Just for once this is a serious post as I want to raise awareness of something that is going on in dozens of countries, including the United States and many places in Europe. It’s a theme I chose for my latest book and the more I researched it the more horrified I became. FGM is a topic only ever discussed behind closed doors, many people have never even heard of it.
Then this popped up on my timeline on Facebook. It’s written by Serena Cairns and personalizes the fears and feelings of a young girl. It tore at my heart and I think it will tear at yours too. How long must we wait for men and women to be regarded as humans, different, but equal? Women are not possessions neither should they be second class citizens.
With reference to your latest novel, Lucinda, I thought you might like this very short piece.
My name is unimportant. I am twelve years of age. Today, I am to become a woman.
I must submit to tradition; endure humiliation and pain at the hands of those I love.
I am told that I am to be cut, but this is not Africa or Egypt, or India. This is England, and I do not live in ignorance. I know.
Today, I shall have my arms tightly clasped behind me, be pinned down on a stool, naked and afraid, my legs prized apart and held by those I have trusted.
It is no use screaming. Neighbours and passers-by will not hear me above the hi-fi and TV. I cannot ask for help in a world full of strangers.
A woman I do not know will kneel before me, light reflecting off the blade in her hand. I shall feel excruciating pain, feel the warmth and smell the blood, whilst I am held, hacked and mutilated.
If I struggle, I put my life at risk. A severed artery is all it takes.
I’m told I should be proud. I’m told I must be thankful my parents see fit to follow tradition.
I do not understand why I should be glad.
I know only that I risk infection and impairment to my walking.
I know to expect painful periods and incontinence as I grow older.
When I marry, I must be cut again to allow my husband penetration.
When I give birth, again I must be opened and risk painful tearing. Perhaps my husband will insist I be re-stitched between children.
I shall be deprived of my sexuality.
I am afraid.
I do not want to become this woman, this adult.
I do not want to feel the searing pain down there. Not now, not ever.
I want to run, to hide but there is nowhere to go, nowhere where they will not find me.
Who can I tell?
How can I turn against my mother, my family, my culture?
How can I betray them? I cannot.
Where is the reason?
Where is my consolation?
Where is justice?
They are not here.
Today, I am to become a woman.
Serena was aware of FGM long before I ever heard about this cruel practice. It has no medical benefits and appears in no religious teachings.
Please spread the word, education is the key to help stop this inhumane practice. Even in North America, it’s still perfectly legal in many states and there have been very, very few convictions for those adults who mutilate young girls. Over a hundred cases are reported by the British National Health Service every week and so far there has not been one conviction. Many people are not even aware of it. Two million young girls worldwide are at risk.
It’s simply heartbreaking.