CommunityPam's House Blend

Female genital mutilation practiced in Iraq

Tools used during the FGM “ceremony.”

[Warning: the graphic descriptions of FGM may disturb you, but this is just a taste of the reality of what women must endure in some parts of the world.]

The barbaric practice of female genital mutilation still occurs in many African and Middle Eastern countries. It’s another custom that has its root in the control of the sexuality, independence and status of women. There is now confirmation that FGM is also occurring in Iraq. (Christian Science Monitor):

Set on an arid plain southeast of Kirkuk, Hasira looks like a place forsaken by time. Sheep amble past mud-brick houses and the odd sickly palm tree shades children’s games. There is no electricity.

Yet along with 39 other villages in this region that Iraq’s Kurds have named Germian (meaning hot place), Hasira and its people have become noted for presenting the first statistical evidence in Iraq of the existence of female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM), as critics call it.

“We knew Germian was one of the areas most affected by the practice,” says Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, director of a German nongovernmental organization called WADI, which has been based in Iraq for more than a decade.

Of 1,554 women and girls over 10 years old interviewed by WADI’s local medical team, 907, or more than 60 percent, said they had had the operation. The practice is known to exist throughout the Middle East, particularly in northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan, and Iraq. There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest it is present in Syria, western Iran, and southern Turkey.

Women are still thought to be promiscuous if they are uncircumcised, some people here say. “They say the food an uncircumcised woman cooks is unclean,” says Shirin Ali, “and that a circumcised girl has more affection for her family.”

WADI workers said that four months ago in a village just north of Hasira, a newly married – and uncircumcised – woman was so badly treated by her in-laws that she performed the operation on herself.

Italicized excerpts below are from Amnesty International’s site on FGM.

By Sola, a 15-year-old that underwent FGM in Nigeria.
An estimated 135 million of the world’s girls and women have undergone genital mutilation, and two million girls a year are at risk of mutilation – approximately 6,000 per day.

Women in Somalia protesting FGM in 2004.

The effects of genital mutilation can lead to death. At the time the mutilation is carried out, pain, shock, haemorrhage and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia can occur. Afterwards urine may be retained and serious infection develop. Use of the same instrument on several girls without sterilization can cause the spread of HIV.

First sexual intercourse can only take place after gradual and painful dilation of the opening left after mutilation. In some cases, cutting is necessary before intercourse can take place. In one study carried out in Sudan, 15% of women interviewed reported that cutting was necessary before penetration could be achieved.

FGM in Kenya.

FGM is often deemed necessary in order for a girl to be considered a complete woman, and the practice marks the divergence of the sexes in terms of their future roles in life and marriage. The removal of the clitoris and labia ‘ viewed by some as the “male parts” of a woman’s body ‘ is thought to enhance the girl’s femininity, often synonymous with docility and obedience.

In many societies, an important reason given for FGM is the belief that it reduces a woman’s desire for sex, therefore reducing the chance of sex outside marriage. The ability of unmutilated women to be faithful through their own choice is doubted.

Previous post

What Judy Miller Did as an Embed, Part Five

Next post

Caption this

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding