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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Whataboutism and false equivalence about FGM

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It’s indeed sad to see how female circumcision is being misconceived & misinterpreted with claims that women in the past went thru it and gave birth to dozen child normally. Of course, yes. It is not that every circumcised woman will surely face issues. Some circumcised women enjoy the best sex life and have normal childbirth and ever happy with their body. So, for such a woman, there is no harm for her.

But what is wrong with her is that her genitalia need not be cut down in the first place. At all. The cutting of her genitalia has no health or moral benefits for her or her family. Her genitalia and every bit of it have specific functions and purpose. Thus, by cutting her she was just subjected to an unnecessary pain and a potential harm in future. No benefits at all.

Remember, one girl may have been lucky to undergo a ‘clean’ cut but there was another who underwent a ‘bad’ cut. That bad cut ended up giving her real consequences in marriage and childbirth. Some of the imams and politicians who speak of the Islamic way of cutting are only talking. They will never give any prescriptions or steps of how much or how long or how deep to cut. The Holy Prophet never gave such a step-by-step guidance. Let them share if they have.

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About two years ago I was part of a ceremony at the America Corner organized by Jai Sonko of QTV. One of the issues discussed was female circumcision. After the event, a young lady in her early twenties approached me privately to lament at what she heard about female circumcision. The messages automatically clicked with her. She was dead scared!

She said her elder sister who is already married had to be taken to the hospital to be ‘extended’ because on her first night with her husband, she could not be penetrated. She said in her family they seal girls when they are circumcised. She is now worried that she will also go through the same painful experience because she was also sealed. And she was seeking my advice. Omg.

That encounter was enough for me as a Mandinka Muslim man to realize that even if it is one girl, one woman I will stand against female circumcision to protect her. More so when the practice did not originate from nor required in Islam. The Holy Prophet did not prohibit it but also did not carry it out on his own women much more declare it as an obligation for all women of the ummah.

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Thus, it is disheartening to hear some of our well-educated men and women trumpeting this practice as Islamic and necessary to stay. It’s sad to hear the false equivalences and false analogies that why are people not talking about rapes, destruction of women’s stalls in this road clearing exercise or the pardoning of convicted rapists and the general poverty and hardship women face.

Yes, those are indeed genuine and legitimate issues to address and indeed people and CSOs are speaking about all of those. But the issue is not a question of either or whataboutism, etc. Let’s not confuse things just to cloud and divert attention thereby perpetrate a harm and a violation.

Some even are saying that during the female circumcision rites, young girls are taught good manners. Come on. We do not need to cut girls to place them in the bush only to teach them good manners. Homes, schools and various community activities are there or could be created to teach the young to be good – to be good citizens and decent human beings.

When I think about this female circumcision issue another practice comes to my mind. Scarification. There was a time when scarification was a common practice in not only the Gambia but across Africa by almost all ethnic groups. Tribal marks. Today the practice is almost totally abandoned by all. Like FGM, facial marks have no benefit, though there was a time when it was considered beautiful, a cultural identity and for some, facial marks drive away bad spirits.

But the fact is that the face needs no scars. Nothing on the face needs to change. Surely the Holy Prophet did not prohibit facial marks. Someone can say but the matter was never brought to his attention or Arabs don’t do that practice. Or that in the case of female circumcision, he approved that one. Yes, that’s true.

But the fact remains, like the human face, the female genitalia also is perfectly made with no defects. Both of them do not need to be cut or reshaped. Well, maybe the face may need reshaping because of vehicular accidents, sickness or natural defects from birth. Those things happen. But the female genitalia face no such things. It it does though, of course it can be cured!

So, in a nutshell, it is indeed saddening and terrifyingly worrying, even disappointing that after 1000 years of Islam in this country an issue like female circumcision could be such a contentious issue! Well educated people, whether in the Islamic or western tradition should have had the necessary intellectual capacity and analytical tools by now to be able to understand their religion, culture and phenomenon in general to reach sound judgement.

I only feel really sorry for the millions of young girls who would have to suffer the poor judgment of parents, imams and politicians who should have known better. Some of these innocent girls brought to the National Assembly are not only circumcised but they are also already sealed. They will enter marriage to face sexual challenges while childbirth will be even more devastating for them at no fault of theirs. That truly saddens me.

Madi Jobarteh

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