Fighting female genital mutilation in Africa

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Now in her 50s, Madina Bocoum Daff still cannot get over the agony and shame of her teenage years.


Madina – barely into adolescence – was subjected to one of the most severe forms of female genital mutilation (FGM) – a practice long carried out in many African countries.

She was too young to understand what was happening to her. Like all other young girls in her ethnic Fulani community in Mali, she was required to go through the rite of passage before the onset of puberty.

The practice involves "cutting" a girl's vagina to create a seal that narrows the opening, just wide enough to allow the passing of urine and menstrual blood. Infibulated girls often have their legs bound together for up to four weeks to allow the freshly fused tissue to heal.

"All I know is that I had severe problems immediately after being excised. I remember going through a very agonising cycle of puberty. I remained covered in pain and humiliation," says Madina.

On the International Day of the African Child, the suffering caused by female genital mutilation is under the spotlight with the controversial practice widely condemned by rights and health organisations.

According to the World Health Organisation , there are about 140 million girls and women around the world currently living with the consequences of the practice. The majority of these females are in Africa, where it is routinely done in 28 countries.

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

Written By: Davinder Kumar
continue to source article at aljazeera.com

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  1. It is a form of hazing and bullying. The only reason for it is tradition. The to deal with bullies is by fighting back strongly.

    For example,a girl should carry a knife and pepper spray and attempt to gouge out the eyes of at least one of her attackers.

    I would also announced that such an attack on me would result in me seeking revenge taking as long as necessary with pain ten times inflicted on me. I would also announce that I have hired a witch doctor to harm anyone who does this to me.

    A gang of say a dozen young women who vowed revenge by means legal or illegal if any of their members were attacked could command respect, especially if they hired some young male thugs to help with the dirty work. Even talking of such an attack could be responded by burning down an occupied hut.

    I compare this with gay lib. Gays were beat up with impugnity cheered on by the churches until a few gays started publicly saying “cut that out”. We did not even have to threaten violence. Perhaps they realised how vulnerable they were from the fuss over civil rights in the USA.

    Maybe the NRA would consider arming women threatened with rape or genital mutilation.

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      In what world can a ten year old girl fight off several adults, some of who will be members of her family she is conditioned to obey. She would need a machine gun, something not generally given to girls in Africa.

      This problem needs a legal and social revolution, not an armed insurrection. Western support for African groups and organisations, and African politicians and leaders, who are fighting to eradicate this abuse, will lead to the social changes needed. Not nearly as quickly as I would like, but more permanently than by killing some of the perpetrators, IMHO!

  2. 140 Million women have had this torture inflicted on them without their consent… so that Men can marry virgins….its an appauling crime against humanity not to mention sex discrimination to the highest degree…all governments need to condemn this torture..

    • In reply to #5 by Peter Grant:

      What I find most horrifying about this total excision is that these women will never be able to enjoy sex. What sort of man doesn’t want his partner to feel pleasure?

      The kind of man who has purchased a wife in the traditional way for a large amount of money with the understanding that she is sexually pure and innocent. She may have never seen him or spoken to him until he’s brought into her bed during the wedding ceremony for a public deflowering. As time goes by, it is highly likely that she will encounter any number of unrelated males to whom she feels a real sexual attraction. This is a tremendous threat to her husband since she did not choose him based on attraction in the first place. He damn well should be worried about paternity of offspring. She may feel indifference or disgust when he claims his marital rights to have sex on demand. Hence the female guarding by his mother and siblings and FGM just strengthens the whole repulsive system. Female sexual pleasure is irrelevant to these guys.

      • In reply to #22 by jez:

        My god.

        Very apt. Only religious-type beliefs based on tradition could so warp natural human sexuality.

        In reply to #20 by LaurieB:

        It’s female orgasm that has no link to human reproduction. It’s a happy byproduct, that’s it.

        Now that I come to think about it, it may have no direct impact on reproduction, but as you alluded to earlier in #6, it may have a significant (in the evolutionary sense) indirect impact through pair-bonding.

        • In reply to #23 by Peter Grant:

          it may have a significant (in the evolutionary sense) indirect impact through pair-bonding.

          ah yes, human pair bonding. Very interesting and very complicated. What I wouldn’t give to go back ten, twenty, thirty thousand years, just to make some observations on what the Homo sapiens social scene looked like then.

          • In reply to #24 by LaurieB:

            ah yes, human pair bonding. Very interesting and very complicated. What I wouldn’t give to go back ten, twenty, thirty thousand years, just to make some observations on what the Homo sapiens social scene looked like then.

            Me too! But we can still make inferences based on that we observe today. We have a craving for sweet stuff because our ancestors rarely had access to it and because it is such a rich source of energy. Today we have access to too much sugar for our own good.
            In many ancient societies and in the west it makes evolutionary sense to please one’s female partner sexually to avoid being cuckolded, in Islam sexual gratification gets substituted with oppression.

          • In reply to #25 by Peter Grant:

            it makes sense to please one’s female partner sexually to avoid being cuckolded,

            Yes but how much of this was happening say twenty thousand years ago? That’s what I want to know. Not much, that’s my guess. Not saying they practiced FGM but maybe a little growling and snarling and a well aimed punch would’ve accomplished the same thing. You know, like the sort of behavior that’s advised for husbands of the Bible and Koran let’s say.

          • In reply to #26 by LaurieB:

            Yes, because beating your lover is likely to keep her faithful when your back is turned. Can’t count the number of women who, it turned out, slept with me mainly so that I would beat the crap out of their husbands or boyfriends.

          • In reply to #29 by Peter Grant:

            Yes, because beating your lover is likely to keep her faithful when your back is turned. Can’t count the number of women who, it turned out, slept with me mainly so that I would beat the crap out of their husbands or boyfriends.

            Fascinating! The degree of manipulation is extraordinary!

          • In reply to #32 by LaurieB:

            Prefer to think of it as an empathic response, from a gene’s eye view I suppose you could call it manipulation.

  3. In reply to #6 by LaurieB:

    Thank you! Sometimes even rhetorical questions need to be answered, and answered very well I might add ;)

    I must have more! Remember this is a topic deserving of real rage, please feel free to rant a bit. You have my FULL support.

    • In reply to #7 by Peter Grant:

      I must have more! Remember this a topic deserving of real rage, please feel free to rant a bit. You have my FULL support.

      I’m pretty sure I have about five years worth of rants stored on this website so far. That ought to keep you busy for a while! :-D

      • In reply to #8 by LaurieB:

        I’m pretty sure I have about five years worth of rants stored on this website so far. That ought to keep you busy for a while! :-D

        Then I shall spend some more time perusing your profile :P

        • In reply to #9 by Peter Grant:

          Then I shall spend some more time perusing your profile :P

          oh, err…ya sure.

          ~desperately tries to remember what was said in the olden days before moderators were invented….~

          • In reply to #10 by LaurieB:

            oh, err…ya sure.

            ~desperately tries to remember what was said in the olden days before moderators were invented….~

            And here I thought we were back on the same side :(

            I like to think the moderators have learnt at least as much from me as I have from them.

          • In reply to #11 by Peter Grant:

            And here I thought we were back on the same side :(

            The only time we haven’t been on the same side is over the Amina squabble, unless there was something else I forgot about. You didn’t aggravate me very much on that. At least I can’t remember that you tossed any ad homs my way. That leaves about 99.9% agreement on everything else around here. I think that most of the regulars here do agree on most topics in general. FGM is a no brainer, of course. Mostly everyone is duly horrified by this practice and the splitting of hairs takes place when people like me bring in the circumcision of boys and advocate for elimination of both all in one campaign. I favor a strategy of “leave the kiddies genitals alone and don’t cut anyone ever again!” but admittedly I worry that bringing boys into the strategy may limit the success of it. I don’t know how anyone can work in this field (human rights) day after gruesome day. It’s so upsetting to me. They’re admirably resilient people.

          • In reply to #12 by LaurieB:

            The only time we haven’t been on the same side is over the Amina squabble, unless there was something else I forgot about. You didn’t aggravate me very much on that.

            Thank you! I hope that you see my response was intellectual as well as emotional.

            I worry that bringing boys into the strategy may limit the success of it.

            Me too. My innate desire to kill all other men makes it hard to feel compassion for them. Admittedly I should, but it is more difficult.

            Add to this the insignificance of the male orgasm compared with the female one, and the tendency of men to cum prematurely, and I almost want to promote the procedure.

          • In reply to #13 by Peter Grant:

            Thank you! I hope that you see my response was intellectual as well as emotional.

            Emotional! Yes, that’s the problem! I was going for a strategic analysis with a view to improving the bigger picture It’s all the emotion that got dragged in on those threads that totally tripped me up. When that came in I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees any longer. Anyway, you’re off the hook for now but if we meet up at an Atheist convention someday….I intend to give you one final damn good lambasting over this! (it would be a consensual lambasting of course ;-))

            My innate desire to kill all other men makes it hard to feel compassion for them.

            o_O

            Add to this the insignificance of the male organism compared with the female one,

            Umm, heh, on first read through I thought this said, “…of the male orgasm compared with the female one,” I set out to argue that in fact the male orgasm must be of extreme significance and that it’s the female’s that is in fact insignificant in the perpetuation of our species. Then I read it again and discovered my error. Instead, I will say that I don’t think males are insignificant, that is, until the day that females can clone themselves at the drop of a hat! And, oh yes my dear XY chromosomal configuration friend, then you will be rendered completely insignificant. :-)

            and the tendency of men to cum prematurely, and I almost want to promote the procedure.

            Not very high on anyone’s list of atrocities, is it? Especially in light of the article above. Not worth hacking bits of boys penises off certainly. Plenty of other remedies available.

          • In reply to #15 by LaurieB:

            Emotional! Yes, that’s the problem!

            Sorry, I use emotions rather bluntly at times, but only to prove a point.

            Umm, heh, on first read through I thought this said, “…of the male orgasm compared with the female one,” I set out to argue that in fact the male orgasm must be of extreme significance and that it’s the female’s that is in fact insignificant in the perpetuation of our species. Then I read it again and discovered my error. Instead, I will say that I don’t think males are insignificant, that is, until the day that females can clone themselves at the drop of a hat! And, oh yes my dear XY chromosomal configuration friend, then you will be rendered completely insignificant. :-)

            Yes, sorry. I mistyped it and then the spell check “corrected” it. I meant orgasm.

            Not very high on anyone’s list of atrocities, is it? Especially in light of the article above. Not worth hacking bits of boys penises off certainly. Plenty of other remedies available.

            Agreed, that’s why I said “almost”. I haven’t actually killed anyone either, at least not anyone who hasn’t begged me to. In any case, condoms slightly desensitise the region and are safer anyway.

          • In reply to #16 by Peter Grant:

            Yes, sorry. I mistyped it and then the spell check “corrected” it. I meant orgasm.

            ha. ok then, so my previous argument stands. male’s all important. female’s zero importance.

          • In reply to #17 by LaurieB:

            ha. ok then, so my previous argument stands. male’s all important. female’s zero importance.

            No, I said, or meant to say, that the the male ORGASM is insignificant when compared to the female one, and much easier to achieve BTW.

          • In reply to #19 by Peter Grant:

            No, I said, or meant to say, that the the male ORGASM is insignificant when compared to the female one, and much easier to achieve BTW.

            I disagree with both statements. How in the world could male orgasm be insignificant? Human reproduction would cease without it. Just think of all the multitude of adaptations that are built around it! It’s a crucial element in natural selection. It’s female orgasm that has no link to human reproduction. It’s a happy byproduct, that’s it. (don’t think we’re unappreciative though) :-)

            Having said that, don’t think I’m unaffected by the massive human rights tragedy of FGM. It sickens me to even think about it.

            As for “and much easier to achieve BTW”, I suppose that is your perspective as a male but based on the data available on female orgasm at this time, women report no problem experiencing orgasm when engaging in certain specific sexual behavior. Probability of experiencing orgasm during sexual intercourse alone is very low and orgasm from masturbation is very high. For an interesting read on this subject I recommend the book The Case of the Female Orgasm, Bias in the science of Evolution, by Elisabeth A. Lloyd. From that book here are a few lines that when read in light of the article above, really indicate how FGM devastates female sexual response on a grand scale:

            page 25

            As Kinsey himself noted, women almost never masturbate solely in imitation of the act of intercourse, by inserting something into the vagina (Kinsey et al. 1953, p. 163). Hite found that only 1.5% of women masturbate by vaginal insertion alone (1976, p. 411). Moreover, women’s preferences for clitoral and labial stimulation are widely known; Kinsey cites 16 sources in European and American literature, dating from 1885 (1953, p. 158). And in contrast to the median amont of time needed for a woman to have an orgasm from intercourse, women take an average of approximately 4 minutes to achieve orgasm with masturbation, the same period as for a man (Kinsey et al. 1953, p. 163)….There is one point on which all sex researchers agree: the unpredictability and nonequivalence of female orgasm with intercourse.

            Four minutes. Our thought for the day.

          • In reply to #20 by LaurieB:

            How in the world could male orgasm be insignificant?

            It’s much shorter in duration and far less intense

            Human reproduction would cease without it. Just think of all the multitude of adaptations that are built around it! It’s a crucial element in natural selection.

            True enough, but this is not the sort of significance about which I speak.

            It’s female orgasm that has no link to human reproduction. It’s a happy byproduct, that’s it. (don’t think we’re unappreciative though) :-)

            This is what I mean by significant.

            As for “and much easier to achieve BTW”, I suppose that is your perspective as a male but based on the data available on female orgasm at this time, women report no problem experiencing orgasm when engaging in certain specific sexual behavior. Probability of experiencing orgasm during sexual intercourse alone is very low and orgasm from masturbation is very high.

            Whilst for men the probability is very high in either case, so I rest mine. Men are easier to get off, whether their sex partners be male or female.

          • In reply to #21 by Peter Grant:

            It’s much shorter in duration and far less intense

            Oh, and it would be remiss of me to let this go by without saying: evidence please.

          • In reply to #27 by LaurieB:

            Oh, and it would be remiss of me to let this go by without saying: evidence please.

            Women are capable of many multiple intense orgasms, in some experiments lasting hours on end.

            Isn’t science awesome?! :D

          • In reply to #28 by Peter Grant:

            Women are capable of many multiple orgasms, in some experiments lasting hours on end.

            1. That’s not evidence
            2. Hours on end? I don’t believe a word of it. It’s not survivable.

            Isn’t science awesome?! :D

            That goes without saying. :-D

          • In reply to #30 by LaurieB:

            Read it somewhere. Never really researched the claim because I’ve observed it so often. Will Google it now.

          • In reply to #30 by LaurieB:

            OK, I’m sick of searching. Can’t seem to find the precise article I remember, but most of what I read on Wikipedia etc seems to agree that a lot of women are capable of many multiple orgasms over a period of hours while most men need some time to recharge. Exceptions to this rule are practitioners of Tantric sex and pre-pubescent males.

          • In reply to #15 by LaurieB:

            I set out to argue that in fact the male orgasm must be of extreme significance and that it’s the female’s that is in fact insignificant in the perpetuation of our species.

            If you had, I would have pointed out that this is not about the “perpetuation of our species”. This is about our emotional well-being.

          • In reply to #12 by LaurieB:

            In reply to #11 by Peter Grant:
            ‘ I worry that bringing boys into the strategy may limit the success of it.’ I’ve heard this said before but could you please elaborate why exactly you think fighting against the mutilation of ALL children- regardless of gender- will limit the ‘success’ of protecting female children? Concrete evidence needed. How on earth can we ever eradicate female mutilation when we turn around and ignore the mutilation of the male and non-specific genders? It will never work because it’s a sexist double standard. And if we need the support and participation of men in being part of the solution how can they care about their sisters, really, if they’re protected from cutting- but they are not as a child? Fundamental Human Rights are not gender specific You either tackle ALL genital violence for all children or its doomed to failure.
            And here I thought we were back on the same side :(

            The only time we haven’t been on the same side is over the Amina squabble, unless there was something else I forgot about. You didn’t aggravate me very much on that. At least I can’t remember that you tossed any ad…

          • In reply to #35 by Sweetgrass:

            In reply to #12 by LaurieB:

            In reply to #11 by Peter Grant:
            ‘ I worry that bringing boys into the strategy may limit the success of it.’ I’ve heard this said before but could you please elaborate why exactly you think fighting against the mutilation of ALL children- regardless of gender- will limit…Sorry- unclear: ‘How can men care about their sisters when young boys are not equally protected?’ ..is what I meant.

          • In reply to #36 by Sweetgrass:

            I’ve heard this said before but could you please elaborate why exactly you think fighting against the mutilation of ALL children-…

            I’m having a hard time deciphering what part of your comment is a replication of my own or Peter’s. When you write a comment here make sure that your own words are in black lettering and the words that someone else said or a quote from an article or other reference material is in the light gray with that light vertical bar in front of it.

            I’ll just clarify that I agree with others here that all genital mutilation must end. I was just musing and thinking out loud which always gets me in trouble and I don’t know why I persist in doing so. :-)

            When I said that I worry about including male circumcision in the fight against FGM it was because the male version seems more deeply entrenched in society than FGM is. The Bible covenant with Abraham and the American belief that circumcision is the only sanitary and aesthetically pleasing option are very difficult beliefs to combat. But with the Muslims I think we could make some progress because no cutting at all is recommended in that book. Also, in the regions that are Muslim majority and don’t practice FGM, such as Maghreb North Africa, as far as I know at this point, I can tell you that when they find out individually about what their Egyptian neighbors have been doing to their girls there, they have a sputtering fit about it. This should be used as a devastating criticism in a very public way. This is where Aljazeera comes in. Where there is probably very little we outsiders can do here, due to the secretive and private nature of this crime, let their own fellow Muslims give them one hell of a lambasting over this. It’s much more effective than any Kafir making the same claim. (of course we should continue anyway)

            Hope this answers your comment to me. If I’ve missed something there just let me know.

          • In reply to #43 by LaurieB:

            In reply to #36 by Sweetgrass:
            Sorry Laurie, bad at the format.
            I’ve heard this said before but could you please elaborate why exactly you think fighting against the mutilation of ALL children-…

            I’m having a hard time deciphering what part of your comment is a replication of my own or Peter’s. When you write a comment here make…

          • In reply to #49 by Sweetgrass:

            Sorry Laurie, bad at the format.

            Eh, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Not like I’m so swift with computers myself but try it this way:

            When you click on reply you find the special box where you should type your comment, right? Leave the top line as it is because it will indicate who you’re talking to, but at that point highlight and delete all the other writing below that if you don’t want it. See those > symbols? They are what’s presenting everything written after them as the light gray italics with the vertical bar in front of the whole thing. Why don’t you try to reply to me with just hitting reply, delete all except top line and then write one sentence which should print out in bold black. Keep checking the yellow preview box to see if everything looks right. If that works I’ll tell you how to add a quote.

  4. I don’t often encourage violence, but this justifies it. I’ve heard enough of it being “widely condemned by rights and health organisations”. It should be stamped out with a quickness! The countries in which it occurs should be invaded, the practicioners summarily executed, and its supporters in government assassinated. We are talking about the near-total sexual annihilation of a human being. There is no excuse for allowing it to continue, no justification for holding back the armed forces, and no “rights of sovereignty” to consider. Any place on earth that this is occurring is within the ethical jurisdiction of those who would violently end it. Every day this practice continues condemns the rest of humanity to failure.

  5. On the day of their wedding, brides undergo another painful surgery to reverse it. This involves cutting open the connecting tissue and restoring the vaginal opening to enable sexual intercourse with their husbands.

    “I cannot even explain the feeling of terror that runs through infibulated girls’ minds thinking of marriage,” says Madina.

    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 completing this procedure an excised bride is considered ‘free’. She usually has her first sexual experience the very same night after cutting,” says Madina.

    My god.

    • In reply to #22 by jez:

      On the day of their wedding, brides undergo another painful surgery to reverse it. This involves cutting open the connecting tissue and restoring the vaginal opening to enable sexual intercourse with their husbands.

      “I cannot even explain the feeling of terror that runs through infibulated girls’ m…

      And then she may be sewn up again until any child resulting from the intercourse is due, at which time she will be unstitched and then resewn afterwards. This will go on until on until she dies…

  6. As someone mentioning the male equivalent always must qualify; This practice is objectively worse regarding the female genitalia, often carried out under unsanitary and barbaric conditions. A wider range of sickening “god willed” mutilations are inflicted upon females, particularly in the undeveloped nations. It is after this inevitably brief disclaimer that I draw a small share of this light to practices still carried out in first world nations.
    In cases of male circumcision It is either carried out as a baby or as a child in Judaism. Escaping the scalpel myself, I do not feel anything like superiority or inferiority in this matter. I do however feel that the practice should be banned. 100,000 nerve endings (roughly) are thrown in the garbage with male foreskins. I must admit also that I have at times felt lucky, that no part of my body was carved off before I had anything like the mental capacity to decide whether it should happen.
    Again acknowledging the propensity for modern primates to take “offence’, I do not seek to derail the valiant efforts of those combating FGM. I simply wish to pose the question why MGM still lacks anagram. And I don’t mean the studio.

    • In reply to #37 by Timothy McNamara:

      It is after this inevitably brief disclaimer that I draw a small share of this light to practices still carried out in first world nations. In cases of male circumcision It is either carried out as a baby or as a child in Judaism.

      I understand that you are talking about first world nations and cases of boys of Jewish families but I want it stated for the record that In North Africa and I suspect it true of the Middle East, that the boys there are not infants when circumcised. They are older than that. Between 3 and 7 is what I have observed. When their relatives hold them down so the itinerant circumcision “specialist” can get a hold on their foreskin and slice it of with a razor blade, believe me, they are screaming their heads off and crying for help. They were well aware of what was going to happen before the event because people told them about it in a jeering cruel way and the actual event is excruciatingly worse than the warning of it. They spend some weeks wracked in pain and infection when recovering from this horrific event.

      My dear readers, I realize you must be completely grossed out by my eyewitness description of these events but I don’t want it said that MGM is just a little snip-snip in a sterile American hospital with smiling Dr.s and happy parents with vacant expressions and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s a horse of a different color in the dirty cruel third world.

      • In reply to #44 by LaurieB:

        I understand that you are talking about first world nations and cases of boys of Jewish families but I want it stated for the record that In North Africa and I suspect it true of the Middle East, that the boys there are not infants when circumcised. They are older than that. Between 3 and 7 is what I have observed. When their relatives hold them down so the itinerant circumcision “specialist” can get a hold on their foreskin and slice it of with a razor blade, believe me, they are screaming their heads off and crying for help. They were well aware of what was going to happen before the event because people told them about it in a jeering cruel way and the actual event is excruciatingly worse than the warning of it. They spend some weeks wracked in pain and infection when recovering from this horrific event.

        Here in Southern Africa circumcision is part of the rite of passage into manhood, accompanied by much ceremony with ritual trials of strength and endurance. The pain is sort of the point. I think it will be much more difficult to eradicate this type of practice, the best we can really hope for here is some antiseptic cream.

          • In reply to #47 by LaurieB:

            Ugh. So depressing.

            I suppose it is, but male circumcision doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I find female genital mutilation utterly horrifying.

        • In reply to #46 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #44 by LaurieB:

          I understand that you are talking about first world nations and cases of boys of Jewish families but I want it stated for the record that In North Africa and I suspect it true of the Middle East, that the boys there are not infants when circumcised. They are older than t…

          A similar initiation rite was practised in traditional aboriginal societies in Australia, though I seriously doubt that it would occur today. Adolescent boys were confined in a dark place in order to disorient them, circumcised and subjected to scarification on their body. As I recall, they may even have had a front tooth removed, but this may have accompanied a marriage ritual. The aim of the exercise was that it was an event of great significance and they would remember it with pride.

          Few tribal communities exist in Australia today, and even those have some contact with the wider community. I’m fairly confident that such rites of passage have been outlawed by the government.

          • In reply to #51 by Nitya:

            The aim of the exercise was that it was an event of great significance and they would remember it with pride.

            This is interesting because it’s what I hear from the few N.African guys who will talk about their circumcision events. It’s one of those subjects that is not really proper for discussions between men and women in that culture because of course, we would be discussing the state of the guy’s penis and treatment of the penises of all guys of his society. Totally out of bounds, but on the other hand, it’s a traditional ceremony that takes place in the home, surrounded by family and friends and is pretty much a public event so it’s difficult for any guy to completely block the topic for discussion.

            Sorry if this is cruel, but it’s actually amusing to watch people plunge into a state of cognitive dissonance and in those seconds that follow, the expressions that flash over their face are so fascinating as they psychologically flail around trying to get a grip on the situation. (Yes, I am a Psych major)

            Even though I am always suspected of trying to undermine their perfect religion because I am, obviously, a Kafira, it is actually a handy thing to be when I want to lean over the boundaries of propriety and discuss topics that would be off limits to a woman of their own culture. Up to a point, outsiders can count on getting what we call a “cultural free pass”. Sometimes I say very directly, “I understand that this is a subject that is off limits in mixed company in your culture, but I want you to give me a free pass on it.” Snorts and eye rolling but they usually go along with it.

            When I’ve initiated discussions of their dreadful circumcision ritual I get snorts and growls and eye contact ceases, but they do relate their memories of that day and this is where the degree of psychological conflict is put on full display. These guys do concede that it was a horrific, frightening, painful event that took them many days to recover from. In several cases, the “specialist” botched the procedure and had to be called back to redo it! I asked what had gone wrong that it needed redoing and they have said that “not enough was cut off”. But the comments that have always followed this are quite telling and really sad to me. Their expression brightens up as they talk about the delicious cakes and special party food that was served after the procedure and that everyone gave them gifts and money and they felt like it was their special day.

            If genital mutilation is to be eradicated, be it male or female, I think it’s a powerful tactic to access these memories of pain and fear and bring them back to the front of the victims’ minds. (The same thing for adult women who are victims of FGM) It was a nasty event that happened in their childhood but when they are prompted to review it as an adult, they DO remember it and they DO relive that memory of excruciating pain. If they continue to leave that bad memory buried in the deep, dark corners of their mind where it never sees the light of day then this violation of human rights will continue.

          • In reply to #52 by LaurieB:

            In reply to #51 by Nitya:

            The aim of the exercise was that it was an event of great significance and they would remember it with pride.

            This is interesting because it’s what I hear from the few N.African guys who will talk about their circumcision events. It’s one of those subjects that is not rea…

            That’s very interesting. In aboriginal culture it’s called “secret men’s business”. “Secret women’s business” exists as well, though it doesn’t involve any genital mutation. Young women were married off quite young to an older man who would have several partners. Many taboos existed about the various people one with whom was allowed to interact. There was a taboo about contact with a man’s mother-in law, for instance. As the tribal unit was quite small, many measures were in place to avoid intermarriage. The dangers of restricting the gene pool were met in this way.

            All this came to an abrupt halt with white settlement. Missionaries did a thorough job of stopping these practices. (Ironic, isn’t it). Their numbers were quite low even two hundred years ago, so that the traditional lifestyle has almost completely disappeared. Like most indigenous cultures around the globe, the modern western life hasn’t been very successful at replacing the structure of tribal life. It’s a complex problem and will probably require a well thought out solution. The aim is to retain the good aspect of the traditional ways and eliminate the more brutal aspects.

            It is many years since I studied this, so I hope I have my facts right. I’m fairly confident that I do, but I’m less sure about the timing of the front tooth being knocked out. I believe they did this in Melanesian culture as well.

          • In reply to #52 by LaurieB:

            In reply to #51 by Nitya:

            If genital mutilation is to be eradicated, be it male or female, I think it’s a powerful tactic to access these memories of pain and fear and bring them back to the front of the victims’ minds. (The same thing for adult women who are victims of FGM) It was a nasty event that happened in their childhood but when they are prompted to review it as an adult, they DO remember it and they DO relive that memory of excruciating pain. If they continue to leave that bad memory buried in the deep, dark corners of their mind where it never sees the light of day then this violation of human rights will continue.

            Nice in theory, perhaps worth a try, but how practical to implement even if it were effective?

            If genital mutilation is to be eradicated we need full bore unapologetic unanimous condemnation at the international level. We need radical and rigorous incentives and disincentives e.g. “We want to sign this foreign aid package for you but our voting citizens won’t let us until you implement a draconian M/FGM elimination campaign.” “We are ready to release part of this foreign aid package now once you implement a draconian M/FGM elimination campaign. The remainder will be released once our monitors on the ground report adequate progress.” “We would like to invite you to this international conference unfortunately nations that permit M/FGM are excluded” “Sorry, we only issue immigrant visas to parents whose children have not been mutilated” “Threat of M/FGM is now grounds for being granted asylum.” etc.

            M/FGM which is a crime needs to formally criminalized. Anyone who participates directly or indirectly must be subject to prosecution: Parents for making their children have it, (witch)doctors for the butchery, preachers abd politicians advocating in favor of it. Jail-time, fines, loss of custody of the child.

          • In reply to #58 by godsbuster:

            I’m all for your ideas of hardliner international pressure on these people. When this topic was discussed here some months ago I put forth the idea of girls who are at risk of FGM being checked at regular intervals by their Dr. for signs of tampering. This would be girls in Europe and the States of course. The immigrant communities should be made aware in no uncertain terms that this practice is a crime in their new home and the adults who are responsible for forcing their daughter into this situation will be arrested and punished.

            Jail-time, fines, loss of custody of the child.

            Is this really in the best interest of the child? I don’t think so. I can’t go along with it. The fines are no problem though. Also, even though I agree with international pressure on these places to get their act together, isn’t it true that outside influence hasn’t made a dent in this problem? I still maintain that the only real effective strategy is for a grassroot movement to come from the inside. Apparently there are some of these groups that are finally getting results on the ground and I can’t remember if I read the article about them here or somewhere else. Will try to find it later.

            Nice in theory, perhaps worth a try, but how practical to implement even if it were effective?

            What’s wrong with theory? I quite like it myself. Tossing ideas around and learning every aspect of a problem should be the first stage in development of a strategy to solve it. My idea above for having girls checked on a regular basis was criticized as being impractical in the past and this may be correct but what the hell, I don’t regret tossing it out there anyway.

    • In reply to #38 by Nitya:

      Have just finished reading comments on this thread. Feel a little embarrassed to be reading comments #5 to #34. Ha ha! Some interesting points, nonetheless.

      The embarrassment is mutual, but unfortunately necessary.

      • In reply to #39 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #38 by Nitya:

        Have just finished reading comments on this thread. Feel a little embarrassed to be reading comments #5 to #34. Ha ha! Some interesting points, nonetheless.

        The embarrassment is mutual, but unfortunately necessary.

        It was funny, though. I kept reading and reading, wondering just where the conversation was heading!

        On another note, the practice of genital mutilation is ghastly, and I agree with the comments suggesting all such practices should be banned…male and female.

        • In reply to #40 by Nitya:

          It was funny, though. I kept reading and reading, wondering just where the conversation was heading!

          Pity, I had hoped that the point would be clearer.

          On another note, the practice of genital mutilation is ghastly, and I agree with the comments suggesting all such practices should be banned…male and female.

          So do I, but female genital mutation is worse, because testosterone is almost as harmful.

          • In reply to #41 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #40 by Nitya:

            It was funny, though. I kept reading and reading, wondering just where the conversation was heading!

            Pity, I had hoped that the point would be clearer.

            On another note, the practice of genital mutilation is ghastly, and I agree with the comments suggesting all such pract…

            I was speaking in jest. It was a learned conversation about a topic generally loaded with taboos. The repressed, giggling teenager part of my brain was simply kicking in.

            I think FGM is probably worse because it’s so much more invasive. The potential for harm and death must be far greater. However, referring back to one of the comments), by making an all encompassing ban ( probably not achievable) it would appear to be more fair. I can imagine the backlash. Who dares to question our cultural practices?

            It’s a tricky one. People are tortured in Papua New Guinea when accused of sorcery, African babies are killed if they’re born with teeth. These cultural rites are barbaric. Education is the only tool at our disposal when it comes down to it.

  7. I was not embarrassed in the slightest at any point during this discussion. How can we combat this assault against women, girls and boys if we can’t speak freely about the cultural aspects of this crime? We need to talk about history, religion and end up with a complete understanding of just how devastating this procedure is to the sexual functioning of vast numbers of females. It’s important to know the truth about female sexuality and not to cling on to virgin-whore dichotomies that are force fed to us women by the big three monotheisms. If anyone still thinks that a female could undergo FGM and go on to enjoy orgasms from a quickie sexual intercourse then they are mistaken. There’s no point in dancing delicately around this. I have data. :-)

  8. …And so the abuse goes on despite it being illegal in the UK! – Here is some UK news!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23001119

    A girl of seven was the youngest victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) treated by the NHS in the past two years, according to new data.

    Some 1,700 women and girls were treated by specialist FGM clinics but this masks a bigger problem says the NSPCC.

    A UK-wide helpline to protect girls at risk of ritual cutting, practised by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities, goes live on Monday.

    The victims “are hidden behind a wall of silence”, said Lisa Harker of NSPCC.

    The helpline is run by NSPCC child protection experts who have had training and advice from experts who work with women and girls who have undergone this form of ritual mutilation.
    Extreme pain

    The charity describes the practice as “illegal and life-threatening” and says that it results in extreme pain as well as physical and psychological problems that can continue into adulthood.

    Female genital mutilation, sometimes known as female circumcision has been illegal in the UK since 1985 – but still continues in secret, often carried out without anaesthetic.

    Some communities from parts of Africa and the Middle East, from both Muslim and Christian traditions, believe it is a necessary part of becoming a woman, that it reduces female sex drive and therefore the chances of sex outside marriage.

    Sometimes girls are sent abroad to have it done. Sometimes it is done in the UK.

    It involves the partial or total removal of the female genital organs, sometimes only leaving a small hole for urination or menstruation. The NSPCC says that victims are usually aged between four and 10 but some are younger.

    Comfort Momoh, a midwife at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London, collated the figures from the specialist clinics.

    She told BBC news that many women are not identified until they become pregnant and are examined by medical staff.

    Others suffer recurrent urinary tract infections and abdominal pain.

    “Many people are not aware they have had it done as it was carried out when they were babies.”

    The NSPCC says the free 24-hour helpline is aimed at anyone concerned that a child’s welfare is at risk because of female genital mutilation, particularly teachers and medical staff, but they are also hoping that relatives will come forward.

    They stress that callers can remain anonymous but information on children at risk will be passed to police and social services.

  9. In reply to #55 by Smill:

    Not wanting to sidetrack from FGM, but it’s surprising just how many cultures have rituals associated with skin cutting.

    It’s amazing, isn’t it! Short of actually killing the subject, these rituals usually involve removal of body parts. I think it’s also interesting when the procedure is rationalised in some way eg the campaign to have circumcision of baby boys done routinely as a measure to prevent the spread of HIV.

    Traditional societies had access to limited materials, ( at least in the Western Desert in Australia) so permanently altering the body was one of the few means at their disposal. Perhaps in areas with more abundant resources such as Nth America, different rituals would have been performed.

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