by Acura Mahinian (a pseudonym)
I am a victim of female genital cutting. I was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa. At 12 years old, I underwent female circumcision with the consent of my grandmother. This was an experience I will never forget. I remembered I was positioned on on a hard rock. My aunt sat behind me because my grandmother was afraid to be in the room where the mutilation took place. My aunt pulled my head against her chest, my body was pinned between her legs. I circled my arms around her thigh. I can still recollect my aunt's voice telling me to be quiet and do not yell loud.
At one point during the procedure, though, my aunt covered my mouth because I screamed for loud due to the excruciating pain. Nobody paid any attention to me. The next thing I felt was my flesh being cut away. I heard the blade sawing back and forth through my skin. The feeling is indescribable. I was so young; I did not know what to do. I was helpless. I did not see the razor used to cut my clitoris. My aunt told me it was a razor. The pain was unbearable at times, especially during urination. It was very painful.
Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad who became a supermodel, has courageously used her fame and influence to tell the public of the moment she had her genitalitia mutilated. She gave a dramatic picture on how she was mutilated as a young girl. When I read it, I recognzied my memories of mine. Like me, Waris said she both fearful for and grateful her daughter will not have to endure what she experienced (3).
Female circumcision is also known as female genital mutilation (FGM). It is a health and human problem all over the world. It is justified as culture and religious practice (4). Another justification (false) it it's good hygiene and maintains traditional discipline of the female (2). Female circumcision is wrong because it violates the world moral values against bodily pain and badly harms at least 50% of human beings wherever it is done (5). . Sharp and excruciating pain is felt from this procedure (2). It is not done with the consent of the victim; in fact, it is done in spite of her and when she is young and unable to fend for herself, when she has no strength of her own. How is this a religious practice everyone agrees to when the girl is so young? I did not agree to it. Reports show female mutilations are performed to maintain the girl's virginity until marriage and her chastity afterwards; to increase sexual pleasure for the husband (it is implied he enjoys her fear and pain!). The procedure is an attempt to break the girl's spirit through making her fearful and humbling her. She sees how powerless she is. Researchers say the the main reason for FGM is to reduce a woman's sexual pleasures and libido).
Female mutilation is commonly practiced in African and the Arab world; as many as 97% of all girls and women have been circumcised. The Muslim religion condones female circumcision so as a result it spread as a popular practice in African in those places where most people are Muslims! (5). Some say the practice is not condoned by religion or found in religious customs; on the contrary, it is spread through customs called religious.
FGM is performed in three different ways based on the extensive excisions of the genitalia. Type 1 is partial or total removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy); type 11 is the removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; type 111 is the removal of clitoris, labial minora, and the inner surface of the labia majora (5). In the latter, the most severe form, the labia are stitched together, with only a small hole remaining for urination and menstruating (1). FGM is performed without anesthesia or sterile instruments (2). Girls who have undergone female genitalia cutting suffer both short and long-term (life-long) complications. Some short term complications include hemorrhage, infections, and tetanus; some severe long-term complications include urinary tract infections, infertility, fistulas, and choric pelvic infections.
The World Health organization confirmed that in 1998 more than 135 million girls and women had undergone female circumcision and 2 million girls are at risk every year (5). The World Health Organization also reported that over 85 million girls from infancy through adolescence have undergone female mutilation (2). Another statistic reported I encountered is 95% of female genital mutilation is performed on girls between one day to 16 years old, most commonly between the ages of 4 and 10 years old (5).
All this is in accordance with what I saw and experienced when I lived in Sierra Leone. In most women, their small vagina opening that was stitched after the mutilation needs to be cut open on their first sexual encounter or their wedding night because the men are unable to penetrate through the small opening. I have seen female genital cutting ceremony carried out as an elaborate ritual where friends and family members were invited; it was said by those who did this to represent a transition into womanhood. I have never seen a girl who didn't protest frantically at some point, even if not in public. Then she just is in very bad pain. She is held down.
Women who have undergone female genital cutting have been forever ruined and traumatized by the experience. Most women know that their bodies are not the same but many do not pay attention to this until their first sexual intercourse. They become very shy and traumatized by the mutilation; often they will not allow vaginal penetration, so other kinds of sex take place instead. These women need support. Sometimes these women are badly scared of pregnancy because they worry about the delivery process through a tiny hole (5).
Many health professional actually remain unaware that this cultural practice goes on. (Many circumcisions are done quietly and in secret the way mine was done.) Many also do not recognize the laws and customs that go along with it so they don't recognize when it probably has been done to the girl. (3). Physicians and midwives must be sensitive and have respect for their patient when they discover she has a mutilated vagina. If you are a modern scientifically-educted physician or medical person if the patient wants to, it is best to lead the patient to discuss what happened and the values that promote it if you can; then you are honoring the patients' culture; then if the patient looks as if she wants to talk more, you can gently turn the discussion to modern or universal moral values. Women with genital mutilation tend to see midwives or female doctors. Their culture makes them wary of male physicians and personnel. In some groups, the woman is not allowed to see a doctor without male relatives in the room. If she has something wrong with her that involves her female reproductive system, it is very hard to help her cure it through medicine because it is difficult to get her to discuss the situation before her relatives (alone too).
The statistics on female circumcision remain high in some parts of the world. Female circumcision must be eradicated. All the customs surrounding it must be changed. Only in this way can we begin to the well-being of women. There are many organizations in the world that have involved themselves to try to protect women from these and other inhuman acts, such as The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the African Women's Health Center. These organizations educate health care providers, African women, and policy makers about the psychological impact, and the aftermath, of female circumcision (4).
Thank God, my daughters are safe in the United States. Female circumcision is against the law in the United States According to nursing standards 2005, the Female Genital Mutilation Act also makes it illegal to take girls abroad to be mutilated. The act is in effect since last year, but this practice (of sending girls abroad for this procedure) still continues.
Sharing my own experience, writing it down, has been the hardest thing, but I have wanted to do it.
This article presents an overview of how culture and religion contribute to female circumcision. It also addresses the dilemma faced by nurses in making judgments in cross-culture situation. It explained how immjgranffrom West Africa brought female circumcision fo first world countries and iras implications. It has facts and resources about the aftermath of FGM.
This book has many facts and definitions about the different forms of female circumcision, but does not offer any advice to women. There was not much discussion of female circumcision.
This article has a lot of medical research and will answer a lot of questions concerning female circumcision. It also addresses the psychological aspects of the aftermath. The article offers testimonies from women, sharing their experiences. One draw back, I would have like to see pictures of female circumcision.
This editorial addresses psychological issues concerning women that undergone female genital cutting. On drawback of the editorial is there are no testimonies of women thaHras undergone this procedure.
This website offers facts, resources and testimonies about the after effects of female circumcision. This article will help women now to coping with their bodies and their significant other how to help them in the process of healing.