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FGM, A Devastating Cultural Ritual

FGM, A Devastating Cultural Ritual

As women in the 21st century it’s ironic that what we take most for granted is our body. We spend so much time looking at ourselves in the mirror and criticizing every imperfection. We waste most of our lives being blinded by the reality of how privileged we are to have the choice to do as we wish to our body, to change it as we wish, to celebrate it as we wish and even to protect it as we wish. There is so much power for a woman in control and owning your sexuality or “women-hood”.

Throughout history, powerful women have used such power to change the world and empower others to do the same. It has lead to the rise of societies where women are confident enough to stand up for what they believe in and influence how men view them. To be a woman is like poetry, we can be strong and nurturing while housing a feminine fire that’s expressed as we swing our hips carrying the burdens of the world in one hand and carrying our intellect in the other. How we juggle it all is unknown; we just do but how being so powerful yet graceful is not celebrated as there are places in the world where sexuality and its expression are considered a sin or offensive as part of firm cultural boundaries and traditions. These cultures find it a necessity to control this female fire, to condemn women of having simple pleasures, to remove the very “women-hood” that’s our source of power as a means to silence us.

Let me take you on a journey to a small village nestled deep in North Africa where a little girl skips home from school to find her mom patiently waiting to take her to a remote village where she is given to tall dark figure, a respected elder in the village. Her heart is racing as she is laid down, trembling as one woman pins her down and another spreads her legs. She screams “Mama” and all she can hear is that today she is becoming a woman. She shrieks as her woman-hood is removed and the experience is so electrifying that her scream can be heard for miles. Her mom lays in tears as they sow her shut, bind her legs, wrap her up and leave her on her own to cry herself to sleep. 

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If we were to see this story from another perspective then we see a struggling single mom, who fears for her survival and future of her daughter. She sees the practice as necessary for her daughter to be accepted by the community, for her to be deemed a woman but most importantly for her to eligible for marriage. It may be a sacrifice for now but as it was done to her and her mother and her sister, she sees her daughter and strong and worthy enough to survive it. The only fact that seems to be disregarded is how that night will change how that little girl views the world, that she will carry the scars and continue to suffer throughout her lifetime.

The reality of this situation is devastating as the same story can be set in India, Malaysia or the Middle East. There have been over 200 million worldwide cases in over 30 countries, including western countries where laws prohibit such practices.  The issue mainly lies in the unregulated and underground nature of the practice makes it very difficult to track. These practices are conducted by elders with no medical credentials where girls as young as 4 (rare cases even infants) are subjected to such trauma and the risks of infection by the use of unsterile instruments in unhygienic conditions.  

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The reality of this situation is devastating as the same story can be set in India, Malaysia or the Middle East. There have been over 200 million worldwide cases in over 30 countries, including western countries where laws prohibit such practices.  The issue mainly lies in the unregulated and underground nature of the practice makes it very difficult to track. These practices are conducted by elders with no medical credentials where girls as young as 4 (rare cases even infants) are subjected to such trauma and the risks of infection by the use of unsterile instruments in unhygienic conditions.  

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A woman was created to be whole, every single part of her has meaning and functions in perfect symbiosis with another. What gives anyone the right to find one part of a woman unnecessary and how can the removal of any part not jeopardize the functioning or lifespan of that very machine. To be born into a culture that denies them the simple right to pleasure or most importantly consent over what is done to one’s body is unnerving. What we can do today is go back and look in that mirror and be grateful for the gift that is the body you were blessed with and appreciate it as it is.  You can also play your part by supporting initiatives or organizations such a WHO (World Health Organization) and UNICEF by raising awareness or reporting any cases. All it takes is the effort of just one to help or impact another.

And... That's it!

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