The Mutilation of My Genitals: When the "Barber" Visited Us

Thursday 15 February 201811:59 am
I can never wipe out the memory of that day. The sun was setting when the "barber" of the village came, carrying a briefcase similar to a doctor's bag where he put the tools of his trade. He parked his bike near one of the houses, while families were preparing victims of boys and girls for circumcision. We heard he was around while we were playing and having fun in the street. I ran away from my mother. He was not yet in our house; still at some neighbors finishing a job. He went to one house after another for the same mission, like a butcher slaughtering sheep. He entered our elegant concrete house, and my cousins went under the knife. I heard them from the street wailing and screaming. I did not see the blood because I ran away. My mother then let my sister take her turn, and ran after me in the street. It was a painful moment. We were taught that while we undress, no one should see us, not even our sisters. They held me down on a large wooden table in the living room. I was sobbing. The barber touched my most private area and decided to butcher me, in the presence of almost all the village's women. What brought him to our house? I have no idea. He ordered my mother and uncle's wife to hold me tightly, and he accomplished his mission. I felt a great deal of shame. I did not see the street for days. I moved to our countryside house and settled down in its second floor. My mother told my sister not to bring me any meat because that, according to a rural notion in our village, would stop the healing of my wound. When I grew up, I felt how heinous this crime was. I am still in pain till present time, asking myself whether we as women are predestined to be victims. Female genital mutilation (FGM) was a normal practice in our village. And as a basic form of gender-based discrimination, lambs would be slaughtered and banquets would be held in the honor of a circumcised boy, who would be served squab in order for his wound to heal fast. A girl would get none of that. Back then, I was in preparatory school. Women were blaming my mother for leaving me uncircumcised. They thought it was high time for me to get under the knife, out of belief that a girl must be circumcised as soon as she finishes primary school. My mother, I recall, would reply to those women saying "she's weak, I fear for her". In the traditions of the village, circumcision is essential for girls to preserve their chastity, as women would argue. No one criminalizes this. Interviews on TV has absolutely no significance regarding FGM; they would still say laughingly: "A girl has to be cold, she's not like a boy."

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

The practice is a form of violence against women. According to the World Health Organization, the aptly-named FGM does mutilate female genital. The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation -- on 6 February of each year -- was first suggested during a conference held by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights in May 2005 to tackle traditional practices that affect the well-being of women and children. The UN later adopted the idea.


On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Egyptian gender research center Tadwein launched an awareness campaign on social media under the English hastag #EndFGM. The campaign aimed to raise awareness over the damage and dangers of FGM, whether physically, psychologically, socially or financially. It has stirred debates on social media, in the hope that the practice will be publicly rejected at some point in the future. There are a plethora of medical articles that explain the types of circumcision and how it could result in abysmal physical and psychological effects, a taboo that is usually tackled only behind closed doors. For example, no one talks about the effects of FGM on sex and how it could possibly destroy a marriage. Villagers are only driven by a compulsion to protect girls' honor, thinking that without FGM, girls would not be able to control their sexual urges upon puberty. Until today, no one realizes that upbringing and sanity, not blades, do protect honor. Meanwhile, the awareness being raised over the side effects of FGM has not quite paid off. This practice might cause a victim to bleed to death or suffer severe anemia. Removing parts of the genital also results in acute pains, in case the woman was not anesthetized. And apart from the trauma, it could lead to scares and pus-filled parts that would leave no medical option other than amputation. Furthermore, female sexual dysfunction is one of the worst permanent health problems the FGM causes. A woman would not be able to climax or satisfy her partner, not to mention the chronic pain she endures during sex. FGM is a harmful experience which leaves dreadful effects that last way beyond its instantaneous pain. Until now, I still suffer the pains of what has happened to me in my village. The pain is unimaginable and the post-surgery trauma leads to depression and horrendous panic attacks during sex. Why do we remain tight-lipped over these crimes? If FGM is a contentious issue, doctors should have the final say. Why do the society insist on listening to ignorant people who call themselves Sheikhs?
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