FGM - The Shame of Men
(female genital mutilation)
Has the unkindest cut been incorrectly attributed to the wrong gender? MGM (male genital mutilation) is restricted to circumcision, a mere snip, an operation for which, in some circumstances there is some justification. In primitive societies in ancient times, facilities were also primitive, and hygiene difficult, especially in waterless desert regions where the idea of circumcision was born. Infection and discomfort would have been common and treatment difficult, so the solution was obvious. ‘If it offends thee, cut it off.’ It is unlikely that the remedy would have been decreed by God – who, you can argue, put it there in the first place – but more than likely by some well-meaning tribal leader or prophet speaking on his behalf. And making it a religious law has ensured its continuance to this day. (Genesis 17 – 8 to 14)
No such law was decreed for women. Not in the bible, Koran (Quran) or in any other religious or monotheistic text. FGM is not characteristic of any society or religion, of any country, race, colour or ethnic group. FGM was born of a patriarchal class system, where one class ruled over another, and where women were subjugated in the state and family unit. Women were little more than slaves, and this oppressive dichotomy still persists. Women are veiled and isolated at home under the authority of their men, ensuring they have no economic independence, and therefore are unable to leave or avoid their subjugation. Women who do not obey their men are severely punished. The punishment for a woman who betrays her husband is death, but a man has the right to betray his wife because it seems God conveniently gave him the right to divorce and to practice polygamy. In this backward patriarchal system obedience of the husband or father is inseparable from obedience to God.
To further ensure this enforced allegiance to men in these repressive societies, women are circumcised in an attempt to diminish their sexual desires and certify their virginity before marriage. This works insofar as it makes sexual satisfaction difficult, but fails because pleasure is a function of the brain, and if they can’t be satisfied by their husbands, maybe they can achieve satisfaction outside the marriage. One has to wonder why they get married in the first place, but the answer is simple. Men have plugged all the loopholes. Without a husband a woman has no means of support. If education is not expressly forbidden, it is at least frowned upon. Finding employment in a male dominated society like this is almost impossible. And because women have been brow-beaten into submission, it is only natural for them to rationalise their situation. Instead of supporting their sisters, women who rebel are ostracized by them for being different. Uncircumcised women are unable to find a husband and are labeled as ‘unclean’, an insidious stigma with no substance.
The paranoiac fear that these men have of women’s fidelity has, in some societies, gone beyond excision of the clitoris and into infibulation (Sudanese FGM). There are three main types of excision. In the first, which is a simple circumcision, only the hood of the clitoris is removed. In the second, the clitoris and some, if not all, of the labia minora and labia majora are removed and, in some cases, the vagina is stitched closed, leaving only a small fissure for menstruation and urination and, of course, once the mutilation has healed, sex. But the scar tissue must be broken before the girl is able to perform sex, so it is also an enforced chastity device. It is broken by the man during the act, a painful experience which is like breaking virginity. With infibulation, Infection is rife, and death not uncommon.
Most Islamic and Arab countries, according to Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and others, know nothing of FGM. Only Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen practice it. Uganda and some other African countries have banned it, or are in the process of making it illegal. Still, government propaganda has little impact on people who live in poverty and ignorance, and who are constantly brain-washed by religious political groups.
The practice of veiling women, according to Nawal El Saadawi, was limited in Europe to traditional Jewish and Islamic groups. Unfortunately, today it is increasingly common among Islamic migrant communities in Holland, France, UK, Belgium and other countries in Europe. And in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes it is accompanied by FGM. Both veiling and FGM are considered by the political and religious leaders of these communities as part of the Islamic Identity, under the guise of so-called ‘cultural relativism’ ( the doctrine that knowledge, truth, morality, etc., are relative and not absolute). This is part of the deception, and with the dominance of backward fundamentalist religious groups the brain-washing of women continues. It is happening in Egypt and many other countries, and when women rebel and fight for their human rights in these patriarchal communities, they are labeled as traitors to their religion, their country, their culture, their authentic identity, their morality, their chastity, and any other derogatory slogan these misogynistic patriarchs can invent. FGM has nothing to do with religion, but plenty to do with class, and with men maintaining their dominance for their own self-gratification.
Jerold Richert (with notes taken from Nawal El Saadawi speech -Feb.2007)Email: info.jeroldrichert-novels.com