Attention fellow feminists! We’re happy to apprise you of some Badass news!
On 22nd April 2020, Sudan’s government finally outlawed the practice of “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”. The historic move is a major victory for all of us, but more so, for close to 90% of Sudanese women who experienced some form of this barbaric abuse in their life. The victory is special for Khadija Glba too, who’s a global activist and a survivor of FGM. A little backstory on Khadija:
She was thirteen when her mother pinned her down, naked, inside the hut of a woman she had never met before. A “ritual” was to be orchestrated on her, with an old rusted knife. The knife’s job was to cut a piece of Khadija’s vaginal flesh. No medical reason, whatsoever! T’was just a “right to her passage” as a woman. A “purity” seal. A part of her mother’s duty. In other words, “Bullshit”, as Khadija calls it.
That was Gambia, 1991. Today, FGM has a global footprint. According to UN reports, more than 200 million women across 30 countries in Asia (including India), Africa, Australia, US, UK and the Middle East have faced FGM. The World Health Organization defines FGM as all “procedures that involve the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
- The mutilation can involve the removal of the clitoral glans (Type I)
- Removal of the inner folds (labia minora) of the vulva, with or without the removal of its outer folds (labia majora) in addition to the clitoral glans (Type II).
- It could also involve a procedure called infibulation (Type III), wherein the vaginal opening is narrowed by cutting and then restitching the folds of the vulva. The opening is barely enough for urine and menstrual blood to pass through.
- Finally, it could include other procedures viz. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area for non-medical purposes (Type IV).
The mutilation has no medical benefits. Then why is it so widespread? Its justification is purely cultural. Its case rests on the premise that “female sexuality” needs to be controlled. That’s all!
Never mind, that it can lead to death, shock, mental trauma, PTSD or infertility. Never mind, that it could cause kidney infections, cysts, painful periods, intercourse and childbirth. FGM continues to flourish in the shadows of silent cultural norms. But, what about laws? 24 of the 30 countries ban the practice, but the rule of these laws isn’t really observed. Then, why aren’t they enforced more strictly? Political demagoguery, enough said. Consider Egypt, where the practice was banned in 2008 and the law amended in 2016 to criminalize doctors and parents who facilitate the practice. The punishment for violation was set as a prison sentence of up to 7 years or 15, in case the practice results in disability or death. Yet, prosecutions are rare, and up to 70% of women between the age of 14 and 49 have been mutilated.
That’s exactly what experts fear may happen in Sudan too! Although the new law imposes a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 years on perpetrators, the question is will it be enough to deter the practice? Until the dogmatic perpetration of harmful cultural and religious norms divorce themselves from society, our fight against this heinous crime is far from over.