Imagine being taken to a dark room. Imagine being pinned down on the floor. Imagine your underwear being taken off. Imagine seeing a knife or blade being heated on the gas stove. Imagine the same hot knife or blade slicing your clitoris. Imagine young girls shrieking in pain.
This horrific practice is known as FGM.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 30countries. This number excludes the countless numbers who die during the procedure. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers often without anesthetic, putting girls at risk of potentially fatal infections - often using scissors, razor blades, broken glass and tin. More than half of those who have undergone it live in just three countries -- Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia. In most countries, the majority of girls subjected to the practice are younger than 5 years. About one fourth of all cases worldwide were girls under the age of 14. Even though the practice is illegal in many countries, many communities consider the practice part of their cultural traditions and continue performing it. The practice is most common in the western, eastern, and north-eastern regions of Africa, in some countries the Middle East and Asia, as well as among migrants from these areas. FGM is therefore a global concern.
It’s not just being practiced in tribal societies. Young girls aged six and seven are regularly being cut right here, in India. Masooma and Aarefa (Both from Mumbai) were both cut because their mothers were pressured into taking their daughters to Bhindi Bazaar in Mumbai by older women in the family; either by aunts or mothers-in-law. The beliefs that the clitoral head is ‘unwanted skin’, that it is a ‘source of sin’ that will make them ‘stray’ out of their marriages are reasons that lie at the heart of a practice that predates Islam but thrives amongst Bohras.
The sad truth to this painful process is the fact that it is a practice being done to women by other women. This abuse leaves women physically, psychologically and sexually damaged. FMG is often performed in conditions that lack proper hygiene, supplies and medications. As a result, the girls and women suffer infections, painful scarring, long-term disabilities and in some cases even death.
The practice is carried out in some parts of the world under the belief it makes girls purer and eligible to marry. It is violating of the human rights of girls and women. And it causes severe pain, excessive bleeding (hemorrhage), genital tissue swelling, fever, infections, urinary problems, wound healing problems, injury to surrounding genital tissue, Shock, death.
Where it is believed that being cut increases marriage ability, FGM is more likely to be carried out. FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel contribute to upholding the practice.
Here is a story of a survivor from Kenya.
She has revealed her terrifying ordeal after she was forced to undergo the procedure without an aesthesia when she was just 11-years-old. The women who were there for the cut said that we shouldn't be afraid because it's a taboo. They told us that we would not feel pain if we would not cry. They told us that if we would scream, our entire family would be put to shame. They told us to be silent and look at the ground. I didn't know where in the body I was going to be cut. I just saw it in that moment, when I was there and when the first girl got cut. When I saw what it actually meant, I thought it was something bad. I thought to myself that this was something unwanted. I felt that it was bad and something that's not supposed to be done. The first girl was cut. Then they covered her with a scarf and left her there. Then they did the same thing to the next person. 'When I was cut, blood flew. I felt pain. I was so stressed out, because this is something I didn't choose.' 'I got wrapped in a sheep skin. They tied our legs with torn clothes close to the thighs. We sat on the stones for an hour and then they took all of us to a bush where they constructed something small, like a house.' She said that her ordeal was far from over after FGM. She was forced to marry an older man soon after. Her husband forced her into having sex when she was just 12 and not even fully recovered from FGM. One fine day she gathered the strength and ran away along with her daughter. After escaping with her daughter, and found support from the charity Action Aid, who have a women's network in Kongelai. She said the charity's help has been invaluable to her as she tries to move on and build a new life for her and her daughter. She said: 'Action Aid gives us hope and strength - I feel really hopeful. I have learnt that I have the right not to accept FGM and anything to do with FGM.'
The practice was made illegal in Kenya in 2011 but it carries on behind closed doors even today.