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The Horrors of Female Circumcision

It causes extreme pain and can lead to major complications. Still, millions of girls are forced to have it…
 

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It is a procedure that millions of girls around the world are forced to have. It causes extreme pain and can lead to severe complications such as infertility. A Day She Will Never Forget "They told us that they were taking us to have our hair done. They told us to sit, and then they held us down by force," six-year-old Asmah Mohammed said. It is a horrific day Asmah will never forget. She said, "They forced us to lie down on the ground and they cut us." She's just experienced the horrors of female genital mutilation, also known as FMG. Asmah's mother Bedria recalls the terror as if it were her own, "You get shocked. Your child is like your own body isn't it? When the razor cuts it's traumatizing. But what can you do?" In many parts of the world, not much can be done. Isneeno Ibrahim Nadeh has performed 255 such mutilations in varying degrees. "It's impossible for me to circumcise a girl alone," she said. "The women in the family will come and hold the girl down very tightly." Nadeh explained how she would cut the girls: "We used the same knife on all the girls. We used to heat it up in the fire." No anesthesia is used. They have no stitches to speak of, so instead they rely on Africa's most famous tree - the Acacia tree. The Acacia tree is popular because it has these huge thorns. And today these thorns are used in the operation." In the Name of Religion To many in the West, the old world practice seems barbaric. But to those who practice it, the circumcision is part of strongly held beliefs. Women's rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali also points to the Muslim obsession with virginity. "There is no Hadith or sayings of the Prophet with one hundred percent certainty that he condoned or urged girls to be genitally mutilated," Hirsi said. "But if you look at the list of countries where female genital mutilation is practiced and especially where it happens to more than 90 percent of the females, you'll see that they're all Muslims. That's very interesting." Many of these women say they feel trapped and believe that if they want their daughters to marry, the girls must go through the procedure. "Some people are doing this because their forefathers were doing this. There are some people who are doing this because it is a cultural background for them," one reproductive health worker said. In one Somali refugee camp, more than 90 percent of the women have had the procedure. As the girls grow in to womanhood, they develop many physical complications. "The menstruation period, the blood will not come out. It will go back. And that will cause a severe infection," Khatro explained. Ali and her sister were put through this pain at the hands of their grandmother. "Urinating is painful, menstruating is painful, sex is painful, giving birth is painful, so you end up leading a life of pain," she said. Camp doctors say the women also undergo severe psychological problems, as well. Feelings of fear haunt them all their lives. Twenty-year-old Khatro still remembers the painful experience as though it happened yesterday. "When the women came to our home and my mother said 'This woman will circumcise you' I was feeling so frightened," Khatro recalled. It's a practice that's affected an estimated 130 million girls world wide. And about 2 million are forced to have it done every year. Most of them live in a large swath of Africa. The Growing Tide of Change As families immigrate to other countries such as the United States and Great Britain, they bring the tradition with them. But back home, there is a growing tide of change. Nadeh no longer performs circumcisions and is fighting for the girl's rights. "When I remember what I used to do to young girls, I feel so sad, so sorry about it. Now I have come to know that FGM is very bad for girls," she said. Some young women, like Khatro, say they will begin refusing to have their daughters circumcised. And a small minority of Islamic leaders is speaking out. One Muslim sheik says he could not stay silent while little girls died. "We lose a lot of people here in the camps, a lot of girls," he said. Going against the wishes of his extended family, he has not allowed his three daughters to be circumcised. It's not a popular decision with other Muslim leaders. "We have trouble," the sheik said. "We have some people that want FGM to continue. We even have some sheiks will say it is cultural. We have to let them do this." His daughters have been forced to stop going to school. They have been beaten, called prostitutes, and worse- "I've even been called a Christian," one girl said. The girls say at times they have begged their father to let them to undergo the circumcision so the persecution would stop. But their father says it's more important to stop the cycle of long term abuse of girls and in so doing, begin to change thousands of years of tradition in the hopes that his daughters will have a better life.

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