(Trigger Warning: The story below is a powerful account of one woman’s memory of FGC. We are grateful to her for sharing with us the details of her experience)
By Saleha Paatwala
Country: Noida, India
I was 7 years of age when one day my grandma took me to an unfamiliar place. I was informed that it would be a huge gathering and children like me would come as well. We came to the second floor where we were advised to sit by a woman as old as my grandma. It didn’t appear to be exceptionally happening, and out of sheer interest I asked her why we were there – to which she just grinned and said that everybody was en route. What happened next will continue to haunt me until the end of time.
After an hour, one more woman came in and asked us to follow her. It was a miserable room on the terrace, small and messy. My grandma and I sat on the little bed. The woman took out some cotton, blade and some harsh fabric and I just couldn’t comprehend what was occurring. She asked me to lie down, but I was very young and could never have imagined anything terrible could happen. I just couldn’t understand what was happening. I believed my grandma and sat down when she insisted. The other woman now began removing my underwear. This sickened the hellfire out of me. I began fighting back, at which every one of the women, including my grandma, held my hands and feet tight so that I could not move. I was yelling as loud as possible, but no one was listening. After she had successfully taken off my underwear, the second woman spread my legs, grabbed the blade and cut something between my legs. The pain was anguishing and intolerable and it gave me an injury. She then put some cotton on that part and put my clothing back on. My grandma and two other women began giggling and saying, “Mubarak ho, iska khatna ho gaya hai.” (Congratulations, she has been circumcised).
At that age, who has ever considered going through such an agony in the most intimate area that no youngster would even like anybody to see or touch? I didn’t really see the amount of blood that had gushed out because I had no courage to. Only after I reached home and went to pee, I saw the cotton and figured it out. I couldn’t urinate properly for three days as it tormented me that much.
All these years, I never had the boldness to open up and discuss this. My grandma told me that ladies get to be devout after completing khatna, and I accepted that. Then one day, we were shown a film on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at my college. It gave me goosebumps and took me all the way back to my childhood when I had been through this assault. In that film, my own community members were spreading awareness and battling this practice. It made me realise, unmistakably, that what happened wasn’t beneficial for me, wasn’t useful for anyone. That little film gave me so much courage that I can now share my dim story with everybody, even though it is still a taboo.
There is no religious aspect to this ritual. It is only a practice, a hazardous and destructive custom which is being perpetuated by individuals. It wasn’t just a little piece. It was a piece of me, my private area that no one has a right to touch without my consent. If Allah has sent us whole, why should we cut for the sake of god, to make a lady pious?