Friday, January 25, 2008

Female Genital Mutilation

When I read this story last week, I felt absolutely chilled to the bone.

When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl’s genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she’s given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment. She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14.
According to Lukman Hakim, the foundation’s chairman of social services, there are three “benefits” to circumcising girls.

“One, it will stabilize her libido,” he said through an interpreter. “Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband. And three, it will balance her psychology.”

It just makes me want to cry. It's not like the head scarf or something. Not like male circumcision where there has been evidence of health benefits (though arguable). I truly, truly do not want to cast judgment from afar on an entire culture. But... I mean gah, just read that! "It will stabilize her libido"? STABILIZE? Given how many women require a clitoris to have an orgasm ever in their life... STABILIZE? It will KILL their libido. It will make it so the only orgasmic pleasure (most likely) is that of her husband. Thus binding her sexuality to that of her husbands (oh and apparently "make her beautiful" in his eyes thusly). Given my feelings on the fundamentalness of sexuality, I can only hope you can understand how agonizing such a prospect is to me.

What I'd really like to see them justify is how it's possible for this procedure to "balance her psychology." I can't even begin to attempt to analyze that, except to assume that it is a classic fear of female sexuality, fear of females as sexual beings, and that robbing them of that capability happily eliminates their "unnatural" needs. Or something. What makes this topic all the harder is that reading the article it's clear this is important right of passage for many young women. That it is meaningful to them. Can we retain a meaningful right of passage while getting rid of this abhorrent practice?

1 comment:

  1. Well I vote we circumcise the guys to the point they can no longer enjoy sex or reach orgasm.. tell them it makes them oh so sexy and gorgeous in our eyes, will control their libido and regulate their psychology and see how long that damn female circ. lasts. :P It's' a tough question, when you are dealing with an ingrained cultural belief that has adopted a thought or form of body adjustment they feel is so *right*, how do you change it? Should you? I don't know, greater minds than mine can beat on that thought. All I know is they better damn well keep their little snippers from between MY legs! ;)



whatsername reserves the right to delete your comment if you choose to act like an asshole, so please engage respectfully