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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Customising the ‘perfect woman’ through FGM for ‘man almighty’

Published September 15, 2009

For most men, the perfect woman is submissive, hardworking, quiet and in awe of his intelligence – or lack of. She listens to his every word, is amazed at his great ideas and agrees to all his suggestions because he is ‘the’ man, and he definitely knows more than she does. That woman’s body belongs to the man, and therefore if he wants her to lose some weight, who is she to deny him that? If he wants her to gain some pounds, she better do so to keep him happy. That is the perfect woman.

Because of this, when women tend to move away from this male perception of how they should look, act and think, men feel threatened and call her names all in a bid to control her. She is called a whore because she dares to be independent and not resigned to the ‘baby-making-machine’ kind of life. She is called good-for-nothing because she pursues her career instead of settling down and concentrating on her role as a housewife. She is uncouth because she insists on speaking her mind and does not take everything she is told as the gospel truth.

For all there is to male dominion, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) takes the prize for being the worst kind of evil exercised against the female gender in the name of culture. Wife inheritance pales in comparison. No form of degradation, inhumanity or even crime compares to FGM.

The method with which FGM is carried out varies from gross, disgusting, to despicable. Even the names have a scary ring to them- clitoridectomy, excision. They are synonymous to evil! Clitoridectomy is the partial or total removal of the clitoris. Excision is the partial or total removal of both the clitoris and the labia minora (these are the lips surrounding the vagina).

Some communities in Kenya that still practice FGM mostly carry out clitoridectomy on girls just approaching puberty between the ages of 13 to 15. The ritual is considered to be parcel to girl grooming to prepare her for adulthood and marriage. Although the practise is decreasing, the numbers are still intolerable.

The Pitta-Patta Aborigines from Australia practise introcision – the cutting into the vagina by use of a sharp object. When a girl reaches puberty, the whole tribe – both sexes – assembles. The operator, an elderly man, enlarges the vaginal orifice by tearing it downward with three fingers. Others use, get this – a stone knife! This is usually followed by compulsory sexual intercourse with a number of young men.

Introcision is also practised in Peru, in particular among the Conibos, a division of the Pano Indians in the North-East. As soon as a girl reaches maturity, she is intoxicated and subjected to mutilation in front of her community. The operation is performed by an elderly woman using a bamboo knife! She cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medicinal herbs are applied followed by the insertion into the vagina of a slightly moistened object made of clay.

These cultural practises have no place in modern times. We are advancing technologically, economically and even scientifically. We have been to the moon and back, we are making sperm cells on a petri dish, cloning ourselves and finding cures for previously terminal illnesses but still refuse to leave such barbaric practises calling them cultural. What did that young girl do to deserve such mutilation on her body?

This practise does nothing to help the woman. On the contrary, it causes numerous risks to her health. This just goes to show how far men will go to dominate and prove superior to the women. Long-term consequences like recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections are bound to be suffered following such operations. Some may even suffer infertility or childbirth complications or infant deaths- all in the name of culture! In the case of introcision where the vagina is sealed, later surgeries are required to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth when the “powers that be” feel that it is the right time. Sometimes, it is even stitched back to close it again afterwards! What is this, a door that can be opened and shut at the whims of a man?

In most communities where the practice persists, bride price is deeply entrenched and any girl who refuses to be circumcised is a threat to the would-be wealth her father expects on her marriage. They will fetch a lower bride price, and we cannot have that now, can we? They also believe that a circumcised girl will lead a responsible married life. Her subsequently reduced libido will prevent her from straying. So if anyone should enjoy sex it is the “man almighty!”

Once all the above have been carried out, the man has his perfect woman- a woman who is submissive and doesn’t stray. What’s more, she made her father rich – her ‘perfection’ increased her bride price! This woman, in a bid to be perfected to suit what the man likes, is in danger of haemorrhaging to death; she might never give birth or do so with complications. She is prone to infections during and after the FGM process -what with all the crude weapons (wood, stones and metals) used to tear her body apart. And for what? Gentlemen, get real!