Last week, I wrote about different kinds of violence, but as the topic is so vast I couldn’t cover all parts in one essay.
The remaining parts are latent violence and sexual violence.
Latent is a word we might not use that often, but it means that it is something that is slumbering, threatening to appear in a sudden. Let me give you some examples: let us say that a child has been misbehaving and the mother tells it that just wait until your father comes home and he will punish you. This cloud of threat will hover over the child, and the longer the child has to wait for the father to come home, the worse the punishment will become in the child’s imagination.
It is not fair to anyone to allow the fury or the fear to last for that long. Kids know which buttons to press to make parents upset, but it is better to react at once and get it over with. But and this is a big but; never allow the punishment to become larger than the mistake the child made. Always remember that you are an adult, you are large and stronger than the child. The child depends on you, so don’t misuse your power.
Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my last essay, but when I speak about violence it is not only between adults. It can be in a family, between parents and children. It can be in any situation where someone is depending on the other part for his or her welfare and safety.
If we look at a relation between two spouses, where the male is dominant and the female is supposed to be submissive, we come to an imbalance in the relation. The tradition might say that the male is supposed to be dominant and the female submissive, but times change, societies change and traditions also change. Traditions have never been completely fixed, it is only in some people’s minds. Whenever we begin to study the history of our societies, we can see that they have always evolved and with that also the traditions. Looking back at old times, it was part of the tradition that the husband was allowed to beat his wife, his children and also his house folk like a maid or a gardener. No one questioned that, as it was supposed to be like that, but thankfully this has changed and people are allowed to keep their dignity.
Unfortunately, this progress hasn’t reached everyone, so we still have some males who believe they are supposed to be in control of their female companions, no matter the consequences for the female. A part of this control can be that the female is never able to relax, because she always has to be on her guard as she never knows which mood her spouse is in. She tries to speak in a certain way not to upset him, she tries to act in a way that doesn’t annoy him. She tries to wipe out any part of her personality that might cause him lashing out on her for no known reason – just because he feels like it. She never knows how he will punish her, or why- all she knows is that it can happen any time and that it will be painful.
Now we have come to the last part in my list of different kinds of violence: the sexual violence. Perhaps you find it too embarrassing to mention, or even taboo, but still, we must speak about this matter. I am sure you can create your own list of actions that are to be considered as sexual violence, but I will focus on one certain kind that you might not consider as sexual violence – instead as an old tradition. I am speaking about FGM, Female Genital Mutilation. This act is against the law in The Gambia, but unfortunately it still exists – only that it is hidden. For an outsider, it might be believed that this tradition is forced upon young girls by their fathers, but this is actually not the truth. The fathers know that FGM exists, and that their daughters have been forced to undergo it, but they choose to turn a blind eye to it.
The men say that this is women’s business, so they should not interfere in it. Very convenient for the men, but if they would learn the details about FGM they might begin to change their opinions. Some men say that why should we make a big fuss about female circumcision, small boys get circumcised and no-one is complaining about that. The thing is that when a boy-child becomes circumcised, he doesn’t become mutilised for the rest of his life. The procedure doesn’t prevent him from having a normal sex life or to feel satisfaction. The removal of a small piece of skin doesn’t cause any risks for him to lose his life one day when he becomes a father.
Male circumcision is a much easier process than the female part. The penis heals quickly and any after-effects are rare. Cutting a girl-child is much more complicated, it is performed by women who have no medical training at all and without proper equipment. The cutting of the clitoris is made by a knife or a razor blade, in some places even by a sharpened stone. The cutting is performed without any kind of anaesthesia, so the girl-child is going through the hell because of the long-lasting pain and also the humiliation. Girls are at early age taught that their private parts are something you don’t talk about, touch or show to anyone else. Suddenly there are a bunch of women forcing a girl through this painful procedure. They force her to undress, they hold her upper body down, hold her legs apart and then the procedure begins.
It cannot be done in a haste as the girl, of course, is screaming and wiggling in her attempts to get away from the hell she was thrown in to. The customs for how the labia is sewn together varies, some goes as far as to sew together the outer labia and only leave a small hole so the girl can release herself. The cuttings are not done under hygienic circumstances which can lead to infections, even death. When the girl becomes of age to become a mother, her labia is still sewn together. There is no opening large enough where the baby can come out, so the woman has to be cut open again!
As it isn’t enough with the pain of giving birth!
Every five seconds a woman dies because of the consequences of FGM. Babies die because it takes too long for them to be born as the mother was cut in early childhood. The skin in the mothers’ private parts is not as flexible because of the scars from the cutting she went through. Those of you who defend the practise of FGM as it is a part of your religion need to learn more. The practise is banned by all religions, it is only a cultural practise. Those of you who consider the practise of FGM to be purifying the girls need to know more about the life-time suffering the girls and women go through. FGM is sexual violence, you are forcing pain upon someone else – that is violence and we must stop this together as soon as possible!