieces of broken glass, thorns, sharp metal…anything that can cut.

FGM is a painful and damaging experience, whether it be mental, physical, or psychological. It has no religious background, in face it goes against all religions, and is merely a show of the possession men have over women in the culture.  There are no health benefits, the practice only causes harm.

While some complications happen instantly, some also come in effect years later, and continue to be issues for the rest of her life.

Complications such as severe pain, excessive bleeding, fever, shock, infections, and even death can be immediate consequences, as many girls who are circumcised during infancy do not have a high survival rate, and a large majority do not live much longer after being circumcised.

FGM is usually a prerequisite for marriage, to ensure a girl stays faithful to her husband and is still a virgin by the time she is married, but it has lasting side effects, immediate and long-term, that have both physical and psychological side effects.

While the practice is usually known to take place in 28 African countries, and parts of the Middle East and Asia, it has been growing in the United States and Europe, the greatest number of incidences occurring in the summer, when girls are out of school. Parents take their daughters back to their home countries and have them circumcised, in hopes they will have recovered by the time school starts back up, and to avoid questions from teachers, classmates, and friends.

Waris Dirie, a model, best-selling author, actress, and founder of the Desert Flower foundation, was circumcised at the age of 5. Here is a video from the movie based off the story of her life and her best-selling novel, Desert Flower.

A warning, some of the video may be disturbing for some viewers.

The young girl who played an infant Waris Dirie goes by the name Safa. Safa’s parents were to have her circumcised, but Waris arranged an agreement with the family, promising them regular food, appliances, repairs and money, but in return, Safa would have to be checked regularly so it was certain her parents had not gotten her circumcised anyway.

Waris had gone through Infibulation at the age of five, and Dirie fled her birthplace at age 13, when her father tried to marry her off to a 60-year-old man.

Here is an excerpt from Waris Dirie’s auto-biography, “Desert Flower”, describing the circumcision she went through.

“The next thing I felt was my flesh, my genitals, being cut away. I heard the sound of the dull blade sawing back and forth through my skin. When I think back, I honestly can’t believe that this happened to me. I feel as if I were talking about somebody else. There’s no way in the world I can explain what it feels like.

It’s like somebody is slicing through the meat of your thigh, or cutting off your arm, except this is the most sensitive part of your body. However, I didn’t move an inch, because I remembered Aman and knew there was no escape. And I wanted Mama to be proud of me.

I just sat there as if I were made of stone, telling myself the more I moved around, the longer the torture would take. Unfortunately, my legs began to quiver of their own accord, and shake uncontrollably, and I prayed, Please, God, let it be over quickly. Soon it was, because I passed out.”

Four years after the filming of the movie, Waris received a letter from Safa, who was then seven years of age.

“When we play on the street, the children run away and curse and say bad things. They say I stink, but that’s not true at all. Maman and Papa also argue because of me and Maman cries a lot. Safa is a disgrace, she is not circumcised!” 

There is so much more I’d love to say about this cruel crime, but so little time.

Female Genital Mutilation is wrong, in every way. It causes physical and mental damage, leads to psychological trauma, reinforces gender inequality, has no health benefits, and is a violation of human rights. Female genital mutilation needs to end now.