By Adebisi Adetunji
Mary(not real name) is a young lady with great dreams for the future. Fortunately her parents unlike others decided to ensure that she had a good education. They encouraged her every step of the way, right from kindergarten, and now she is on the last lap of her education, being at the university. Mary in spite of the great promising future that lay ahead of her has one “Fear” and “pain”. Her room mate, Pat(not real name) had tried to persuade her to set herself free herself from the source of the fear and pain but doing so would make it worse. Every time Mary went to use the toilet, it takes her about an hour to be able to pee/urinate. The pain shoots through her temple and a few tears roll down her cheek. Pat is frustrated and can not understand why Mary had to hold unto this torture even with all the education she had gotten. Every time Mary visited the toilet she had to keep checking on her to make sure she is alright until she comes out . Pat had made several attempt at encouraging Mary to set herself free but like other times Mary is more terrified with the idea of breaking free from a tradition that must be followed according to her people and parents. The tradition of circumcising a female child as soon as she is old enough and worse still sewing up the opening of her Virgina until she is married. This practice is an attempt to keep girls from sexual indulgence. Any girl who does not maintain the statuesque would be rejected by the society and her family would find it hard to get her a husband. Mary did not want to be a disappointment to her parents and so she bore the pain bravely. But Mary wishes she could be free and a greater fear lucks in her mind. She wondered about what her sexual encounter with her husband would be like? She dreaded the pain as she had heard that many girls undergo excruciating pains when they get married.
Pat is lucky that even though she comes from this same culture her parents are liberated and refused to subject their daughters to this horrific practice. Many tribes in Somalia, Ethiopia and other African countries still violate the human rights of girls against genital mutilation. In places where Female Genital Mutilation had been outlawed people still pay huge sum of money in order to secretly ensure that their daughters go through the ritual. This practice is seen as a “cultural must do”, so even those who live abroad send their girls back home to go through circumcision. It is estimated that about 80% and above number of women and girls go through circumcision in Somalia and in other African countries. Some of these women and girls go through traumatic experiences that can go on for a life time. Imagine sewing the Virgina opening of some of these women and they have to have sexual intercourse with their husbands. They are only allowed to remove the stitch at delivery of a baby and then it is sown back again. This information I got from talking with a friend from Ethiopia and was horrified by what she shared with me.
A lot of questions come to my mind about why people choose to hold unto a cultural practice like female genital mutilation that has done more harm than good. Why subject a girl to such torture all in the bid to curb her God given gift of sexual fulfillment? Why is it ok for men, boys to exercise their sexual gifts without any inhibition? As a saying i heard recently goes “A key that can open several doors is known as the master key while one padlock opened by many keys is said to be fake”. Meaning that a girl has to be padlocked to keep her from being opened by many keys but a boy/man should be a master key. Sex is meant to be enjoyed by both men and women, it shouldn’t be a source of torture for women. A few women i have met in my own community who have gone through FGM are frustrated with the fact that they don’t enjoy sex, and this affects the stability of their marriage/relationship. I believe a bride should look forward to enjoying her sexual encounter with her husband not dreading it because of the excruciating pain as a result of Sewn Virgina in the name of cultural practice. A happy bride makes a happy husband.
Girls like Mary are caught in the web of either going through the pain or be rejected and isolated by their society. She dreads the day she’ll get married while Pat her friend looks forward to it. Mothers, women should be in the fore front of protecting their girls. The elders, community leaders and all stake holders as my friend said should take a long look at this practice of FGM and see it for what it is.