By: Shabana Feroze
Every year, Feb 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by the United Nations. Being a survivor of FGC myself, I’m an active volunteer with Sahiyo, and as such, I shared a post about the day and about Sahiyo on my facebook profile page. I got a few likes but after a few hours, one of my male cousins commented on the post with a link to femalecircumcision.org. The article on that website spoke about how FGC is necessary and a good thing.
When I saw that comment, I was naturally affronted. The first thought that ran through my head towards my male cousin was – no vagina, no opinion, sweetheart. It bothers me so much that MEN think they can make decisions on what needs to be done to women’s bodies. You are not a woman. You are not entitled to tell women what we can or cannot do with our bodies. I underwent FGC when I was seven. I’m the one who was traumatized. Not you. I’m the one who has to deal with the pain that part of my body is missing because of a traditional ritual, not you. How dare you tell me that what happened to me was necessary and a good thing and that it should continue happening.
I had a long argument with him through Facebook comments, telling him the thoughts I listed above. I even said that if he thinks the practice is good and necessary, then the girl should be able to grow up and decide to do it for herself. His response, “My Body, My Rights is a cheesy line”. His lack of acknowledging my personal experience in having undergone FGC said to me that he believed the larger society could do anything to my body or to any one else’s body. He then posted another link from the same website on consent and parental rights. The article claims
“Although regulated, a parent’s right to make decisions on behalf of a child is acknowledged as fundamental and universal, even for practices which can cause harm to the child and carry no medical benefit.”
Yes, the article acknowledged that FGC is harmful, but the article lessened the pain, and compared FGC to practices such as ear piercing and vaccinations. These procedures are legal and harmless. The article also claimed that Prophet Muhammad said FGC should be done, and gave a few spiritual and religious reasons like ‘taharah’ for doing so. His recurring point was that KHAFZ IS NOT FGM (written in caps).
Throughout the conversation of me refuting his points with science and hard fact and telling him that the World Health Organisation recognizes all forms of cutting of the female genitalia as FGM, I found that his counter points were always mired in spirituality and religion (this cousin of mine is a mulla or a sheik in the Bohra community).
I find the entire notion that ‘khafz is not FGC’ as preposterous. It’s the same thing, no matter what name you give it. Medical research has shown that FGC is harmful. FGC is opposed by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. So please don’t tell me that FGC is a good thing. Further what really, truly angers me is that my cousin, this MAN is fighting me on and issue that affects the woman’s body, my body! My cousin’s attitude reminded me of his male privilege, and his inability to understand that he has no ability to control my body or to think he knows what is best for me as a woman. And this reality scares and saddens me the most because my cousin is also the father of two girls, who if they undergo FGC, will forever be reminded that they too, just like me, had no control over our own bodies.