What is it like to have undergone female genital mutilation ? #Vaw #FGM #Womenrights


Out in the open

What is it like to have undergone female genital mutilation, asks NID student’s film

Jyoti Punwani mirrorfeedback@timesgroup.com

When a 24-year-old student of film and video communication at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad received a special mention at the 60th National Film Awards, it was for showing nerve.
Although devoid of sting operations and hidden cameras, Priya Goswami’s 27-minute documentary goes where no one has. In A Pinch of Skin, the young filmmaker gets a string of women to openly share the horror of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice so secretive, often brothers aren’t aware their sisters have undergone it. The one-million strong community of Dawoodi Bohras, a sect of Ismaili Shias concentrated in trade-focused centres of Maharashtra and Gujarat, carry out the practice citing ‘faith’ as reason, although Islamic scholars say Islam doesn’t sanction it.
The World Health Organisation defines FGM as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organ for nonmedical reasons. The procedure, according to the WHO website, holds no health benefits for women, and consequences can range from severe bleeding and infection to complications in childbirth. About 140 million girls and women worldwide livewith the consequences of FGM.
Unlike male circumcision, khatna as FGM is called locally, is carried out in secrecy by senior women of the community using blades without medical supervision on seven-year-olds, who the film says are “old enough to remember”. The logic is this: as adults, the girls will practice the ceremony on their children, and since they are pre-adolescent at seven, they are unlikely to suffer severe physiological damage.
That Goswami managed to get the women to talk — albeit without revealing their identity — despite being an outsider, is remarkable. It’s also reflected in the approach she chooses; the community becomes irrelevant. It’s the practice and belief she chooses to focus on, as is evident from her statement at the start of the film: For this film, I have no religion nor am I born into any community. All I know is that I am just a woman and that is my only identity.’
Goswami’s interviewees tell her the aim of khatna is simple —to curb “the urge” in women. Satisfied with their husbands, the women are unlikely to seek pleasure outside the marriage.
A young interviewee admits to Goswami that unlike her friends, she isn’t terribly attracted to men. Another articulate woman, angry that a part of her body was removed without explanation or permission, remains silent when asked if circumcision is aimed at denying women orgasm. “Ask the priests,’’ she finally says.
Intercourse is painful, a third admits. “I guess it is so for all women.”
And so, Goswami succeeds in starting a conversation on the practice within the community. She says it amazed her that women themselves justify the practice and have made peace with it. The term used for the clitoris by the women — “haraami boti’’ — reveals a deep-seated revulsion towards their own anatomy and sexuality. This is hardly community-specific, Goswami observes. “Don’t our grandmothers say, women are the root of all trouble?” she asks. “Don’t we banish young widows to Brindavan?”
Although the filmmaker interviewed men, she chose to leave them out of the film. “I wished to depict the practice as one done on women by women, although instituted by patriarchy.’’
Goswami’s film includes strong voices of dissent, although they are outnumbered. A mother who decided to skip the tradition when it came to her own daughters admits she kept her act of defiance a secret. If the film encourages more women to speak out, Goswami says her efforts will be worth it.
The film will be screened at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Festival in April.

In a still from the film, the interviewee masks her identity while talking about her experience of female genital mutilation

 

 

Egypt women’s NGO takes pro-FGM Parliamentarian to court


 | 4 May 2012

Egypt MP Azza el-Garf publicly supports FGM, and is being sued by a local women’s org.

Egypt’s New Women Foundation said they are suing Islamist Parliament member Azza al-Garf over her pro-female genitals mutilation (FGM) statements. The women’s rights foundation sent a letter to the speaker of parliament Saad al-Katatny, informing him of legally going after Garf and asking for his permission to be allowed to take the MP to court.

The parliament needs to lift immunity for an MP in order for them to be held accountable in a court of law.

Garf was reported saying that FGM is an Islamic practice and that the anti-FGM laws should be amended. Garf is a Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

“We are on our way to sue Garf to preserve our rights and the gains of Egyptian women,” said the open letter to the speaker.

“We are suing her for going against Egyptian laws that criminalize sexual harassment and FGM, practices that goes against women rights and human rights.

“We completely refuse Garf’s statements and announce that she does not represent us.”

Garf gave similar statements on her Twitter account last month, calling for lifting the laws that criminalize FGM. The statements stirred criticism, which led to the FJP to announce that Garf has no account on Twitter and no comments were made by Garf herself.

Rights surveys in the country put the number of women who go through FGM to be around 86 percent. Current Egyptian law bans the practice and gives prison sentences to any medical staff who performs the surgery. However, many families go to underground clinics to get their daughters the procedure, risking permanent scares or even death.

In 2010, a 13-year-old girl died after a local doctor in the Nile Delta region’s Menoufiya governorate failed in the operation.

Local media said the doctor was arrested soon after when an unknown good Samaritan phoned a hotline service set up to report on female genital mutilation incidents.

The doctor, whose name was not revealed in local media reports of the incident, is to stand trial for the illegal operation that led to the girl’s death.

In June 2007, 12-year-old Badour Shakour died as a result of a circumcision operation. The death sparked a battle within the country over the use of the controversial medical procedure. Her death galvanized women and children’s rights groups to action, where they pushed for more stringent penalties against those who carry out female genital mutilation.

The tweets Garf made supporting FGM.

Shakour’s cause of death was an overdose of anesthetic, but her memory was the cause of an awakening that reached to the upper echelons of government.

In summer 2008, Egypt’s Parliament passed a law that ostensibly bans the controversial procedure. Not that it should have needed to legislate against FGM – it was already officially banned in the country during the mid-nineties – but with doctors continuing to perform the procedure on girls as young as five, Parliament felt it was necessary to intercede.

The new law stipulates a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($185) to 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($900) and a prison term of anywhere between three months and two years if caught performing FGM.

A doctor also could lose their medical license. In the case of Shakour, the doctor who performed the procedure languishes in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.

BM

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