By Ousman Minteh, animal and children’s rights activist
Female Genital Cutting has been happening for centuries in many parts of the world especially South Asia and Africa. For some, it has connections to their traditions while it has both religious and cultural connections to others. Thus, The Gambia is not an exception. Many women have gone through this practice for generations after generations for centuries. The UN once referred to FGM as the Female Genital Cutting “FGC” until 1991 when “Mutilation” came in to replace “cutting”. Unless the English man lost his grammar, the word mutilation could mean to remove something totally, to destroy or severely damage a body part(s). I do not believe the term “FGM” is fitting to describe the female circumcision that is commonly practiced in the Gambia by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The anti-FGM zero-tolerance policy, launched on February 6, 2003 and since then February 6 is celebrated globally as the zero-tolerance day each year. The campaign aims to eradicate all forms of genital cutting as was defined by the UN/WHO including all forms of none medical, aesthetic and cosmetic genital surgeries that are currently on high demands in the western world. In reality, the campaign has a little interest in fighting the genital cuttings but they have more interest in fighting against someone’s culture and religion but not the genitalia itself.
The zero-tolerance strategy intends to promote respect for the physical integrity and rights of all the women and girls. However, it has western-centric implications that unequally distribute the right to dispose of one’s body according to race and ethnicity. Indeed, the prohibition only concerns the customary genital practices in African and South-Asian countries but does not apply to the female genital cosmetic surgeries, which are increasingly desired and practiced on white adult women and under-age girls worldwide. Commonly performed cosmetic surgeries include labiaplasty, which involves the partial or complete removal of the labia minora for aesthetic reasons, as well as cosmetic clitoridectomy, hoodectomy and vaginal tightening. Although these cosmetic procedures involve the cutting of the same parts of the genitalia as FGM type I or type II).
Sometimes I find it difficult to understand our intellectual thinking and analysis of various subjects and their nature. Why do we have to consume every idea that comes to us from the west without critically analyzing and giving our independent thoughts on them? It’s rather bizarre that the campaign against FGC in the Gambia is on the rise and the stories and troubles that they try to relay do not carry much water to me. I find it inconceivable to believe that FGC brings so many troubles for women during sex and labor that the activists deemed it necessary and advocate for a complete ban yet the troubles have skipped hundreds of thousands of women in the Gambia before the ban. In fact, thirty years or forty years ago, there were a few health facilities in the Gambia and the majority of the women gave birth to so many children. On average the least most people had was five children and in fact, most of them were never satisfied with those numbers. Interestingly enough, thousands of women who gave birth to more than seven children have enjoyed healthy life without ever going under a knife for birth related operations. A lot of them lived to see their grandchildren and great grandchildren and they are still at peace.
Of course, there is no surgery or conventional medication that does not have side effects or that does not give bad results to some patients. Having a handful of people that complains about undesired results in FGC out of two million plus people cannot justify it to be a bad practice. Of course, we should all endeavor to keep the good one (the Sunna) and discourage the other types that have been mixed or confused with the best practice. I am challenging the activists to give us data and stop standing before the media telling us green white blue.
Labiaplasty surgery costs £2000 – £4 000 in the UK while it cost $4988 – $6300 in the US. Hoodectomy (clitoral hood reduction), is more often combined with labiaplasty in most cases so you could imagine how expensive that one will cost. Did you know the reasons why they do these surgeries? Some of the reasons are; hygiene, urinary tract infections, inability to exercise due to the huge size of the labia or the clitoris, some find it difficult to wear tight clothing as it rubs against it which causes irritation and some feel embarrassed or shy to show their womanhood to their partners and they become self-conscious of their bodies. The disadvantages of these surgeries include; infections, difficulty or change in orgasm, bleeding, prolong period of healing, sometimes the clitoris gest little or too much cut, change in skin sensation and revisional surgery in some cases. In most cases, it takes up to six months before the person fully recovers.
One thing that we should put at the back of our minds is that any evil act or practice that has its origin from the West is not bad but anything that has its origin from other parts of the world, especially Africa and the Muslim world, is bad. Thus, this is the long-held view that the west looks into other civilizations for ages now. Aren’t you appalled that incest, which was once frowned upon in the west, is now becoming a normal thing in many western countries? A child that is born from an incest relationship or marriage could be exposing to so many psychological problems and trauma. How does it feel the child to know that he shares the same father with his biological mother, or his maternal uncle who shares the same mother with his biological mother is actually his father? How will the society see you? As if that is not enough, the implication for being an incest child is so saddening! For the litter at birth is smaller than most babies and they might not enjoy a happy life amid being exposed to higher risks of contracting so many genetic disorders, low birth rates, reduced fertility and sperm rate. Higher infant mortality and child mortality. Almost all the scientist and medical practitioners who have done these studies all lives in the west yet their governments and WHO sits idly and watch from afar while the children suffer unnecessarily. Why are they silent on this?
History has shown numerous case studies that if you want to manipulate a particular civilization or community, you first tamper with their culture and religion and every other thing becomes an easy ride for you. Culture and religion help identify who we are, our concepts and beliefs, our dos and don’ts. Thus, if you know someone’s culture and religion; it is as if you know the person’s DNA and it makes life easier since you already have a clue of that person. But it’s so unfortunate that the west is gradually scraping away culture and religion out of their societies. Their newly found religion is Science and Technology and their culture are heart desires and lust. Whatever scientists tell them they believe but whenever you tell them what God has revealed, they say that is fiction. Yet, they believe that all the technological products that we use on a daily basis have manuals, CEOs, staff and founders but when it comes to nature and creation they believe that everything happens by accident and evolution. What stops this evolution from happening in our manufacturing industries?
If the west were sincerely concerned about protecting children’s rights and feminine bodies, they would have never allowed even for once for transgender men and women to remove their heavenly good body parts and replace them with poor organs. This practice is also becoming very popular in the west these days. Is not limited to adults only but it also extends to children who believe that their sex at birth is not their real sex. Out of their fantasies and hallucination, would take these children to so-called psychologists and therapists to assess the child’s claim and then make decisions on the issue. If the child maintains that he/she does not feel that he/she was born with the right sex, they would give them papers to begin the necessary legal procedures to do the gender reassignment surgeries. These surgeries come with hefty prices! Not all can afford to pay such an exorbitant fee; some will even seek support from the state. The transitioning could take 2 to 3 years and may cost a whooping hundred thousand dollars including medications. Moreover, did you know that health insurances do not cover these surgeries in most countries? This alone speaks volume that they are not necessary. These people suffer future consequences of their actions and have a higher risk of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, pain while making love, weight gain, hair loss and other complicated issues. What is stopping the western activists and governments from seeing all these risks that are associated with the transgender people? Human beings have been living on earth for millions of years before the emergence of gender reassignment surgeries, and what happened to those generations? Still now there are billions of people who never dreamt of changing their sex and the procedures are not even available in their countries and their children never say that they believe that they have the wrong sex on their bodies.
The female populations have outnumbered their counterparts in all the countries in the world except two. The only solution to this problem is polygamy (men marrying two or more wives). The west says no this is bigotry. The creator says it is permissible but a party among men says, “No you cannot”. Polygamy in many high-income countries is a crime and you could face deportation in many countries including the US and the UK. It baffles my intelligence that the same people who have refused the best choice are the very people that are busy trying to force their gay rights unto low-income countries to a level of threatening them with sanctions.
I believe the children’s rights activists and feminists have missed priorities in this country. How many women die in our death trap hospitals and health centers with their unborn and suckling babies on reckless issues and negligence that if we unite and put pressure on the government and the health care workers to work diligently for the interest of the population could have been avoided? One of the big problems that torture Gambian girls and young women is skin bleaching! It is worse than any other thing that the feminists could campaign on. You do not even have to be a nurse in order to know that their skins are suffering from numerous skin problems. Better still, you could advocate for Gambian women to reduce iron (Jumbo, Maggi and the likes) in their food intakes. Both conventional and herbalists have attested to their negative results in our health.
It hurts me so bad to see children being taking out in the streets, especially at public places to beg alongside their parents and guardians. Exposing them to all kind of weather and dangers in the streets could have significant effects on their physical and mental developments. You can even see some begging opposite police stations and nothing is done about it but the only time you hear them talking is FGM. Moreover, the government shall provide for the children with special needs as was explicitly stated in the Children’s Act but what we see is the contrary. We see them suffering on a daily basis and we assumed it normal amid the flamboyant life styles in certain government institutions. That is the reason why the number of some foreign nationals that comes to the Gambia to beg is on the increase.