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Female Genital Mutilation To Prevent Premarital Sex Is Still A Truth: Where Does The Liberated Woman Stand?

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By Lata Jha:

If the countless cases of female infanticide, rape and domestic abuse were not proof enough of the miserable conditions women live in around the world, here’s another shocking piece of information. Girls barely into their adolescence in many African countries undergo female genital mutilation, a painful and humiliating process where the vagina is cut to create a narrow seal to allow only urine and menstrual blood to pass through. Infibulated girls often have their legs bound up for weeks for the freshly fused tissue to be allowed to heal.

genital mutilationFiercely condemned by rights and health organisations, about 140 million girls and women are living with consequences of this practice that they undergo as soon as they reach puberty. This is most prevalent among females in Africa, where it is carried out routinely in 28 countries.

An estimated 101 million girls of 10 years and above in age have undergone varying forms of genital mutilation in Africa. A study by child rights and development organisation, Plan International in Mali in 2010, found that more than half of all fathers and one-third of mothers wanted their girls excised.

For families, it is an assurance of the girl child shielded against any sexual encounter before her marriage. The process is reversed only on the day of the wedding when the vaginal opening is restored through another painful surgery. In most cases cutting is done by a traditional practitioner without any anaesthesia and little care for hygiene. Razors, knives or scissors are used and they are rarely sterilised. The surgery takes place wherever it is convenient, from out in the open to a bathroom floor. It is only after she undergoes this procedure that an excised bride is considered ‘free’ and ready for her first sexual experience that usually takes place the very same night after cutting.

mutilation tools Thousands of girls every year suffer health complications, as consequences of this measure, including severe vaginal pain, shock, bleeding and infection. Life-long effects include infertility, childbirth complications and new-born deaths. In many instances, female circumcision is performed on extremely young girls. In rural areas in Mali, for example, there are reports of it being done to girls under five. In some urban areas, the surgery is even conducted on new-born girls before they are 40 days old.

The practice violates a number of fundamental rights outlined under international protocols. But despite that, only 19 of the 28 countries that practice FGM in Africa have national laws prohibiting it. And even where laws exist, prosecutions are rare. Despite many African countries signing up to international legal frameworks to protect children, traditional laws governing customary practices often override such treaties.

The fact that even today a woman has to be virtually chained from indulging in sexual activity, or the belief that she needs to be absolutely ‘pure’ for her spouse, who in turn, could have had his share of sexual experiences, are questions we need to debate. The liberated woman in many of our societies who is not afraid of living life on her own terms is still a far cry from the female whose existence is based on the dictates of her circumstances.

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  1. amitabhpatrah Patra

    I think in our country, India it is not practiced. Any specific area or instance of this ritual in our country? yes in africa there this practice is on… and there is a documentary film on the same as well … Moolaade – issue is africa based probably… no where else is this heinous ritual is practicised…

  2. akankshagupta422013

    All this seriously puts us to shame as this is the kind of world we live in! Liberation, let alone basic rights are far from reality and everyday, some sort of a new crime, torture, injustice against women are highlighted! It amazes me that people go to such extremes to satisfy their own orthodox, baseless and absurd notions! Till when will females suffer? And more disheartening is the fact that women are involved in all such crimes.. Its a shame! Really, shame is also a small word! It is heart wrenching! All these people should go die, spineless cruelty!

  3. Neha Raman

    Although this particular practice isn’t followed in India, is it not true that our Indian society is too obsessed about the “Purity” of the female and doesn’t bother if the man is a virgin or not? Indian grooms and their parents are too gaga over the purity factor. What if the guy is sexually active with many women and gets married to a woman, becomes the cause for HIV-AIDS for that woman?
    Does anybody even bother to think about all this?

  4. archit

    i don’t know why people treat girl only as a sex toy? girl means a lot after marriage. she is not married for sex. when two persons re married they are known as life partners, partners in every walk of life, in every sorrow and happy moments. to take care of each other. so what matters if girl is virgin or not. if girl is checked than a boy should also be checked for his virginity and purity.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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