• Antara Basu


“Exhibit C is the young girl dragged into the bush by midwives and made to sing while they scrape the flesh from between her legs, then tie her thighs till she scabs over and is called healed. Now she can be married. For each childbirth they'll cut her open, then sew her up. Men like tight women. The ones that die are carefully buried.”

- Margaret Atwood

Hushed whispers of special events, certain beautiful traditions to uphold femininity. To treasure the grace of womanhood with just a simple, swift strike of the cutter’s knife.

Female genital mutilation, female cutting, or female genital cutting all these terms have their own implications although these implications don’t even come close to the permanent health aftermaths faced by women subjected to this inhumane practice. The term female circumcision often isn’t preferred since it forges a similarity to male circumcision (which doesn’t involve the removal of sexual organs). And although highly contentious does not bear parallel health effects, nor does it lead to reduced sexual gratification as per medical studies.

The term female genital mutilation, whilst emphasizes the desecration of basic human rights of bodily autonomy, also often disrespects the victims who have undergone this trauma. They understandably do not wish to be referred to as mutilated and may find it upsetting. But it’s also true that this term, in reality, reflects the gravity of this barbaric custom, which absolutely has no health value and only leads to increased risks of STDs, maternal morbidity, adverse effects on a healthy reproductive life along with immediate consequences which might even be fatal. According to the UNFPA, the term female genital cutting was introduced in the late 1990s partly in response to the dissatisfaction with the term FGM. But the fact remains that no matter which term we use, the practice of FGM needs to be terminated and fast.

I believe these cultural practices evolve and are then maintained over generations in communities partly due to the lack of education and the orthodox mindset of traditionalists who resist change, holding on to false notions however detrimental they might be, such as those of FGM. This exists due to a number of reasons, many of these being distortions deep-seated in culture, religion, or the brunt of social acceptance. The myths that female sexual desires can grow to be insatiable if FGM isn’t performed and the fact that a woman is subject to this custom as by reducing her sexual requirements, it allows for polygamous relations to help the men meet their needs are completely deep-rooted in the perverse traditions of discarding female sexuality and their personal and simply human wants.

Furthermore, owing to various practices grounded within gender bias, women in many communities are financially dependent on men. Therefore encouraging the custom of genital mutilation as for many women, it becomes a prerequisite for marriage, for often men refuse to marry uncircumcised women. Women literally have to be cut open during their weddings to initiate intercourse or even during childbirth, for the passage may have been stitched up during genital cutting.

These cultural practices can perhaps be changed with growing awareness about the long-term results of FGM, both physical and psychological, on the women. It needs to be understood that FGM not only advocates for the promotion of gender inequality. But despite it proving to be mortal for many females, people continue to condone and celebrate this dangerous practice. Primarily people have to dismantle the concepts of initiation and womanhood, which are destructive to life, and begin perceiving women to be just as capable.