“To cut off the sensitive sexual organ of a girl is directly against the honesty of nature, a distortion to her womanhood, and an abuse of her fundamental human right”– Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere
When you hear about female genital mutilation (FGM), you automatically think of Africa where more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa but, are you aware that this procedure takes place in the United States of America?
“In the U.S., up to 507,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM). Typically, women and girls are subjected to FGM before moving to the U.S., or if born in the U.S., they could be in serious danger of being subjected to it during vacations to their families’ countries of origin — a practice known as “vacation cutting.” Summer is known as the most dangerous “cutting season”.
American born Mariya Taher was a victim of vacation cutting. As a child, Taher was visiting relatives in Mumbai, India, with her family when her mother took her to have the procedure done. Here’s her story.
Federal laws in the U.S. recognize FGM as an extreme act of violence against women and girls and the government has recommitted itself to ending it in the U.S. and abroad. Several agencies are working to live up to these commitments and raise awareness. Eliminating FGM will take time and resources, but in the meantime, more states should put laws in place to protect at-risk women and girls. The federal agencies should support states in their efforts to stop FGM locally.
An American woman named Jennifer who was from a strict white Christian community has shared her story about how her parents forced her and her older sister to undergo FGM as a children. Jennifer was five years old at the time. “We were sent on a long trip. Mum and dad told us we were going somewhere special. It felt like an adventure,” she said. Then, the excitement soon turned into terror. “I remember my arms and legs being held down and somebody covered my eyes. It was awful. I think I blacked out and when I came to they had tied my legs together. On the trip home I knew we had both gone through something terrible. When we got home my mum told us we weren’t ever to talk about what had happened.”
Jennifer grew up believing that most women had gone through the same ordeal until she realized this was not the case when she studied reproductive health at nursing school. Why is FGM done to girls like her? She was made to believe that, “many things were considered a sin. For a woman to be sexual was seen as a sin, for her to have pleasure was a sin.”
For Renee Bergstrom, now in her 70s, she was cut at a church clinic when she was three because her mother thought she was touching herself. Apparently in the nineteenth century some doctors in the United States performed clitoral cutting to treat masturbation and other perceived sexual problems.
Sex is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a gift from God and it’s to be expressed between a man and a woman. This idea that women should not be sexual or enjoy sex is ridiculous. Sex is another way for her to express her love for her husband. Sarah, Abraham’s wife enjoyed sex. When God said that she would have a child in her old age, she scoffed and mused to herself, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” She associated pleasure with sex. Did God have a problem with that? No. Why then should people who profess to be Christians like Jennifer’s parents have a problem with it?
Jennifer was also taught that “…men were the leaders and God made women to be submissive.” I guess her parents glossed over the scriptures which made it clear that Eve was taken from Adam’s side and that “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” or that “husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Genesis 2:21, 22; Ephesians 5:28, 29 & 31).
Proponents of FGM claim “that it carries on tradition, protects a woman’s honor and ensures a her virginity until marriage. In some places a woman may not get married unless she has undergone the procedure” (abc News). Although it is often thought to be a religious ritual, FGM has nothing to do with religion. It is a barbaric practice designed to oppress and disfigure women. It should be outlawed and those who continue to practice it should be charged as criminals and put behind bars and this include parents. FGM is gender violence and it needs to be banned and criminalized.
If you want to take action against FGM here are 7 lessons from Plan International:
- CHALLENGE THE DISCRIMINATORY REASONS FGM IS PRACTISED
- CHANGE TRADITIONS – WITH THE SUPPORT OF OLDER GENERATIONS
- EDUCATE GIRLS ON THEIR RIGHT TO DECIDE WHAT HAPPENS TO THEIR BODY
- SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE RISKS AND REALITIES OF FGM
- SPREAD UNDERSTANDING THAT RELIGION DOES NOT DEMAND FGM
- TACKLE THE SECRECY THAT ALLOWS CUTTING TO CONTINUE
- KEEP PUSHING FOR FGM TO BE BANNED
Jennifer was told not to talk about what happened to her sister and her but she decided to tell her story after launching a campaign to press her home state of Kentucky to outlaw FGM. Kentucky is one of 21 states that does not criminalize the practice. Click here if you would like to sign the petition.
Join the fight to end FGM. It’s a crime against humanity.
“The best way to make a girl to abstain from pre-marital sex is not by cutting her genital, but by educating and mentoring her” – Joseph Osuigwe Chidiebere