BY SHAMIRAH ABDALLAH
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the partial or entire removal of the external female genitalia for cultural reasons –usually between 5 to 12 years of a girl. Mutilation though known as female circumcision is absolutely different from the Islamic female circumcision that was taught by the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] as for it is done as a destruction of the genitals. According to the various Muslim scholars with evidence from the incident that happened during the Prophet Muhammad’s time, it shows as there was a woman in Mecca who was doing circumcision for girls and as the issue reached the prophet for guidance, he advised that “It should be done not to the extreme as it is better for the woman and more desired by the husband.” This somehow proves that circumcision can as well be carried out on the woman but not as compulsory as it is for the males, and only if it is done basing on the Islamic teachings – which suggest that only a very little part of the clitoris should be cut. And to set the record straight, Somaliland is in the forefront of this complicated act.
It is important here to note that there are three commonly used forms of FGM according to the different people in different societies and countries as listed below:
- Clitoridectomy, which involves the complete cutting of the clitoris which is believed to be the most sensitive part of the genitals.
- Excision,the clitoris is completely cut off and so are the labia minora and labia majora.
- Infibulation, in this case, some or all of the external genitals are cut off. Then the two sides of the vulva are sewn to cover the inner part of the genitals leaving a very small opening through which the urine and the menstrual blood are expected to pass out. The wound is healed with the use of the Somali herb called ‘Malmal’ and by tying the legs of the girl together. The space is later on half way opened for the girl’s first night in marriage and fully opened during child birth. This is the most commonly used form of FGM in Somaliland.
Gudniinka Fircooniga ah (FGM) in the Somali language is believed to be of some importance basingon the Somali culture according to the Somalis.
According to them, a girl who underwent FGM has more chances of getting married than the one that was not circumcised because it is so said that men like circumcised girls more than those who are not.
More so, a girl whose genitals is only opened during her first night in marriage is most likely or obviously a virgin. Therefore, it is also done to ensure the virginity of a girl child until marriage which earns the parents of the girl more respect than they had before.
Furthermore, FGM is done in fear that the girl might bring shame to the family through being sexually active and end up getting pregnant before marriage. So, it helps to decrease on the girl’s sexual desires – thereby reducing fitna (i.e. atrocities) in the society.
Despite what is said to be the reasons of carrying out FGM, the negative effects are worse than the merits and very painful since most of them tend to leave permanent scars on the victim.
According to some men, since the girl was mutilated to decrease her sexual desires, it is very hard for them to sexually arouse their wives as one man said, “It is like bringing a dead person back to life.” This has led to the increased number of divorce cases between couples, and consequently men are now in search for uncircumcised women.
Inability to pass out urine due to the too much pain and some girls have confessed that they get a lot of complications during their periods, apart from the pain, the menstrual blood also sometimes does not come out as it has to. Some is left and collected within leading to medical surgeries.
Problems during child birth, women who were circumcised may have to have the labial tissue cut open to allow the proper and safe delivery of the baby.
The most severe consequence is death due to excessive blood lose.
In a discussion with some of Somali girls who have been circumcised, it was disclosed by most of the victims that FGM gives them lifetime painful experiencesand torture from the day it was done. One of the narrations is comprehensively presented below.
“I was 9 years when I was circumcised. While I was outside playing, my mother called me into a room where there were six women including my grandmother. I saw a razorblade and a pair of scissors on the table in the room as they asked me to lie down. My mother held my head still as I laid down, two women grabbed my hands sideways, two more women caught my legs separated and one sat between my legs. I felt a cut and in a lot of pain I started fighting, trying to free myself and run out. I fought so much that the lady that was circumcising me lost focus, then another woman was called in and sat on my chest. Nothing more I could do but in so much pain I felt it all and cried so much. They used a Somali herb called ‘Malmal’ and put it on my cut clitoris wound. Then, they sew my genitals leaving a very small opening, they tied my legs together and it took me 2 weeks to heal” said one of the girls.
She continued, “Until now, I have problems urinating, my back hurts and my chest started hurting from when that woman sat in it. Ever since I started my periods, I feel a lot of pain each time my month is due and throughout the menstrual period.” She added, “When my mother saw the complications I got as a result of FGM right from my childhood, my younger sisters were saved because she stopped it and vowed never to do it again. Therefore in my family, I am the only circumcised girl.”
Like her mother, some women have tried to change for the better and are now condemning it but the number of those who still do it is greater than those who chose to change.
Our people should be made to know that, religious-wise, circumcision is only obligatory for boys, and not girls. Perhaps those involved in the process need adequate modern medical and islamic knowledge so as to carry out the tradition in a proper Islamic and unmutilated way. They simply need to be informed that there is a huge difference between circumcision (recommended by the prophet) and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In a nutshell, if FGM is not strongly objected, I’m afraid more young women will stillbeendlessly falling victims.