Genital mutilation victims break their silence: 'This is demonic'
Millions of little girls and young women have been subjected to a painful rite of passage that involves cutting their genitals — often without anesthesia — for centuries in parts of Asia, Africa and the and the Middle East.
East. Detroit Free Press
CDC says at least 500,000 females in U.S. have undergone genital mutilation, or are at risk of having it done.
It was the summer of 1990.
Mariya Taher was 7 years old, vacationing in India with her family, when one day her mother took her to a run-down apartment building without explaining why.
She remembers climbing some stairs, opening a door and seeing older women in a room. There was laughter, and the place seemed cheerful.
But then came the betrayal.
The child ended up on the floor. Her dress was lifted up.
“I remember something sharp down there and then I remember crying,” Taher, now 34, recalls. “I remember my mom comforting me afterward and holding me in her lap.”
A decade later, Taher would better understand what happened to her on that summer day in Mumbai. She had survived the taboo ritual of female genital mutilation, a decades-old religious tradition that millions of women worldwide continue to be subjected to, including a half million in the U.S., where a historic criminal case involving the practice is unfolding in Detroit.
In a first-of-its kind federal prosecution, authorities have charged three people for their alleged roles in the genital cuttings of two 7-year-old Minnesota girls at a Livonia clinic in February. Authorities say the girls came to Michigan with their mothers, thinking it was a special girls trip, but ended up having their genitals cut instead.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, who was arrested April 12, is accused of cutting the girls and, if convicted, could get life in prison.
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, of Livonia and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, were arrested Friday. He is accused of letting Nagarwala use his clinic to perform the procedure, while his wife is accused of holding the girls' hands to comfort them during the cuttings.
All three defendants belong to a small, Indian-Muslim community known as the Dawoodi Bohra, whose members say genital cutting is a deeply entrenched social and cultural norm, with some women viewing it as normal as having a period. Celebration parties are held after the cuttings, and the women and girls are supposed to keep it a secret. One of the key reasons for the procedure, victims say, is to curb a woman's sexuality.
Taher, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., grew up in the Bohra community in the U.S. and is closely following the Michigan case along with several other cutting victims who spoke to the Free Press last week about their painful pasts and the stigma of growing up feeling different, betrayed, ashamed. Like the victims in the Michigan case, they were told to tell no one about the cutting, that it was a special secret.
But the now-grown women are done being quiet.
After years of suffering in silence, fearful of getting shunned by their families and communities if they denounced genital mutilation, they are speaking out and demanding change. They want the cutters punished, along with religious leaders and parents who continue to support a practice that is illegal in the U.S. and has been condemned by the World Health Organization.
The Michigan case, they say, has emboldened them, particularly because the doctor's defense revolves around an all-too-familiar argument made by the Bohra community: that the mild, ritual "nick" or "shaving" isn't actual cutting.
The victims disagree, they say, and they have the mental and physical scars to prove it.
“It's taken me a long time to be as comfortable as I am," said Taher, who hopes that her Sahiyo campaign to end female genital mutilation will gain momentum from the Michigan case. "We can’t have this happening ... Whether it’s a tradition, for religious reasons or for sex, I see all of it as controlling someone.
This is a form of gender violence. It’s a form of child abuse. It’s oppression.”
Activists and world health leaders stress that genital cutting affects girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds and occurs in all parts of the world, not just in remote villages in Africa or Asia, but here in the U.S., too. To stress this point, the State Department this month released a video highlighting American survivors of female genital cutting, including a white American woman whose cutter, she says, was a fundamentalist Christian who mutilated her at age 3 to prevent her from masturbating later in life.
Coincidentally, the video was released on April 14, the day after the Northville doctor was charged in what would become the nation’s first federal criminal prosecution of genital cutting.
My comments: Islam is Inherently Evil, and child Genital Mutilation is just one of its Barbaric Practices.