Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a form of human rights violation not to mention violence against women and if you ask me, we are not highlighting this enough. An estimated 200 million women and girls are living with FGM today, yes, 200 MILLION.
Waris Dirie vividly narrates her FGM experience in chapter 4 of the Desert Flower and I kid you not, it was difficult reading that chapter, let alone imagining that the story is based on real-life experience. Waris was only 5 years old, brought up in a culture that strongly believed (still does) that female circumcision was an ideal way of "becoming a woman". And if you were not circumcised, you were referred to as "a dirty little girl".
As I flipped through the pages, each page becoming more and more horrifying, all I could think of was why in the hell would women and young girls go through such a gruesome practice.
I know several cultures that live by this practice and they would argue that all cultures have contrasting practices and neither is wrong nor right - cultural relativism. Cultures vary in what they regard as right and wrong, standards vary from place to place. Over time, there is no universal standard, and consequently, it is mistaken to criticize the practices of another culture. I get that. But mutilating a young girls genitals in the name of making her a woman WITHOUT HER CONSENT AND UNDERSTANDING of what the consequences of FGM are is outright VIOLATION of her human rights (and I cannot stress this enough).
There are many reasons why some cultures uphold this tradition to date but one factor stands out, FGM is a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality and patriarchy, a fact recognized by the WHO. By cutting off a woman's genitals, men believe that this is a way of controlling a woman's sexual needs and desires. They believe that this practice prevents women from engaging in promiscuous behavior. They believe that FGM is for safeguarding the morality of women, preserve their virginity and save them from temptation and disgrace. In short, this awful practice benefits the man. You are cutting off the most sensitive part of a woman's body BECAUSE OF A MAN, what nonsense!
I could rave about this topic all day long but I'll save you the trouble. My point is, once again, patriarchy wins. The same patriarchy we are working tirelessly to smash.
Coming of age rituals and practices should not be a frightful experience for young girls and neither should they be for the benefit of men. Waris Dirie went through this because the beliefs surrounding FGM were deeply embedded in her from childhood. She had no access to education or information. That was her truth then, that was all she grew up knowing.
And now, many years later, she is a UN special Ambassador fighting for girls all over the world against what she went through. Maybe we should all take a cue from her strength and courage. We should know better, we should be angry enough to end this, we should do anything in our power to speak out and effect positive change.
This is a book about courage, strength, and redemption. I would highly recommend this powerful read to every girl and woman out there. Heck, this should even be a set book in schools.
My heart goes out to every young girl and women that have had to go through this horrific practice, I see you, I feel you and I am praying for you.
I am the creator, host, and writer of The Candid Cave Podcast and Blog. I am a proud feminist and an advocate for positive change around the world.