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Friday, December 1, 2023

A man ain’t worth it, dear Marie (Part 3)

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With Rohey Samba

There is always a sad, boring truth. Men, empowered by their physical stature and societal privileges, have relentlessly pursued dominion over women throughout the annals of history, a legacy dating back to the creation of Homo sapiens…see how they dominate the narrative on FGM, when there are far more significant societal issues deserving of attention and action.

My Dearest Marie,

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As I type these words, my heart is ablaze with emotions that swirl within me like a tempestuous storm. I find myself oscillating between disbelief, sorrow, and a fierce anger that threatens to consume my very being.

It was just last week when I stumbled upon a fatwa issued by the Fatwa and Moon Sighting Committee of the Supreme Islamic Council of The Gambia, and the contents of this declaration left me in a state of profound shock. In the harshest of terms, it condemned the tireless efforts of organizations and activists who have been courageously campaigning against and denouncing the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). To my utter dismay, this fatwa went so far as to implore the Government of The Gambia to reconsider the law that prohibits female circumcision—a law that boldly stipulates the arrest and prosecution of anyone who dare perpetrate such harm.

The fatwa’s justification? An audacious claim that as Muslims, our most cherished possession in this fleeting life is our true Religion, and thus, any interference with religious practices, no matter how harmful, should be met with defiance.

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This pronouncement invoked the noble Shari’ah, emphasizing its unequivocal stance against anything that brings harm to individuals, whether it be harm to their health or physical well-being. Yet, as I contemplated this, a haunting question gripped my very soul: How can we, with unwavering certainty, assert that the practice does not inflict harm upon women, when a majority of very women who have endured it collectively raise their voices in unison, proclaiming that this practice is a wellspring of agony and suffering?

Marie, my cherished friend, who amongst us can be the unwavering sentinel ensuring that this so-called “legal” form of female circumcision in Islam adheres strictly to the prescribed removal of a tiny upper part of the clitoris, without encroaching upon or touching any part of the labia? The inherent ambiguity in the interpretation of religious texts, further exacerbated by the variances in cultural practices, leaves ample room for deviations that far surpass the intended scope. It is therefore a matter of great importance to acknowledge that these so-called “legal” forms of FGM can still result in unimaginable suffering for women.

As I delved deeper into the content of this fatwa, my heart sank to depths I had never known before, and a tidal wave of disbelief washed over me. In that very moment, my thoughts traversed back to the countless young women who have been irrevocably scarred by this abominable practice. How many among them have come to loathe the act of intimacy, their hearts and bodies forever marred by FGM? How many have been left permanently disabled in its wake? How many have endured the excruciating pain of fistula due to FGM, or met a tragic end during childbirth because of the physical trauma inflicted upon them? This practice, now being defended, has claimed the lives of countless young girls who have bled to their untimely deaths during this brutal procedure.

No matter the rationale, there exists an underlying truth that predates the narratives we weave and the justifications we construct. Damn it all, we are not feeble-minded individuals, nor are we a people resigned to trembling in fear due to the religious ramifications of unperformed FGM. Yet, as I grappled with my initial disbelief and anguish, these sentiments transformed into an overwhelming anger. I couldn’t help but repeatedly ask myself, why should we permit such blatant injustice to persist, unexamined and unchallenged? How can any religion, tradition, or cultural custom possibly warrant the lifelong agony and suffering inflicted upon innumerable women and girls? It is our unwavering responsibility, both as individuals and as a united society, to staunchly oppose practices that inflict immeasurable pain and suffering in the name of tradition or faith.

As I reflect on the audacity of those who seek to dictate the parameters of our bodies, prescribing how they should appear and mandating our behavior, all in the name of religion, my heart burns with an indignant fire. Who are these self-appointed judges, these purveyors of instructions that aim to wear us down with their concocted verses and twisted doctrines, all designed to coerce our submission? What egregious folly it is to even entertain, let alone attempt to engineer, the control of a woman from her infancy through to her adulthood, all the way to her final breath, solely due to her gender.

As highlighted by a fellow writer on Facebook, would it not be fitting to consider issuing a fatwa that addresses the widespread problem of adultery among married men, leading in some cases, to the birth of children outside of their marital relationships with extramarital partners? Isn’t adultery punishable by death according to Shariah? It raises the question: which is more detrimental to society, FGM or adultery?

Female genital mutilation, a barbaric practice that has no place in the annals of modern history, stands as an affront to the societal progress we have so painstakingly achieved. It embodies a crude and archaic quest for power and dominance over others, driven by the instinct to control women and keep them in their place – so to speak.

This ongoing struggle is far from its conclusion. It extends beyond being merely a battle for the dignity and well-being of women; it is a fight for the very essence of our shared humanity. It’s essential to acknowledge that while some women do support the practice, even within our own family circles, where some would staunchly defend it to the very end, this support does not validate or legitimize the practice itself.

The fervent voices of its supporters, who rally to defend FGM, do not represent a unanimous consensus among all women regarding the practice. It’s important to recognize that just because some women are not directly affected or harmed by it, their lack of personal harm does not invalidate or diminish the experiences of those who have been harmed or left with lifelong scars.

These few, albeit vociferous, women who advocate for FGM have become deeply embedded in a culture of conformity, submission, and unwavering deference to societal expectations placed upon women. In doing so, they have sometimes lost sight of their own individuality amid this clamor. However, for the majority of us, women who resist, our silence does not indicate stupidity, fear, or voicelessness. We possess voices, intellect, and an inherent sense of self.

Therefore, it is imperative that we stand together, united and resolute, to amplify our voices against the persistent practice of FGM. It is through our collective determination, education, and unwavering advocacy that we can aspire to bring about the change we so passionately yearn for. Together, we will finally break the chains of this malevolent practice that has unjustly tormented countless women for far too long.

This abhorrent practice must be unequivocally rejected, for it stands as a stark symbol of regression, a direct assault on the principles of equality and dignity that we hold so dear. It is our solemn duty to consign it to the depths of forgotten cruelties and to ardently champion the inalienable rights of every individual to their bodily autonomy, irrespective of their gender.

Only through unwavering dedication can we hope to obliterate the remnants of a bygone era and pave the way for a future where all are liberated from the insidious bonds of oppression.

Marie, as I sit here and contemplate your condition, lying supine and vulnerable, encircled by the intricate web of syringes, in vitro perfusions, and an array of life-sustaining machines, ensnared within the depths of a coma born from the unbearable weight of distress and heartbreak, a solemn truth resurfaces in my mind. It’s a bittersweet yet inescapable reality: oppression, can cast a dark shadow over our lives if we permit it. No woman should willingly allow herself to be subjected to the anguish of domineering control.

My dear friend, Marie, it is my fervent hope that we will emerge from this trial stronger than ever before. We must stand united, firm in our resolve, for the battle against injustice continues. Let us ensure that no woman suffers the anguish the horrors of oppression. Together, we shall forge a path towards a brighter, more equitable future, where the resilience and strength of women are celebrated, not stifled.

With unwavering determination, Your Sister-In-Law.

(to be contd.)

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