In many parts of the world, female genital mutilation is still a very common practice. Although this practice was once only related to third world countries, today many incidents have been reported in countries such as Italy, France, America, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Germany, and England, mostly present in immigrants from various parts of Africa.
Although many people in the western world are horrified by such a barbaric custom, not much has been done to try to prevent it from occurring amongst the immigrants. What exactly does female genital mutilation involve? In most cases it’s the removal of part or all the genitalia. There are diverse versions of this technique, the worst being infibulations. The procedure consists of the removal of the clitoris and cutting of the labia majora. Once this is done, everything is stitched together in order to form some type of cover over the vagina. Luckily, only 15% of mutilations consist of infibulations. The vast majority, 85%, consists of the complete removal of the clitoris, usually clipped away with scissors or cut away with a razor blade or knife.
Many of the mutilations go along with a ritual, in some cases to “celebrate” woman’s sexual maturity. Although in some cases, many of the mutilations have been known to be done on mere infants. Girls in industrialized countries are usually operated on illegally by pseudo doctors from their ethic community that reside there.
Genital mutilation isn’t only about a ritual of leaving childhood to venture to adulthood, but it’s also done in a way to control a woman’s sexuality. Especially in the case of infibulations, where the woman is expected to be “opened” by her husband, while in the removal of the clitoris, the man is guaranteed fidelity since the woman, technically speaking cannot achieve an orgasm.
Hannah Koroma is one of the women who was forced to undergo a genital mutilation. "I was genitally mutilated at the age of ten. I was told by my late grandmother that they were taking me down to the river to perform a certain ceremony, and afterwards I would be given a lot of food to eat. As an innocent child, I was led like a sheep to be slaughtered.
Once I entered the secret bush, I was taken to a very dark room and undressed. I was blindfolded and stripped naked. I was then carried by two strong women to the site for the operation. I was forced to lie flat on my back by four strong women, two holding tight to each leg. Another woman sat on my chest to prevent my upper body from moving. A piece of cloth was forced in my mouth to stop me screaming. I was then shaved.
When the operation began, I put up a big fight. The pain was terrible and unbearable. During this fight, I was badly cut and lost blood. All those who took part in the operation were half-drunk with alcohol. Others were dancing and singing, and worst of all, had stripped naked.
I was genitally mutilated with a blunt penknife.
After the operation, no one was allowed to aid me to walk. The stuff they put on my wound stank and was painful. These were terrible times for me. Each time I wanted to urinate, I was forced to stand upright. The urine would spread over the wound and would cause fresh pain all over again. Sometimes I had to force myself not to urinate for fear of the terrible pain. I was not given any anaesthetic in the operation to reduce my pain, nor any antibiotics to fight against infection. Afterwards, I haemorrhaged and became anaemic. This was attributed to witchcraft. I suffered for a long time from acute vaginal infections."
If you wish to find out how you can help prevent genital mutilation visit Amnesty International.
References: Lightfoot-Klein, H., Prisoners of Ritual: An Odyssey into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa, Haworth Press, New York, 1989.