Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Genital Mutilation: Islamic Agony on Women

June 3, 2009

By Lennard James

Female Genital Mutilation that afflict mostly Muslim women today is one of worst horrors suffered by today's women... "Religion: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith" — Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

In today’s world, an estimated 130 million Muslim women, averaging nearly 6,000 a day, have undergone sexual mutilations. This gruesome act is performed in many African countries, including Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Chad.
It is also a tradition among Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia, in Pakistan, and also in a number of countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, the UAE, and parts of rural Saudi Arabia. Coptic Christians in Egypt and animist tribes in Africa, as well as Muslims, undergo the rituals. Subincision is also practiced by some Amazonian tribes and by the Bohri sects in the Indo-Pak regions.
It appears to be driven originally by man’s desire to have power over woman’s sexuality, to remove fear of paternity uncertainty by keeping women chaste, and uninterested in love affairs, but the lasting practice has become so rooted in those societies that it is now perpetuated even by women upon women all over the world...
Female circumcision is frequently described as an “age-old Muslim ritual”; in fact, it predates Islam, and is even believed to be pre-Judaic. Strabo claimed that “the Egyptians circumcised their boys and girls as do the Jews”. The Virgin Mary was likewise said to have been circumcised (Briffault R76v3 324). Islamic traditions say that it was practiced by Sarah on Hagar, and that afterwards both Sarah and Abraham circumcised themselves by the order of Allah (the Old Testament makes no mention of female circumcision, while making it mandatory for men). There is no evidence that any of Muhammad’s wives or daughters were ever circumcised? While there is no mention of it in the Koran, an authentic hadith states: “A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: Do not cut severely, as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband”. Because of this hadith, some scholars of the Shafi’i school of Islam (found mostly in East Africa) consider female circumcision obligatory. The Hanafi and most other schools of Islamic thoughts maintain, ‘it is merely recommended, not essential’ (Goodwin).
The majority of the rural Egyptian women are still circumcised: they normally undergo removal of the clitoris, not do the more extensive procedures. Even then, there are many complications: infections, bleeding, urinary tract damage, sepsis, and in some cases even death...
More than 90% of the Sudanese women undergo the most severe forms of circumcision, known as “pharaonic” or “infibulations”, done at the age of seven or eight; it removes all of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora. The sides are then sutured together, often with thorns and only a small opening, of the diameter of matchsticks, is left for urine and menstrual flows. The girl's legs are then tied together and liquids are heavily rationed until the incision is healed... During this primitive yet major surgery, it is not uncommon for girls, who are held down by their female relatives, to die from shock or even hemorrhaging of the vagina, urethra, bladder, and rectal areas may also be damaged, and the massive keloid scarring can obstruct walking for life.
After marriage, Muslim women who have been infibulated must be forcibly penetrated by their husbands. This may take up to forty days, and when men are impatient, a knife is used to slit it open… Special honeymoon centers are built outside these communities so that the screams of the brides will not be heard. Sometimes the husband traditionally runs through the streets with a blood-stained dagger to show that he had conquered his maiden.
Waris Dirie had to be operated on as an adult before she could have sexual relations with her husband. Dirie's mother, believing that she was doing the best thing for her daughter, walked her into the brush, held her down and told her to bite on a root. A gypsy woman then cut at the lithe girl's genitalia, using a dirty, broken razor blade. “I heard the sound of the dug blade sawing back and forth through my skin”. The woman used thorns from an acacia tree to puncture holes in her vaginal skin and sew her up, leaving only a tiny hole for the urinal and menstrual flows. “My legs were completely numb, but the pain between them was so intense and excruciating that I wished I would die”! Five-year-old Waris was left in a hut to recuperate her infibulations. Her two cousins died from severe infections.
Uncircumcised Muslim girls in those societies are seen as unclean and treated as outcasts by their family. For more than 20 years, Dirie suffered health problems from her radical circumcision. Menstruation was a long and agonizing process each month, as the menstrual blood backed up in her body. It's when we touch on the subject of sex that Dirie becomes agitated. “Please,” she implores, “let’s not talk about that. Just use your imagination. I will never know the pleasures of sex that have been denied to me. I feel incomplete, crippled and knowing that there's nothing that I can do to change all this, which is the most hopeless feeling of all”.
“When I met Dana (husband), I finally fell in love and wanted to experience the joys of sex with a man. But if you ask me today, ‘Do you enjoy sex?’ I would say not in the traditional way...! I simply enjoy being physically close to Dana, because I love him. It never gets easier. It is emotionally draining to talk about something, which has been locked deep for so long. The hardest part is to start somewhere”... “Everybody is waiting; they don't know what to do. The West is aware of the problems. But they're told to back off, and it's none of your business”…???
Hawa Adan Mohamed was born and raised in Somalia. At the age of 8 she underwent the most radical forms of FGM practiced infibulations performed by her aunt in a small village. The procedure was carried out without anesthetics, using basic cutting tools and thorns. She lost an older sister, who died after the operation. In Somalia, circumcision is such a deeply rooted part of a Muslim girl's life. “From the moment we are crawling, we know about circumcision; we know that our grandmothers and mothers and sisters are circumcised, and we look forward to it being done to us also”…. Back then, no one would have even dreamt of not being circumcised??? “If a mother doesn't get her daughter(s) circumcised, her daughter(s) will be an outcast, no one will marry her, and everyone would think she is a prostitute; so it is a very difficult situation; we can't be angry at anyone, because the mothers' intentions are always good”.
In 1995, Hawa returned home despite ongoing civil turmoil, to help her countries women deal with the menace of circumcision. “I was devastated by what I saw. It seems that we have gone back 40 years. Girls were being infibulated every day with razors and thorns. Two young girls recently died following the procedure, and yet still many don't question it? My dream is that, in my lifetime, there will be young girls living in the heart of Somalia, who can run free and play without pain, without the cruel and devastating effects of FGM circumcisions…. Even just a few, even 10…!!!" (NZ Herald 25 Nov 98).
At the age of 18 Zebebu Tulu, was kidnapped by her future husband, Getachew (Getu) Moneta, and taken to his brother's home. Such forced unions are not uncommon in Ethiopia, where men often have near-total control over Muslim women's lives. Traditions forbade tearful Zenebu from returning to her parents’ house, and the pair was married after negotiations between the two families (NZ Herald).
Nawal el Sadaawi has been a prominent campaigner against female circumcisions, which has earned her the ire of the mullahs.
The Naked Face of Eve contains several commentaries on female circumcision:
My blood was frozen in my veins. It looked to me as though some thieves had broken into my room, and kidnapped me from my bed. They were getting ready to cut my throat, which was always what happened with disobedient girls like myself in the stories that my old rural grandmother was so fond of telling me... I strained my ears trying to catch the rasp of the metallic sound. The moment it ceased, it was as though my heart stopped beating with it. I was unable to see, and somehow my breathing seemed also to have stopped. Yet I imagined the thing that was making the rasping sound coming closer and closer to me. ... At that very moment I realized that my thighs had been pulled wide apart, and that each of my lower limbs was being held as far away from the other as possible, gripped by-steel fingers that never relinquished their pressure. I felt that the rasping knife or blade was heading straight down towards my throat. Then suddenly the sharp metallic edge seemed to drop between my thighs and there cut off a piece of flesh from my body. I screamed with pain despite the tight hand held over my mouth, for the pain was not just a pain, it was like a searing flame that went through my whole body. After a few moments, I saw a red pool of blood around my hips. I did not know what they had cut off from my body, and I did not try to find out. I just wept and wept and I wept, and called out to my mother for help. But the worst shock of all was when I looked around and found her standing by my side. Yes, it was her, I could not be mistaken, in flesh and blood, right in the midst of these strangers, talking to them and smiling at them, as though they had not participated in slaughtering her daughter just a few moments ago.
Elizabeth Lloyds in making a case that ‘female orgasm is just for women to have fun with and no reproductive values’, has claimed that FGM has little effect on fertility:
1. “Women who have had FGM do suffer a significantly increased fertility risks. Women who have had the procedure are more likely to need Caesareans and the death rate among their babies is up to 50% higher” WHO said in a new report. The study, reported in the Lancet, involved 30,000 African women (BBC “Female circumcision 'birth risk' 2 June 2006).
2. A study by Jones et al. in Burkina Faso also found that women who have been cut are more likely to experience obstetric complications, a 1998-1999 NHRC study found that women who were circumcised and married off earlier than uncircumcised women, and that circumcised women had greater total fertility than the uncircumcised women (Reason 2004).
3. Another study based on DHS surveys in the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and Tanzania found that, “when controlling for confounding socioeconomic, demographic and cultural variables, circumcised Muslim women, grouped by age at circumcision, did not have significantly different odds of infertility nor of childbearing than uncut women” (emphasis added, Larsen and Yan).
4. "The Relationship between Female Genital Cutting and Fertility in Kassena-Nankana District of Northern Ghana", noted a Paper presented by Elizabeth F. Jackson, Philip B. Adongo, Ayaga A. Bawah, Ellie Feinglass, and James F. Phillips at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, Philadelphia, March 31 - April 2, 2005)
It is clear that, patriarchal societies that diminish or eliminate the Muslim women’s capacity for orgasms, by genital cutting or any other means, also have an agenda to make the Muslim women bear more children—i.e. more ‘reproductively successful’. FGM also occurs because men fear, not without good reason, that female arousal does influence reproductive choice. See also the Dogons, the Shipibo and the Sunnah.
In 2004, an international conference on FGM—female genital mutilation—has ended in Kenya with a fresh call to ban these inhumane practices amongst Muslims. The campaigners urged more Muslim countries to ratify the ‘Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa’ adopted in July 2003. It has so far been ratified by just three states, Rwanda, Libya and Comoros. Although, female circumcision is banned in 14 Islamic African countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana and Togo, the practice is still widespread.