I am in a public washroom in Egypt. There is a woman and likely her young daughter huddled in a stall on the left of me; I can see the bottom of a black niqab pooling around black shoes and small purple running shoes being directed, scurrying around, and doing what they're told. I hear their voices talking in Arabic, I don't need to understand their conversation but I am wrought with concern.
I don't usually pay attention to who's in a toilet stall next to me in Canada, but in Egypt, a thought gnaws at me as I sit there with my legs draped over the seat. Are they victims of female genital mutilation? Egypt has more women affected by FGM than any country in the world -- tens of millions of women are walking around in that country with cut and sewn vaginas. And their offenders usually target them before the green age of puberty, somewhere between seven to 12 years old but anywhere from birth onward.
My younger self personifies Egypt as a strong, beautiful, and sexualized Cleopatra. But my ignorance is shaven and I can't help but wonder if those two people in the stall next to me have had atrocities committed against their sex.
It's hard to read people who are covering their face, but then again somebody's face isn't going to tell me that their nether regions have been murdered either.
While Egypt was considered a role model for civilization once upon a time, its inability to put a stop against barbaric acts of FGM is painful. The human rights violations where infants, toddlers, children, teenagers, and women, are having their vaginas sliced, because the notion of a woman experiencing sexual pleasure is distasteful, are not dwindling.
This procedure that attempts to control women's sexuality, is being performed by general practitioners for what it costs to buy a round of McDonald's for a family of four. When it isn't performed by a doctor, it is usually done by and with women in the family. Knives are used but razors, scissors, glass and fingernails can be as well. Victims' legs are separated and they are held down during the violation.
Egypt, like most countries where FGM occurs, has outlawed the procedure since 2008, even ahead of the UN, tardy in recognizing it as a human rights violation in 2012. But as a country so unforgiving of crime that it imposes death sentences by hanging, could Egypt not instill more justice for its daughters, mothers, sisters, and wives? At it stands, a sentence for FGM if imposed, is three months to two years of jail time in Egypt.
So potentially ninety days for brutally hacking off body parts of another individual. This includes removing the clitoral hood, clitoral glands, often the inner labia, sometimes also the outer labia and sewing the vulva and allowing just a small hole big enough to urinate and menstruate. The hole is painfully ripped open for sex and childbirth. Sometimes amateur surgeons cut too deep as they're trying to get as much clitoris out from beneath as possible, to ensure that the woman won't experience an ounce of pleasure during intercourse, and then she dies, bleeds to death. If this was done on any other part of the body, or to a man's penis, this would be considered torture and the perpetrator would be labelled twisted.
FGM is an act of grave violence that traumatizes women forever. A woman is stripped down to a dismembered body with infections, chronic pain, and no allowance to experience her own pleasure.
In 2013, UNICEF estimated that 133 million girls and women had experienced FGM worldwide, including in immigrant communities in human-rights driven countries like Canada. Egypt however, accounts for a whopping quarter of the world's FGM victims.
Like a rape statistic however, numbers are under reported and therefore underestimated. With population growth, UNICEF predicts 196 million girls and women will be FGM affected by 2050.
There is no mention of FGM in the Quran. I don't know Allah well, but my understanding is that carving up another human being and taking away a human pleasure, isn't going to earn the mutilator any virgins in heaven.
For those suffering from FGM, the carver would be infuriated to know that their victims can still experience sexual pleasure. G-spot orgasms may still work for some, and if not, nipple stimulation and anal intercourse may be pleasure sources as well. Women can and will find erogenous zones to replace what they've lost. Reconstructive surgery to repair the physical damage of FGM is also available, pulling the remaining clitoris up to the surface.
It's Ramadan. I hear the call for prayer from my room. Let's pray that honour is redefined in this country for the sake of women -- and girls with purple running shoes.
Photo by Jenn Gearey
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