Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Holy Rite or Brutal Torture?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Holy Rite or Brutal Torture?

Article excerpt

I was very happy; I thought it would be fun. The day before, I had my hands and feet dyed with henna. . . . It was like a party. The next morning, the local midwife arrived with another woman. They told me to lie on the floor. They twisted my arms so that I couldn't move and pinned my legs to the ground after pulling them wide apart.

The midwife rubbed a little alcohol on my genitals, then she cut me with a razor. My mother, my aunts, the neighbors - they were all there. I screamed with pain. I was given a glass of lemonade and put to bed.

Then they rolled the pieces of flesh that had been cut off in salt, wrapped them in cloth and tied it onto my arm. I kept it on me like that for a week, to protect me from evil.

There's no delicate way to explain the horrors of genital mutilation practiced on little girls in some 40 countries - mostly in poor parts of Africa and in rural sections of the Middle East.

The account above comes from an Egyptian woman interviewed by author Wedad Zenie-Ziegler in a 1988 book called "In Search of Shadows - Conversations with Egyptian Women" (published by Zed Books Ltd.).

The issue of genital mutilation received national news-media attention this spring with the case of a Nigerian woman who fought to be spared from deportation because she feared that, if she were to be returned, her two American-born daughters, ages 6 and 5, would face the mutilation she endured at age 4.

A U.S. immigration judge allowed 32-year-old Lydia Oluloro to stay, calling the African ritual "cruel, painful and dangerous."

Cruel, indeed.

The practice of genital excision differs from country to country, but in every case it is part of a religious ritual in which the clitoris - and, in the most extreme instances, most of the surrounding genital area - is cut off little girls in a rite of passage that is supposed to lead them to marriage and to the understanding of the eventual pain of childbirth. …

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