One British 20-year-old named Jameila recalled how excited she was at age 12 when her mom took her on a long trip back to her homeland -- only to find herself lying prone in front of a blade. "I came to the living room and there were loads of women," she said. "I later found out it was to hold me down, they bring lots of women to hold the girl down. I thought I was going to be brave so I didn't really need that. I just lay down and I remember looking at the ceiling and staring at the fan. I don't remember screaming, I remember the ridiculous amount of pain, I remember the blood everywhere, one of the maids, I actually saw her pick up the bit of flesh that they cut away 'cause she was mopping up the blood. There was blood everywhere."
At least her mom saw fit to pay extra for a clean blade.
The article went on to report that some 500 to 2,000 British schoolgirls will be genitally mutilated this summer -- some abroad; others at home in the U.K. by women already living there or who are flown in and brought to cost-conscious "cutting parties." But make no mistake: It's illegal in the U.K. to carry out FGM or to aid, abet or procure the service of another person to carry it out. And according to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003, it's illegal to perform FGM on permanent residents of the U.K. anywhere in the world of any age -- yet to date, there have been no prosecutions.
FGM is a coming-of-age ceremony dating back to the second century B.C., and is thought by many cultures to conform to traditions that dictate women keep their nether regions "clean" and "neat" to "increase sexual pleasure for the man."
For women, it opens up a host of painful health problems. Aside from the risk of death from shock or blood loss, women have to be surgically reopened in order to give birth. The aftermath includes repeat infections and a vast array of fertility issues, not to mention lack of sexual pleasure. One Egyptian study found that 50 percent of women who had undergone FGM "endured" rather than enjoyed sex.
Although unable to give consent, many girls are compliant when they have the procedure carried out, believing they will be outcasts if they are not cut. The mothers believe they are doing the best for their daughters. Few have any idea of the lifetime of hurt it can involve -- or the medical implications.
As many as 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, with another two million joining them every year. The practice is popular in 28 African countries, as well as Yemen, Kurdistan, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Australia and Canada.
It's important to know that the reasons people do it are more cultural than religious. As one expert in the article explained, "FGM has a social function and until this is understood by social services and other bodies they will never stop it. It is a power negotiation mechanism that women use to ensure respect from men. It prevents rape of daughters and is a social tool to allow women to regain some power in patriarchal societies. With girls living in the U.K. there is no need to gain the power -- it has to be understood that girls can be good girls without FGM."
Have you guys ever met anyone who has endured this painful practice?