Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is something that I first heard about 30 years ago from an African female friend who had been cut. She was in her 20s when we became friends but was still suffering from physical and mental harm from what was done to her when she was young. She explained about the pain she still had to endure and the memory she carried of the incident which threw her into bouts of depression still. There was no awareness of FGM being a repressive cultural act and, looking back now, I am saddened by how she and I accepted that this was something girls had to undergo in certain cultures despite the devastation that accompanied it.
It is only since the campaigns and debates about FGM have surfaced that I have come to realise that this is a feminist issue that involves cruelty, maiming and mutilation in modern times. Taking this train of thought further it is also a feminist mothering issue because it is often mothers who hold their daughters down while the girl child is cut. The picture below featured in today’s Guardian shows a mother holding her four-year old daughter down for an FGM procedure in Indonesia where it is not considered to be mutilation.
The sight of this little girl crying and holding on to her mother while the mother, herself, is an active perpetrator in this utterly reprehensible practice has haunted me all day and will continue to do so. What possesses this mother to think that what she is doing is for the emotional and physical betterment of her daughter’s future? The cultural excuses given to justify FGM are simply smokescreens, barriers put up to frighten others off from questioning it. Being Asian myself I am used to hearing the language of ‘culture’ being used as a tool of repression and the sooner we all wake up to this hollowed out argument the better.