Things Not To Say To FGM Survivors And Campaigners

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Apr 18, 2019


Things Not To Say To FGM Survivors And Campaigners
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  • So you can't orgasm? What does it look like?
  • Isn't it a bit racist to criticise?
  • Isn't this just like male circumcision?
  • "What does it look like?"
  • Get out!
  • What does it look like, though?
  • Like, can you, like, show me? Can you open up?
  • Maybe I should have a picture tattooed on my forehead.
  • Of your vagina. Yes. Just walk around with it.
  • How are you so intrigued with what the genitalia...
  • What the genitals look like? ..entails, you know? Yeah.
  • Do you find, because you're so open about your story,
  • and it's the same for me,
  • that people think they can ask you any question? Anything.
  • It's like, "My curiosity matters more than your mental health, OK,
  • "and your, like, wellbeing."
  • Don't Google what it looks like, by the way.
  • Especially on a work computer! Please don't. Exactly!
  • "Isn't it like male circumcision?"
  • This has come up way too much.
  • I don't understand how these two concepts
  • are still spoken about in the same breath.
  • The only "reason" FGM happens is to control a girl's sexuality.
  • It can be anything from a small nick in the hood of the clitoris...
  • The partial or total removal of the labia minora.
  • Sometimes, if they're so enclosed, there's a tiny hole
  • that's left for pee to come out and menstrual blood to come out.
  • It has a lot of implications for childbirth.
  • It makes it very difficult.
  • I've witnessed a lot of women die back home giving birth.
  • If you were to compare it to male circumcision
  • that would be cutting a boy's dick...half off his dick off.
  • Yes, I think it's weird to, you know, cut the healthy tissue
  • of young boys.
  • I would never support it, but I think to compare the two
  • in order to make a point doesn't help anybody.
  • It's like if someone walked in to a talk about how diabetes was bad
  • and said, "Oh, but what about cancer, though?" Exactly. Yeah.
  • "Isn't that a Muslim thing?"
  • Hi, Muslim here! Lovely!
  • Why, with the Islamophobia every...
  • Is it every day? It's every day. Is it every day? Every day.
  • Give them a break. You know?
  • It's raining outside, blame Islam.
  • It's not written in the Koran.
  • It's not necessarily endorsed by the imams.
  • Actually, are you Muslim? No. OK.
  • I was baptised... Obviously it's not a Muslim thing, then.
  • ..as a baby, a two-week-old baby. That's how Christian my family is.
  • We believe it started 2,500 years ago,
  • so it predates both Islam and Christianity.
  • In Egyptian times! Egyptian, yeah.
  • Islam wasn't created, like, until a billion years later or something.
  • Like, come on, man.
  • "So, you can't orgasm?"
  • This question's cheeky.
  • Oh, something's happened to her vagina? Sex! Exactly, yeah... Sex!
  • ..because that's all... That's all it's for. Yeah.
  • The orgasm question is always the first thing they ask.
  • Like, "Can you have an orgasm?"
  • Asking such a question would definitely trigger huge emotions.
  • It could break a survivor and set her back, so...
  • BOTH: ..just don't ask.
  • I do like that they care about us having orgasms. That's true.
  • That's nice, but... Once in a while, yeah.
  • For once in their lives, they actually want to care.
  • Yeah, they want to care.
  • At the time we don't need them to care.
  • "Your parents must hate you."
  • My family did that because they believe it's the best thing
  • they could do for me at that point in time.
  • No-one wants their child to be called names.
  • People are going to think she's dirty.
  • No-one is going to want to marry her
  • because you can't prove her virginity.
  • Many of the mums who are cutting their daughters also were cut,
  • so they feel they have an idea about what is needed.
  • It doesn't come from a place of hate.
  • It comes from a place of, you know,
  • just weird love and... Yeah, immense pressure.
  • My mother had no role, had no power in ending my FGM...
  • Like, stopping me from being cut,
  • but she had the power to empower me to be this woman that I am.
  • "But why would anyone go along with it?"
  • Patriarchy!
  • "Why would you go along with FGM?" As though you had a choice.
  • Did you have a choice? As if I have choice!
  • They're kind of just taken with an auntie
  • and by the time they come back the practice has been done
  • and no-one kind of just discusses it.
  • That's what I've seen in my community.
  • Everyone at the age of five is not questioning
  • what their parents are doing.
  • Did you question that your parents were feeding you?
  • Did you question that they were washing you? Like, no.
  • Often you're being forcibly held down and cut.
  • There's no anaesthetic, there's no ability in that,
  • you have no agency to resist.
  • I've seen people who try to run.
  • They are brought back.
  • Your family is like your support system, your stable place.
  • Would you want to lose that? Yeah, would you want to lose that?
  • No, so you're going to do what they tell you. Exactly.
  • They say "jump", you say, "How high?"
  • "You're betraying our community."
  • We get a lot of that.
  • You know, so many people from certain backgrounds
  • saying on there, like, "This is a lie,
  • "you're just trying to make our community look bad,
  • "da-da-da-da-da..."
  • Those activists who did start this movement,
  • they've had some really horrible backlashes. Mm.
  • I found it really hard when Somali girls were, like, very critical,
  • but I kind of understood it because you're kind of telling
  • their deepest darkest secret without their permission. Yes.
  • All of a sudden, they're seeing females in their community
  • being liberated, having voices, speaking out about something,
  • taking back... You know, owning their sexuality,
  • owning their existence
  • and saying, "This is wrong. We're not going to have it."
  • And that kind of like intimidates them. Yeah.
  • "Why do you talk about it?"
  • I didn't want to go on living in a world where FGM happened.
  • Being a medical student, like being on the wards
  • and speaking to doctors and they actually come and tell me,
  • "Oh, yeah, we had cases of FGM today," and I'm like, "Wow, really?"
  • Like, it's happening, it's a thing, it's real.
  • It kind of helps in that situation where, if you're there, to say to girls,
  • "Actually, you can live... There is life beyond FGM." True.
  • This is something we CAN end. We can end it in the next decade. We can.
  • If you see me on the street you would not know
  • that I've been through FGM.
  • I have a life, I have a husband, I have children.
  • I have six children. Yeah. Yeah.
  • See, I don't have six children, but I might.
  • I can have comfortable sex.
  • I can have all the zing. Ooh!
  • Yeah, so there's life after FGM.
  • "Can you have an orgasm?" is the first question
  • that I was asked by a senior person.
  • I think it depends on the guy, you know?
  • What can the guy bring to the table? Has he got the skills?
  • Ahh! That's what we need to be talking about!

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Survivors of female genital mutilation have been through one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable. And they often find people's reactions are intrusive, confused and downright triggering. Here, women who have undergone FGM, or are active in campaigning against it, discuss some of the common beliefs around the practice and the reactions that are most unhelpful.

For information and support, these organisations in the UK may be able to help: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/Mq8jBb1cRQHhbgbhsdQmh4/information-and-support-fgm

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