This time of the year there are always news articles about FGM informing the public about Africans travelling back home and how some people use this time to catch up with traditions of FGM and labia pulling. Part of this is to give young girls a voice that it is okay to say no to harmful practices that involves their body, also to remind adults about laws of host country.
I read an article about the practise of FGM in Nigeria last year that was quite revealing. What was a bit concerning was that apparently Osun state has the highest prevalence of FGM in Nigeria, and was said to be 76% prevalence – how can that be?
I know that people still practice FGM and that it is beyond religious beliefs or traditions. I grew up thinking there was only one form of FGM. We call it circumcision, my understanding was that it has to do with religion.
Now I know better that not only did circumcision not tied to religion but also that different forms are being practised and with one common goal – stop women from being promiscuous.
We now know this myth is untrue, hence we need more women, courageous women like the women I use here to tell their stories for awareness.
I don’t know anyone personally that was traumatised by FGM because it is usually done within 40 days of birth and usually without children around. If memory serves right it is more like incision or a small cut so they get blood out of the area – either way it is pointless pain.
Reading a story such as this woman, from Swansea is an eye opener. She is from Benin City, she was cut as a baby which is the practice that I once thought was the norm in Nigeria south. However, she said she witnessed all her younger siblings being cut, she talked about witnessing her seven-year old sister being cut at 12 – that is truly traumatic. I know this because I witnessed a 11 year old being cut at Garage Olode in 1992 and I can see why that memory can be quite disturbing.
Here is the twist in this story, she says that intercourse was a painful experience for her both during and after the act. She was unable to give birth naturally and had to have c-section with the birth of her three children – sounds like a torture.
I wish BBC gives more details of the type of FGM she had. At least to enlighten more people.
About my state of Osun, while I do not believe the 76% of prevalence across the state I know that a few town practice this religiously. It was a relief to read that fourteen communities were identified by the state as the place where FGM is in full swing. To eradicate harmful practices like this one, women must lead and throw away shame, knowing that we are shaping the future, so I am glad to read that Mrs Sherif Aregbesola was also in full support and talking openly about it.
Another form of FGM is labia pulling. The UK government is classifying labia pulling as another form of FGM because children involved are forced into it with narratives too complex for their age.
The first time I heard about labia elongation was a couple of years ago. I was excited but not for the reason that those who clicked on that post thought. The post is still the most read on my blog, this just shows how desperate people are to learn about the subject we shy away from.
Learning about African sex and sexuality is exciting because we seldom hear anything. The whole labia pulling was not the most interesting thing for me but the reasoning behind it, although the large part of it was about satisfying men but there are emphasis on the woman’s pleasure as well.
The obvious negative with labia pulling is that it is forced on children at a very early age when they thought adults around them know best.
Here is the other side of labia pulling that I am learning for the first time. The lady in the video below at 1:23 talks about girls using strings to pull their labia for quicker result and during the process, sometimes the flesh pulled with the string. Ouch! This is enough to make any young person goes deep into low self esteem.
Why is the UK getting Africans who have experienced both FGM and labia pulling to share their stories especially traumatic ones? If you live in the UK, it means the government/other tax payers are picking up the tabs of costs associated with these old practices for no good reason.
We can do our bits to take a closer look at what we see as traditions and make informed decision.