Monday, 7 September 2009

The Cut

The cut - a traditional rite of passage into womanhood: genital cutting.  Or an issue that should concern us all.
Some of my longer-standing readers will remember Papillon's story which I translated from her French blog. It was all about her quest to have reconstructive surgery for the genital cutting she had suffered at the age four.  If you haven't read it, please at least consider reading the first two or three posts which tell of how it happened.  "When I was 4 my mother had me circumcised. It ruined my life". 

It was over two years ago when I found the blog and asked her if she would allow me to translate it so that young English speaking women could benefit from her experiences.  Since then, I've had numerous enquiries from people asking if the surgery is available in the UK (no), and how to go about contacting Dr Foldès, the surgeon who developed the procedure.

Recently I've heard that a Spanish surgeon, Pere Barri of the Instituto Dexeus, has spent some time in Paris with Dr Foldès, and now operates two or three times a month.  Not only that, he is hoping to share the knowledge and skills with other clinics in Spain so that more women "can leave their ghosts behind".

The practice of FGM used to be more or less confined to sub-Saharan Africa and a few parts of the Middle East and Asia but nowadays, with migration and population movement, the incidence in Europe and elsewhere has been increasing.  It is illegal to carry out the practice in Europe but it is so very hard to counteract traditional beliefs.

There are various initiatives in progress.  One in the UK is a survey which is funded by the Health Department to increase knowledge and understanding about FGM and to try to find out how much training might be required by health practitioners.  France had an informative and educational campaign in April.  There are initiatives in a number of African countries: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and several others.

Now from Norway there is a project to educate and raise awareness which has produced a documentary film called "The Cut".  This, the first episode, shows two girls from different villages in Kenya where FGM is still practised in spite of its being illegal.  One girl has rejected the practice and is actively working to help educate people, the other is about to undergo this traditional but harmful rite of passage. It goes some way to explaining the tradition, incidentally showing unequivocally that it isn't specifically an Islamic practice, and suggests a way it can be eradicated.

If you wish, you can download the film, less than 15 minutes in length, from the project website.  It doesn't make the most pleasant viewing, but nor does it go out of its way to shock.

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  1. It has been some time now since I heard about this barbaric practice and I am still filled with anger every time I am reminded it still exists. Only people like you talking about it openly will eventually shine enough light to get the practice stopped. Thank you for Papillon's translation and thank you for this post.

  2. This terrible practice being perpetrated even as far away as new Zealand, where emigrants will take "vacations" back to various African regions to have their daughters mutilated. It is so obscene.


  3. I think I saw this on Oprah once or twice. Oh my...I felt so violated as I watched it then, and even now after having read this article.

  4. I remember reading her story on your blog. I think I wrote your work up for one of the special event blogging days.

    Just like slavery, it is easy to think that things are better when they are the same or worse.

    God bless you for helping us to remember or to learn about this barbaric practice.

  5. I first heard of FGM when I got started participating in the V-Day Vagina Monologues. I hope that this new movie and your continuing spotlight on the topic will help to eventually eliminate this horrendous practice.

  6. This act frightens me and makes me want to fight for women every where. I wish there were more doctors like Dr. Foldes who are able to provide surgery to reconstruct women and help them on their road to recovery.

  7. Hi, A. You know I think how I feel about this barbaric practice. I get angry because it shows women have so little worth. Education and open dialogue is the only way this devastation will stop, and that will take years.

  8. I first learned of the practice of clitorectomy while pursuing my degree in Anthropology. I read a book from an Ethnographer (I wish I could remember the title) who lived in an African village where the practice was pursued with impunity. What struck me most was how it was such a forbidden topic for women to discuss, even those who had been victimized by it.

  9. It's 2010! I can't believe this is still happening, it really is obscene that this practise still occurs. My heart goes out to all those affected.

  10. It is terrible but thank god there doctors who can help us I just had my operation in amsterdam holland Dr Karim did the operation, for women who live in holland please contact OLV hosptal the operation is free

  11. Hi Anonymous person above.

    I am from the USA and 19 years old. I am going to Amsterdam in summer 2011 to visit my relative. you mentioned OLV Hospital and Dr. Karim. how can I contact them because I am aslo a fgm victim, I had type one FGM and I would like some help.



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