I painfully, vividly remember
I was only eight years old
Delicate, frail and fragile
I saw the stern faces
Various kinds of decrepit rusty knives and razors
Yellow and dark brown concoctions in bitsy bottles
Bunches of green leaves and a snail shell
I was tossed on the floor
Lying naked on the reeking moist mat
Soiled by the blood of my predecessors
Lying defenseless like an animal to be slaughtered
Their sturdy hands spreading apart my thighs
Pinning down my hands and legs
The mutilator knelt and buried her heads in between my thighs, exploring me
Mama blindfolded me with a rag and placed my head on her laps
I was in utter darkness
Trembling, gripped by fear
I heard their pitiless inexorable voices:
“It is our ancestors’ wishes
We must protect our girls and prevent pre-marital sex
Clitoris! What is the use?
We must cut it!
They must be clean and preserve their virginity.”
I felt the sharp nipping knife
Piercing savagely through my flesh
I wailed and my heart palpitated
Hot tears streamed through the blindfold
Instead of compassion, they fortified their grasp
I was helpless, I could not struggle
She continued slashing my flesh brutishly
Twisting and whirling my raw wounded flesh in her hands
Viciously and barbarously ripping my flesh
My blood gushing and streaming under my thighs
She brutally dabbed off the blood with a damp rag
And rubbed in the stinging concoctions
Then came the thorny needle
Stitching my raw wounded flesh
The pain was excruciating, agonizing and harrowing
Like a keen-edged knife slitting through my heart
She heaved a sigh of relief and said:
“Now you are clean, now you are a woman!”
I heard her fading voice and passed out
The preceding gives an account of the agonizing experience of victims of Female Genital Mutilation.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a deep rooted harmful traditional practice found in many parts of the world, Nigeria inclusive. FGM is a destructive operation during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured for non-medical reasons with the goal of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. FGM ranges from partial or total removal of the clitoris, to the removal of the entire clitoris and the cutting of the labia minora, to the most destructive form, the removal of the entire external genitalia and the stitching together of the two sides of the vulva. It is typically carried out with or without anesthesia using various types of unsterilized instruments: knives, razor blades, scalpels, scissors or pieces of broken glasses. It is usually carried out by a traditional circumciser under very unhygienic circumstances. An estimated 101 million girls have undergone FGM in Africa.
This inhumane mutilation of girls and women is premised on the obnoxious traditional belief that female sexuality must be inhibited. Uncircumcised girls are often seen as sexually indulgent and unclean. It is falsely believed that FGM increases fertility, prevents pre-marital sex, controls waywardness of girls, preserves virginity, is a religious requirement, pleases men, brings about cleanliness and promotes faithfulness to husband. All these are myths and false justifications for FGM, as FGM is not a religious requirement and there is no scientific proof that girls/women who were not mutilated are sexually lax.
FGM has no health benefits whatsoever for girls/women. Instead, FGM does irreparable harm that spans through a woman’s life. It causes intense pain and shock during and after the procedure. It causes damage to adjoining organs, painful or blocked menses, urine retention, blockage of urethra, anxiety, severe depression, increased risk in HIV infection, wound infection, recurrent urinary tract infections, abscesses, cysts, keloid scars, infertility, bladder infections, higher rate of childbirth complications and even death through severe bleeding. Girls who have been infibulated often have trouble passing urine as the urethra may be obstructed. The small hole left in some “operations” may lead to difficulty in the passage of menstrual blood. This may lead to painful periods or pelvic inflammatory diseases.
It is very heartbreaking that FGM is still deeply entrenched in the Nigerian society. A few weeks ago, it was reported in national newspapers that a man who is an indigene of Abeokuta was uncomfortable going home for the festive season for the fear of his daughters being circumcised. Unfortunately, there is no federal law banning FGM in Nigeria.
FGM is a form of child abuse which has devastating physical and psychological effects on girls. It is a form of gender-based violence and a grave violation of girls/women rights. FGM is a contravention of S.34 (1999 Constitution) which provides: “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly no person shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment…” FGM violates a person’s right to health, sexuality, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture, cruel treatment, discrimination on the basis of sex and the right to life. There is the urgent need for the abolishment of this harmful and inhuman traditional practice in Nigeria.
Just take a few seconds and imagine your lips being cut off with razor blades and knives. Imagine the stream of blood gushing out and the terrifying sight of the pieces of your flesh all scattered on the floor. It will be a tormenting, torturous and agonizing experience. Leaving you psychologically and mentally scarred for the rest of your life. Why then subject girls and women to such torture and degrading treatment? Girls and women are God’s priceless gift to mother earth. The rose flower is a beautiful gift, why cut off its petals. We must respect and protect girls/women’s natural sexuality. It is our duty to protect them. The world should be a place where women feel safe. We all need to stand united against FGM and break the cycle of FGM. The time has come to drop the knives and blades. The clitoris is a GIFT!
SAY NO TO FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION!
Happy International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
God Bless Nigeria!
Writer: Fisayo Aransiola (Human Rights Lawyer: Steps to Life…Nig.)
Photocredit – voice-online.co.uk