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Old 11-04-2006, 11:38 PM   #31
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yeh thats why i put followers, i should have put woman followers to make it more clear - my mistake. I do believe though that woman go along with it because they are told to, because the live in a male dominated world.

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Basically, the woman sews everything shut. When the girl is basically forced to have sex (since she will be married as early as age 12), another woman has to open the wound, then close it again and tie the girls legs together so it can heal. Then, they cut it back open for childbirth, close it, heal it, open it again for sex, and so on....
I feel sick.... those poor girls
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Old 11-04-2006, 11:44 PM   #32
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Originally posted by dazzlingamy

I feel sick.... those poor girls
Yes, I never realized they actually did that. It looks like something from a cheap horror flick, like when people's mouths are sewn shut. I guess I was assuming certain things were shut due to excessive scarring in that area. Reading that short paragraph made me feel sick. I can't imagine living like that even without being (or wanting to be) sexually active anyway.
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Old 11-05-2006, 10:04 AM   #33
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It's absolutely disgusting...I'm trying to find the words to express the brutality of it, and I can't.

Aren't we basically talking about torture here? Can you call it anything but that? I couldn't do that to my worst enemy, let alone my daughter...
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Old 11-05-2006, 12:29 PM   #34
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It's absolutely torture.

We watched a video in my psych of women class they showed before and after and were outside of the tent. The screams were horrifying, it was a young girl but she was around 10 old enough to know very clearly what was being done to her. She was completely unwilling and the look on her face afterwards was heart wrenching. I think in that case it was her mother who did it.

from what I learned it was meant to keep them completely shut, not just prevent clitoral stimulation. They are closed up so whatever man they are given to knows he has a virgin. Many have trouble urinating, it makes having periods tricky as well then I can't imagine child birth being easy.
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Old 11-05-2006, 01:50 PM   #35
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If they're completely closed up I'd think it would cause all sorts of problems re: urination & menstruation. You can definitely see a danger there; hygeine has to be just about impossible.

Can't anything be done about this? The idea of someone hacking away at a little girl's private area makes me physically sick.
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Old 11-06-2006, 08:18 AM   #36
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I'd like to add my 2 cents in here...

Let me start by saying that I find this practice as horrific as anyone here, but it really needs to be understood in context in order to be fought efficiently.

I live in West Africa (Gambia), and it's a very common pratice around here, the vast majority of women have undergone some form of FGM. You have to understand that calling people torturer or crazy and simply saying they should be put in jail is NOT helping at all. I know it's difficult to understand but people here consider this practice completely normal, and they get really offended when we come on our western high horses and accuse them of mutilating their children.

Yes, it has to do with controlling a women's sexuality, but people here don't see things this way necessarily. You have to understand that in some region, EVERY FEMALE goes through it, and it is part of an extremely complex and important ritual. Like male circumcision, it is part of one of the most important rituals that every person must go through around puberty, and to people here this is as important as a naming ceremony or a marriage.

Although it ultimately has to do with men controlling women, men are not involved in the pratice at all, and most times have nothing to do with the whole ritual. It is mothers (and grandmothers, sisters, ants) who take care of bringing their girls to the person who will perform the ritual, and it a woman who does the cutting. When you ask men about this here they say it's entirely women's business and they have no idea what exactly goes on there.

People do not want to stop doing it simply because it's something every woman they know has had to go through, and has been going on for thousands of years. Mothers think that their daughters will not get married if they don't do it, and their fears are legitimate. The prospect of staying un-married around here is just about the worst thing that can happen to a woman.

It is an awful practice and it needs to stop, but the approach must be extremely culturally sensitive, and look at all aspects of it (like the fact that it is part of a fundamental religious ritual). Also, it must be stopped by African women themselves, not by shocked Westerners. The approach that many western organisations have taken (calling it mutilation, trying to put people in jail, etc.) is COMPLETELY unproductive.

The first step is trying to understand why people do it, and not accuse them of being child torturers. Mothers who do it to their daughters, really, honestly believe they are doing it for good reasons. There are all sorts of beliefs related to it, like that the clitoris keep growing if you don't cut it of, that women who are not cut become uncontrolable promiscuous beings, etc. They need to be explained in a non-condescending, non-condemning way that they are in fact harming their daughters, which they have NO intention of doing.

Some good work has been done in the region, and it's most efficient when all parts of the community are involved, including religious leaders, who have a tremendous influence here. For example in Senegal:

http://www.womensenews.org/article.c...ontext/archive

But overall this is MUCH more complex than we tend to see it in the West. I have had quite a few discussions with people around here about it, including people who are educated, progressive and work in the development area, and I cannot overemphasize how delicate this question is here. I have had people telling me that anti-FGM campaigns are based on lies and are just another excuse for Westerners to control Africans and deny them their most important religious/cultural practices, and make them look like barbarians.

Accusing people of being torturers or child mutilaters without understanding their point of view first is not doing any good, sorry.
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Old 11-06-2006, 08:28 AM   #37
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^Very interesting post, and quite thought provoking. I think it should give us all pause as we consider to the most effective means of bringing about change.

And I'm always interested in hearing from those that are posting from well outside the "western world."
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:02 AM   #38
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Well as a woman that is my reaction to it, sorry. I understand as much as I can that that is where they are coming from as you explained it, but it is torture. If this was done in the US or any other country I would hope it would also be labelled as such and dealt with accordingly. That's why we put that man on trial for it and he was convicted.

I don't think that having those reactions to it makes anyone a horrible person Amnesty International and other organizations call it torture, I didn't originate that. It is mutiliation, a point of view can't change that fact.
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:23 AM   #39
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I agree with you that it IS a form of mutilation. But 'torture' has a very negative connotation, and implies that the person doing it intends to do harm, which is not the case.

Yes, many respectable organisations such as Amnesty have used very harsh words, but I am telling you from having seen how sensitive this issue is from up close, I really do not think that using accusating or very harsh language is being productive.

These campaigns by large Western organisations (Amnesty and others) are doing more harm than good, believe me. It has been proven over and over that a more culturally sensitive and understanding approach is the only way to go.

I totally understand your reaction, I had the same when I first saw a movie about it back when I was living in Canada. But really, people here are not torturers, they want the best for their children like any of us.

To people here, it is like undergoing a medical procedure that would be extremely painful but necessary and beneficial in the long run. For example most of us wouldn't consider taking out wisdom teeth as 'torture', even if it can be umbelievably painful, because some people think it's necessary to take them out in some cases. People here see FGM the same way, and it is understandable that they do because it has been done to every woman they know for generations.

Btw I agree that someone doing that in the West should be arrested, because it is illegal there. I am not sure about a 10 year sentence though...It is also illegal in a few African countries (like Senegal), but if they start throwing everyone in jail the majority of the rural population would end up there!

Mrs. Springsteen, I am sorry if it looked like I singled you out, it was not my intention at all. I think it's great that you brought up that issue in FYM. But reading other posts it seemed to me like they were overwhelmingly accusatory and I just don't think it's the right attitude.
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:28 AM   #40
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Here is the article I posted. This organisation (TOSTAN) is really a good example of a programme that worked from the grass-roots and used a non-condemning approach, and the results have been spectacular. It did originate from the West, but these people had an in-depth understanding of the local culture, which many organisations with campaigns based in the West do not have.

******

Senegal Program Eradicating FGM
Run Date: 12/07/03
By Ginger Adams Otis
WeNews correspondent

Some 2 million women around the world are subject to female genital mutilation every year. Now, a program is set to eradicate the custom in Senegal and is likely to be replicated elsewhere in Africa.


(WOMENSENEWS)--An innovative health and human rights program in Senegal is on the brink of eradicating a centuries-old custom that involves excising large parts of the female genitalia, a custom which can have a debilitating effect on women's reproductive and general health, as well as their overall quality of life.

It's known to most as female genital mutilation, or FGM, and currently some 2 million women around the world are subjected to it every year.

Molly Melching is founder and director of Tostan, a nongovernmental organization based in the capital city of Dakar that has played a crucial role in informing Senegalese about the dangers of genital mutilation. Soon, her innovative programs will be available to other health workers and community leaders.

Melching's staff is putting the final touches on a new training center--scheduled to open in January or February--that will teach other organizations how to use Tostan's methodology in the fight against FGM. Their goal for the first year is to work with Gambia, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea. Many organizations in Africa are already asking for or have gotten help from Melching, including groups in Sudan. Recently the World Health Organization recognized the groundbreaking work of Tostan and called for its replication and dissemination throughout Africa.

An Unexpected, But Welcome Surprise
Nobody's more surprised by the success of Tostan's programs than Melching herself, because by her own admission, she never set out to eradicate female genital mutilation.

"I don't endorse this practice," the Danville, Ill., native says, "but Tostan respects all cultures equally. We never went into villages and said 'That's bad. Stop it.'"

Instead, Melching says, her program initially set out to educate women in basic health and human rights issues. Instructors used song, dance and theater as teaching methods because most women in Senegal have little formal schooling. Tostan students learned the basics of hygiene, preventative health care, problem solving and democracy. Then, in more advanced classes, women were taught writing, reading and arithmetic with direct applications such as writing newspaper articles and campaign speeches.

Melching believes these classes, taught around the country for more than two decades and always in indigenous languages by local instructors, laid the foundation for change that came later when she developed a series of classes that almost overnight changed the way many Senegalese viewed FGM.

"I recently went to a gathering of (nongovernmental organizations) in Egypt," says Melching "and one woman I spoke to said she thinks it will be another hundred years before female cutting disappears from Egypt. A hundred years! We think it could be gone from Senegal in the next two to five years."

American Jewish World Service Is Persuaded
In 1995, Melching was approached by the American Jewish World Service, a nonprofit based in New York City that partners with grassroots organizations engaged in education, community building, health care, agriculture reform and economic development, and initiates projects to alleviate poverty. The organization offered to fund a child development program in Senegal, but when Melching began to gather research on the project, she discovered many women had other questions in mind.

She began to talk to women about what they most wanted to learn and they all had inquiries about their own bodies, about things like menstruation and sexually transmitted diseases, Melching says. "I realized a lot of them had never had a reproductive health class and had no information about how their own bodies worked. She recommended the American Jewish World Service that the project should be focused on remedying women's lack on information before taking on child development.

The organization gave Melching and her staff free rein, and before long a health module was drawn up and ready for implementation. Then, Tostan decided to add a human rights dimension. Even though Melching didn't add it with the goal of ending FGM in mind, she believes that's what changed the way local women viewed their right (and the right of their daughters) to physical integrity.

"We made absolutely sure that there was never any negative mention of female genital cutting in any of these classes," says Melching, "but we did explain certain health factors, and many women did come to understand that their chronic pain, for example, was actually linked to the cutting they'd had as a child."

Women also began to understand the link between the practice and the strange fevers that often visited their daughters days after the ceremony, fevers caused by infections that wear down otherwise healthy young girls and sometimes end their lives. As women gained more knowledge about female anatomy, more and more of them came to question the need for FGM.

The exact origin of the tradition is unknown. Some researchers speculate it's tied to an ancient Egyptian ritual from the 5th century B.C. One thing is clear: It predates the arrival of Christianity and Islam in Africa, despite the insistence of some fundamentalist Islamic leaders that the Koran demands that women be cut.

The first sign of a major shift in Senegalese thinking came in 1997, when a group of woman in Malicounda Bambara (population 3,000), located in the center of the country, made a public declaration--in writing--that they would no longer cut girls or women. Since then, more than 1,140 communities have done the same after participating in a Tostan education program. In 2000, the president of Senegal prevailed in passing a law that outlawed all forms of FGM. Currently, there are about 4,000 Senegalese villages out of 13,000 that still practice FGM, but that number is dwindling every day.

"We're extremely proud of Tostan," says Ronni Strongin, a spokesperson for the American Jewish World Service." But we never expected this to amount to what has happened with female genital mutilation there. It happened as a result of the health and human rights decisions made by the communities themselves."

Senegal, Exception to the Rule
Despite the strides forward in Senegal, pressure on girls and women to go through the process is intense in many parts of the world. The World Health Organization reports that more than 130 million girls and women in Africa have undergone this practice, often seen as a rite of passage from childhood into adulthood. FGM is usually performed by a traditional "cutter" in non-sterile surroundings with the girl forcibly restrained. Cutters use razor blades, knives (in some cases specially designed for the practice) and pieces of glass or scissors.

Forms of FGM range from cauterizing the clitoris, partial or full excision of the clitoris and labia minora, and in the most extreme cases, excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening, also known as infibulation. In many cases, the vaginal opening is reduced to the size of a matchstick and the resulting build up of menstrual fluid inevitably causes ongoing infections. Women who undergo infibulation often must be cut open the first time they have sex and again to give birth.

In Ethiopia, where 85 percent of the population practices FGM (and most commonly infibulation), health workers report that higher-than-average numbers of women suffer from kidney problems and urinary infections. Ethiopia also has an extremely high maternal death rate. Tilahun Giday, a member of Watertown, Mass-based Pathfinder International, a nongovernmental organization working to improve women's rights in 23 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, says the legs of young girls have to be tied down for about a month to allow the body time to heal.

Giday's group has not had the same kind of success as Tostan in eradicating FGM, but he is one of many health workers planning to send staff members to Melching for training. Already, Melching has helped train instructors from Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and several other African countries.

For Melching, the cultural transformation in Senegal her classes have engendered is exactly what she hoped to achieve 30 years ago, when she started Tostan.

"I chose that name because it's a Wolof word for something that simultaneously breaks open and spreads, like the cracking of an egg," she explains.

Ginger Adams Otis is a Pacifica Radio correspondent and frequent contributor to The Village Voice.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For more information:
Tostan:
http://www.tostan.org
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Old 11-06-2006, 09:37 AM   #41
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I understand that the people there are not torturers, but at the same time just because something has been a practice for generations doesn't make it right or any more acceptable. I understand and appreciate what you are saying, but I also think sometimes certain language might be necessary in order to bring the needed outside attention to an issue. Obviously educating the people who still perform fgm is probably the best thing. I just feel that sitting around and trying to understand why people do that isn't going to stop it as quickly as it needs to be stopped. As a female I just feel so much for those girls, I can't change that.

Sometimes the first step to change is enough people condemning an action. That can lead to education and change.

I see nothing wrong with a 10 year sentence for doing that to a child, it is child abuse even though their culture doesn't believe it is.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:11 AM   #42
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It would be very tough to achieve the kind of transformations recounted in the article through UN resolutions, or even individual governments' laws as they exist on paper. Arresting half the women of "more than 1140 communities" (number who've made a collective commitment not to continue FGM, as described in the article) and putting them in jail would not be feasible anyhow. I don't think it's fair to characterize the approach oceane is advocating as "sitting around and trying to understand why people do that"--going into the villages and teaching women how their bodies work is not "sitting around"; no doubt it's necessary and helpful for health workers to understand what the local traditional thinking behind FGM is, but ultimately they're there to help women improve their daughters' lives, as they already want to do anyway. Besides, to get enough people who are actually in a position to change anything condemning FGM, you're going to need to educate them as to why it's condemnable first.

Ending FGM through law enforcement alone does make sense in a society like ours where cultural precedent doesn't support it, and the reach and legitimacy of police power in even the most remote communities is pervasive. But I'm inclined to agree with oceane that for the time being, the education route is likely to be far more effective in areas where the practice of FGM is widespread. Think of all the couples in our own country who've benefited from the growth of public awareness about how female sexuality works over the last century--a night-and-day different situation in many regards obviously, but I think relevant in that the dissemination of such knowledge "worked" by complementing a desire men already have to make their partners happy, rather than reviling them for their failures to achieve what often neither they nor their partners adequately understood the basics of.

It seems reasonable that teaching more women without such knowledge how FGM affects their daughters could have the same effects elsewhere as it's had in Senegal. Since FGM is rooted in cultural beliefs which frame it as socially beneficial, not some criminal pathology which celebrates harming women for its own sake, it makes most sense to combat it by teaching the people (and particularly the women) who practice it what they're demonstrably depriving their daughters of by removing all their erogenous tissues, and even more importantly what quantifiable physical harm and consequent health risks they're exposing their daughters to, as well as any children they'll become pregnant with. Not by starting out saying "Here's why your traditional practices are barbaric and evil," but by teaching them the scientific basics of female sexual and reproductive health so that they can see for themselves how the consequences of FGM undercut the intentions they already have as parents to give their daughters good health, happy marriages, and safely delivered children. This is all about private lives, ultimately; it's not a question of access to public services like education or voting, and requires different strategies than those kinds of advancements would.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:18 AM   #43
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Quote:
Originally posted by oceane
I agree with you that it IS a form of mutilation. But 'torture' has a very negative connotation, and implies that the person doing it intends to do harm, which is not the case.

I don't think it matters what their intention is.

If you intend X to happen (FGM in the name of cultural ritual), but Y (mutilation, suffering, torture, take your pick) is certain or substantially certain to flow from your act X, for all intents and purposes, you intended Y to happen as well.

And I don't think that's strictly a legal interepretation either; it reads well in a common sense context as well.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:27 AM   #44
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I understand that the people there are not torturers, but at the same time just because something has been a practice for generations doesn't make it right or any more acceptable. I understand and appreciate what you are saying, but I also think sometimes certain language might be necessary in order to bring the needed outside attention to an issue. Obviously educating the people who still perform fgm is probably the best thing. I just feel that sitting around and trying to understand why people do that isn't going to stop it as quickly as it needs to be stopped. As a female I just feel so much for those girls, I can't change that.

Sometimes the first step to change is enough people condemning an action. That can lead to education and change.

I see nothing wrong with a 10 year sentence for doing that to a child, it is child abuse even though their culture doesn't believe it is.
I agree. As for the middle statement, my sentiments exactly. Proven by psychological experiments, attitude does not change behavior, it's the other way around. We have to be forced into doing something a different way before we realize we may have been wrong and are open to change.

Second, I also am fine with the 10 year sentence. I appreciate Oceane's post, but in the US this type of thing IS illegal, so here I find the prison sentence completely appropriate. In West Africa, not so much.

One other thing I found interesting while reading up on this is that Canada grants asylum to women/girls who feel threatened by the possibility of FGM.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:36 AM   #45
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So should human rights end at national borders?
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