Reading time: 9min.

by Jacquline Wambui

Poison to my vagina

Female genital mutilation is the procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM can either include the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia. In its extreme practice, the vaginal opening is sewn up leaving only a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood this process is referred to as infibulation. Female genital mutilation is known to have started as a way to control a woman’s sexuality. Some communities who began this practice thought their women to be promiscuous, although personally I think it’s the whole idea of male dominance, the practice although not well known dates back to at least 2000 years ago. It has been found to have originated from different communities with each one of them making up different reasons why they should carry out this heinous act. In Greece it was used as a sign of aristocracy in order to separate the elites from the not so well off in society. It’s crazy that something so ancient can last this long.

The battle of the sexes as it’s called has been ongoing even before our great grandparents were born and I wish there were reasons explaining why females are degraded to this level. Not only do we have to work twice as hard to prove ourselves, women have to couple that with playing other major roles being; wives, mothers, daughters and in many cases nowadays the sole provider in the family. So they may not say it but women are viewed as the weaker sex, this creates an inferiority complex in young girls growing up. I feel it could be a major reason why some women don’t believe they can make sound judgments on their own. In fact in some communities women are not allowed to voice an opinion and speaking up is seen as being disrespectful. In this kind of society’s, women believe their decisions are not good enough and depend on the man to make the decision for them, all rules and decisions made by the man are followed without being second guessed.

There are a lot of movements out there promoting “girl power” but truth is in one way or another they still contradict themselves. Why is FGM practiced? In most African communities circumcision was used as a rite of passage, it was performed on both girls (Clitoridectomy) and boys (cutting of the foreskin) once they were at the teenage stage of their lives. After undergoing the process they were considered adults, the girls were married off and the boys headed their own homesteads and became protectors. Although it’s hard to imagine a teenager undertaking such responsibilities in the modern day sadly they do. FGM is still prevalent and is notoriously practiced among communities who still choose to uphold this tradition. It is sorely based on traditional beliefs and the morals they thought kept the community together. Circumcision has a much deeper meaning to the people who uphold it, most of them believe that if they don’t get circumcised it will anger God hence punishing the whole community; in fact in some communities if a girl isn’t circumcised she is not eligible for marriage. Circumcision brings glory to the boy who undergoes it, it means he turns into a man, becomes a warrior and can procreate but for a girl it’s diminishing, it only means she can now get married and have children.

Infibulation, which is the severest form of mutilation, is mainly practiced in the Islamic states. It’s used as a measure to control a woman’s sexual desire and honor before marriage. For example in Egypt 97% of girls have undergone the cut, I feel that people live in denial when they refuse to accept that it’s a religious practice since it’s clear that religion is a practice in itself.

Female genital mutilation is a top priority for UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, the battle has been ongoing for three decades. In 1952 the United Nations Commission on human rights adopted measures condemning the practice. Is much being done by international bodies to curb female circumcision? They are doing their best and they are putting the necessary measures in place, but do they really understand what this practice is all about? Other than what is written on the Internet and taught in universities, does someone have a clue what really goes on other than those who actively seek out and engage with those who’ve lived it? Is it enough to ban something you can’t understand or fight a battle where you can’t see your enemy clearly? According to the United Nations Population Fund 100 to 140 girls have been circumcised worldwide and every year 3,000,000 girls undergo the cut. At times I pose the question; whose battle is this? The International bodies battle? Our governments? Is it the burden of the NGO’s? I have no answer but I realize the biggest obstacle is the enemy within. Our minds, minds of people carrying out FGM and individuals willingly undergoing it, true liberation and freedom is what we need.

Religion and tradition go deeper than what we can imagine, it’s not just a myth or mere belief it’s a way of life. Governments, human rights activists, international organizations, the western nations and Ngo’s are fighting the good cause they want to maintain our little girl’s innocence and uphold their dignity as women. I feel that they sometimes fail to understand how to go about it, we all do. Every religion though similar is different and every tradition though similar is different, how do we liberate these minds if our minds are not yet fully liberated? How can we change this mindset if their knowledge is longer than millennia in age and they believe it to be wisdom? I mean sure there are education and outreach programs and the use of civil remedies. There are many great works being done to curb FGM but the main question we should all be asking ourselves is: “How do you change a person’s way of thinking?” – “How do you eliminate deeds of fear to create compassionate and logical thinking?”