Why This Madness Must Stop
The girl is 17 years old but looks much younger. Her face has the fine elegance typical of Nigerian natives, but her accent belongs to the streets of Nigerian villages. She is plainly terrified. That much is clear from the way she avoids eye contact.
“Promise you won’t print anything related to me.” She implores. “If people of my community find out, they will say I have betrayed them and I will be executed.”
With great courage, this rural nurtured girl – called “TATA” – is about to describe a barbaric act of cruelty which has been perpetrated against her. Knowing the danger to which she is exposing herself, her anxiety is understandable. It’s known by a variety of names, most common of which are Female Genital Mutilation, Female Circumcision, or simply “cutting” – a word which conveys the raw pain its victims suffer.
It involves cutting and sometimes sewing up some parts of the female genitalia, leaving a small opening for urination and menstruation. It’s carried out on tables or floors, without anaesthetic, using filthy, blunt knives, razor blades or scalpel. Some people argued that the practice is to increase the sexual pleasure of the man, but this is an outdated reason why many women are treated this way. Others claimed it’s to avoid promiscuity and demonstrate virginity.
Tata is so determined that other girls should be spared the misery she has endured since she was cut that, recently, she told her story. She was three years old when her family opted for a greener village. Everything changed for Tata when she was 12 years old. One morning her mother told her, quite casually, that they were to visit a friend. “I thought I was going to visit her friend.” Tata says quietly, avoiding eye contact.
Soon after she arrived at the friend’s house, everything changed. Tata’s mother had secretly joined together with several women to pay for a “cutter” to circumcise their daughters. “They believed it had to be done for us to get husbands.” Tata shrugs. What happened next was like a scene from an action movie. Her mother and other women suddenly grabbed and grappled her to the floor. Then the strange woman came in with her bag of implements. “They held me down, and when she began cutting, I screamed, so my friend’s sister put her hand tightly over my mouth,” she says. I had known her and these other women all my life, but now they were doing this, even my mother” she concluded while shedding tears.
Female Genital Mutilation often results to life threatening complications such as septicaemia, hemorrhage or cyst, but in this case, Tata was fortunate. She quickly recovered and returned to school. However, the legacy of the atrocity inflicted on her when she was 12 years old will always remain. If she is lucky enough to avoid prenatal complications frequently caused by genital mutilation and have children, she will almost certainly have to undergo a caesarean section.
Whatever the argument is, the fact is that genital mutilation is real and its negatives far outweighs its positives. The best way to address this menace is through strict health policy where children will be closely scrutinized during infancy, and any abnormal behavior or prolonged absence from school immediately investigated and if confirmed, parents be handed to the police. In this age of political correctness, no doubt, factions will argue that such intervention activities are discriminatory and breach of human rights. But the idea that things are too private to be acted upon is what is keeping them shrouded in silence. This madness must be expunged.
Abubakar A. Musa
@blinkingam on twitter.