by Sabahat Jahan
I am sitting in a cafe and thinking about whether I would ever make my daughter go through the painful ritual of genital mutilation, the way my mother did it to me in the name of religion.
I am 24 years old, studying journalism, a Muslim girl from a community that blindly follows Female Genital Mutilation even today. All my life I believed that FGM is good for my health, and that all the urinary problems I am facing are other unconnected problems. I didn’t realise that the bigger problem was that my clitoris was removed when I was seven.
I don’t even remember how it was done, or whether it was painful for me. And I never gave it a thought because I trusted my mother when she said that it was good for my health. I don’t blame her but I do blame the ritual. Not many Muslim sects follow it but my community does.
I first came to know about FGM when I read the work of author Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I then read about Sahiyo in the Hindustan Times. I was in a state of shock and I called my mother. With a calm mind, I asked her, “Maa, why did you do that to me?” She said, “Beta because it will control your sexual urges, you won’t sleep around and your virginity will be maintained.” I thought, so much for this virginity! Is this why I have to suffer from urinary problems from time to time?
Sleeping with someone or not is my problem, my consent. It’s my brain that will decide, not my clitoris! I had no words to say to my mother, I just said “okay” and disconnected the call. I am not angry with her, she just followed what her culture and religion taught her. Yes, I do face problems when I make love. It is painful and it is problematic. The ritual didn’t stop my sexual urges but it made sex difficult for me.
I am a literate person and I am standing against FGM. I will try my best to make people realize that it is wrong. I am thankful to Sahiyo for standing up and talking about it. I am glad the taboo around talking about it is removed and I can share my experience as a victim of FGM.
(A version of this post was originally published on the blog Wanderlustbeau on February 23, 2017.)