By Saumya Sahni:
Worldwide crimes against women have garnered a lot of attention lately. Be it the Middle East, Egypt, Africa or our very own India, no single day passes where we do not hear cases of violence being inflicted upon women. What is even more appalling is the fact that in these times of so many upsurges against crimes, we still continue to have abhorrent practices all over the world which go unreported. We have still not been able to deal with rapes, murders, dowry deaths and many more forms of heinous crimes like these.
When one hears Demba Diawara’s (Demba Diawara is the Senegalese village chief and imam) constant struggle for putting an end to the atrocious tradition of female genital mutilation in the western parts of Africa, one can easily conclude that practices which are carried out under the blindfold of “protecting a girl’s virginity” do a lot more harm than good. It has to be clearly understood that there is more to female genital mutilation than what meets the eye.
Female genital mutilation as defined by the World Health Organisation is a traditional practice of altering or causing injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This has been mostly equated with countries like Africa, some Middle Eastern states and in some parts of Asia as well. It is typically carried out between the age of four and puberty and is usually performed without anaesthesia by traditional circumciser using a knife.
Though this practice is not much prevalent in India except a particular sect of the Muslim Shia community who term this practice as “khatna”, it is very much prevalent across Africa. An estimated 125 million girls and women primarily in Africa have had their genitalia cut, scraped, or sewn up. The statistics are indeed alarming. As insensitive and demeaning as it may sound, but the reasons for carrying this out differs from region to region. According to Wikipedia, in some societies, the procedure is performed to differentiate between the genders based on the belief that the clitoris confers masculinity on a girl and the foreskin of a boy makes him feminine. If we carefully look into the deeper aspect of female genital mutilation, it is a backward traditional ritual carried out to raise a girl properly and prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
What really upsets me is the whole notion of causing pain to a female only to satisfy one’s regressive mindsets. Female genital mutilation has a slew of hazardous impacts on a girl’s marital life as well. These include- recurrent urinary and vaginal infections, chronic pain, infertility, fatal haemorrhaging, epidemical cysts, and complications during childbirth. Adding on to it, procedures are carried out by traditional circumcisers who use unhygienic instruments which furthers complicates the situation.
A procedure as abhorrent as this, needs to be checked urgently. Though steps are being taken but still putting a curb to it seems to be a farfetched dream. Sensitization is needed towards the treatment of a girl’s body. It is no animal’s skin. Causing bodily harm to a creature can never justify some really rhetorical regressive mindsets. The statistics might be coming down, but still a lot more needs to done to cure the mindsets.
We do have some NGOs working towards the cause and it would be heartening if more people come up with more such organizations so that the elimination of such procedures becomes easy and speedy.
1. Tareto Maa- This organisation provides shelter and education for 104 girls who have run away from FGM. They conduct talks and publish brochures aimed at reaching parents who are pro-female genital mutilation. The girls are also role models for the community; visible symbols of what girls can achieve if they are enabled to flourish. It has its headquarters in Kenya.
2. The Ban FGM Campaign- This is not an organization but it works towards the cause. The Campaign for a worldwide ban on female genital mutilation aims to promote the adoption of a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly banning this widespread and systematic human rights violation.
3. No Peace without Justice- The overall objective of the FGM program is to develop a political, legal and social environment that challenges attitudes and behaviours on FGM and works towards its elimination, in the context of the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls. The program builds the strategic capacity of women’s rights advocates and field practitioners working on female genital mutilation and promotes legal reform as an effective tool for behavioural change.
All in all, female genital mutilation is just a result borne out of the patriarchal notions of society. It is painful and has a lot of life threatening effects. Why is expressing your sexual desire when you are a female, a taboo? Why do parents follow these mindless traditions just to make sure that their daughter can please somebody else after she gets married? Why a girl’s virginity is always frowned down upon? These are some really important questions which need to be pondered over and over again till the time this menace prevails in the nations worldwide.