Original Chinese Language Article By: http://www.secretchina.com
(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Translator’s Notes. It is interesting to note that neither Islam nor Christianity require that their female adherents be circumcised. The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) appears to be dominant in Africa (particularly Somalia and Sudan), but I am told that it can also occur in the Middle East and Asia. The practice has developed from early patriarchal society and is in essence the projection of male ignorance and prejudice upon the bodies of women. Men assume that a woman can only get pregnant if their virginal lips and clitoris have been removed (often with a rusty razor) and the subsequent virginal opening sewn-shut. Furthermore, I have heard that often the stolen clitoris is used to make a ‘fertility’ medicine drunk only by men. I support the rights of women around the world, and believe that unbiased education is the path to empowerment and equality. By way of balance, I must mention that I once heard a group of Somali women who were protesting ‘Eurocentricism’ regarding female circumcision – stating that they rejected the acronym ‘FGM’ as being ‘racist’ – and made it clear that as Somali women they had a ‘right’ to their own culture (which they did not see as ‘inferior’ or ‘dangerous’ to their health). Perhaps the hidden narrative here is that a ‘Eurocentric’ and ‘secular’ narrative is being projected onto a non-European (and religious) people, and that this subtle form of neo-imperialism is being disguised as ‘good health’. ACW 22.5.2016
Between 130 and 150 million women are victims of genital mutilation – most of them are Africans. Now, doctors, teachers and social workers in Germany are increasingly being confronted by this practice. Somalian Jawahir Cumar moved to Germany with her parents when she was a girl. Later, on a visit to her grandparents’ village when she was 20, Jawahir witnessed the funeral of a young girl who had bled to death after being ‘circumcised.’ “I then saw another case,” the now 36 year old says: “A pregnant woman was in labour. She had never been to a doctor, there was nowhere for her to get ultrasound in the area – the next hospital was 900 kilometres away, in Mogadishu. After the birth of the child, the woman was sewn up again.” The midwife had overlooked the fact that the woman had been carrying twins, so she was still in pain. She was later transported to Mogadishu by car – a journey that took two days. And although she survived, the second twin died.
Severe health damage
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is currently practiced in 29 African countries, despite being illegal in some. It is usually done when girls are between the ages of four and eight – using varying instruments, ranging from razor blades, kitchen knives to broken glass and tin lids. As because these tools are used more than once, it also increases the risk of spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Female Genital Mutilation includes procedures that intentionally alter (or cause injury) to female genitalia for non-medical reasons, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These practices include partial or total removal of the clitoris, the removal of the labia and narrowing the vaginal opening by creating a covering seal to leave a small opening of about two to four millimetres.
About 15 percent of the women who have been cut (especially in Somalia and Sudan) have also undergone infibulation, which results in the vaginal opening being almost sealed completely.
“If the vagina is almost closed, urine and menstrual fluids can hardly be discharged and remain trapped as a result,” explains Dr Christoph Zerm, a gynaecologist who specializes in counselling and treating women who have undergone FGM. “This creates an environment that is conducive for infections. It can cause severe illness in the urinary tract and even the kidney. The uterus, ovaries and the fallopian tubes can also get infected,” he adds. For these women, even urinating, which can (take up to 30 minutes), is painful.
Raising awareness in Germany
Jawahir was just a girl when she was cut. As a result, she had to have several surgeries in Germany to reverse the infibulation. She wants to prevent other girls and women from having a similar experience. That’s why she founded ‘Stop Mutilation.’ “The immigrants that come here bring this problem with them. That’s what made me create this organization in 1996,” says Jawahir, who is now a mother of three. An estimated 30,000 women living in Germany have been subjected to FGM and 6,000 girls are at risk, according to human rights organization Terre des Femmes. Pressure from families in their countries of origin plays a big role.
“Mothers-in-law and grandmothers, especially, call all the time, write letters and send messages,” says Jawahir Cumar. And the message is always the same: “[They say] you have to cut your daughters! Or just bring them to us and we will do it,” she adds. Jawahir visits kindergartens and advises teachers on how they can raise awareness about FGM. She also targets African immigrants in her advocacy work. “Many of them don’t know that [female genital mutilation] is prohibited in Germany. They are shocked when they hear that they could lose custody of their children,” Jawahir says. She was able to prevent 17 girls from being subjected to FGM last year.
Encouraging Africans to Ban FGM
Somalian Fadumo Korn also talks about FGM with immigrant families from Somalia and other African countries. She warns them that it can result in a prison sentence or deportation. “It only works from one African to another,” she says, because Europeans are often not seen as the right people to raise awareness in Africa. “It is easy for me because I am also a victim. No one can tell me that genital mutilation isn’t bad,” Fadumo adds. Together with Nala – an association in Frankfurt – she was able to convince 18,000 people from a community in north-eastern Burkina Faso to publicly renounce FGM. “We got support from the local imam and the head priest of the Christian community, as well as the chief of this region for our campaign. These three men stood up and told their community that FGM is forbidden,” Fadumo explains. Even though religion is often used to justify FGM, neither Islam nor Christianity demand it of their followers. Fadumo believes it is important for religious leaders to clearly speak out against the practice to change tradition in their communities. “Whether it’s Islam or Christianity, we use all religions to tell people, ‘Your God will be angry with you, if you circumcise his children,’” she says.
Re-education is key
Both Jawahir and Fadomo, and activists in Africa face major challenges in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation. Women practicing FGM have to be re-educated and families have to be convinced to let their daughters grow up without being cut. “Men have to learn that a woman who is not cut can also have children and make her husband happy,” Jawahir Cumar says, while adding that families also need to recognize the importance of education for their daughters. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done in Germany as well, says Jawahir, pointing to how long it took for forced marriages and ‘honour killings’ to be regarded as a criminal offence and not simply as the customs of immigrants. Gynaecologist Christoph Zerm would like medical students to learn more about FGM, so doctors can provide better care for women who are affected.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2016.
Original Chinese Language Source Text:
库马尔（Jawahir Cumar）来自索马里。她在年幼时同家人迁移到德国。20岁时她回到家乡的镇上参加祖父的葬礼，她在当地目睹了一名小女孩因割礼失血而死。 “我还目睹了另一个事件”，现年36岁的库马尔回忆道：“那是一名正在分娩的孕妇。她从未看过医生，当地也没有超声波检查。最近的医院在900公里之外的摩加迪沙。孩子出生后，人们又将她的下体缝上。”但助产士没有预料到，产妇怀的是一对双胞胎。库马尔继续说道：“那名女人仍然相当痛楚。人们花了两天的时间开车送她去摩加迪沙。虽然她活下来了，但是第二个孩子不幸夭折。”
库马尔幼年时受过女性割礼。她在德国经历了多次手术，将缝合的阴道口恢复原状。在发现索马里依旧继续施行割礼时，她感到极度震惊。20岁造访故里后，她在杜塞尔多夫成立了终结割礼协会。目前已诞下三个孩子的库马尔对德国之声表示：“来到这里的移民，自身也有相同问题。这是我在1996年成立协会的动机。”根据妇女权益组织“女性的地球”(Terre des Femmes)估计，在德国共生活着3万名受过割礼的女性，另有6000名年轻女性可能遭施行割礼。来自家乡的家族压力是重要主因。“特别是婆婆和祖母会不停来电、来信并发送信息。”库马尔说，信息内容总是大同小异：“你们必须让女儿行割礼！或是：把她们带回来，交给我们施行！”