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Her Clitoris is Hers to Keep: END FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

Another day, another blog post on how the bodies of African girls get abused and mutilated. Is the fact that there are millions of women and girls walking around today without their clitoris because it was forcefully chopped off their bodies a shock to you? Today is a significant day; around the world people are coming together to amplify the voices of the 200 million plus recorded FGM survivors. You will see a lot of information on Social Media, the News etc and you will see all the big numbers, you will probably shake your head at the sad reality and then…. you will go about your day.

TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptive torture

I was about 6 years old when I was circumcised. I vividly remember the lovely afternoon when my excited voice of laughs echoed and transitioned into muffled screams. My mum and I had gone over to my aunt’s house where my older cousins were being circumcised to help with the chores. Someone walked past with a beautiful green and blue Ankara wrapper and I turned to my mother, with pleading eyes and asked “can you please get me that kind of wrapper?” I wish I had never uttered those words.

An aunt overheard me and lured me to the backyard where she had stated the wrappers were and all I had to do was pick one. I skipped all the way to the backyard where the door immediately shut behind me. Someone suddenly blindfolded me and I felt two hands grab me on either side. I only remember my legs being forced open, my hands held down firmly on either side, and then there it was…

A sharp stinging pain shot through my body. I tried to cry as loudly as I could so my mum could come and get me out of here. Surely my mum is not aware that her little girl is being subjected to this pain.. but there was no sound, the hand over my mouth muffled my screams. The pain continued as my clitoris was being chopped off with just a razor blade and knife.

When it was all done, I was carried into the living room. My mum and the older women were there and on a big mat my 4 cousins laid passed out from the pain. We were kept together for about 2 weeks. Those were my 2 weeks rite of passage into a world that abuses and takes parts of my body without my consent. Those 2 weeks were painful…

The only form of medicine we received were paracetamol and palm oil on the freshly cut area to “heal” it. I hated having to pee so I drank and ate less. Peeing was like pouring alcohol over a fresh wound multiple times a day. Changing sleeping positions was a nightmare in itself so some nights, sleep on your back and battle it out with the sleep paralysis demon. After two weeks a big celebration was held for us. Aunties and uncles gathered around with gifts and money and we were now “respectable” women. I was not a woman. I was a child. Just a child.

I knew what I experienced was painful. I did not at that time understand the gravity of this painful ritual. Here is an in-depth interview I did on my experience.

FGM is another major display of the fact that African women are not given the luxury to have autonomy over their bodies and identities. Our bodies being policed and claimed by our patriarchal societies from conception is not mythology, this is the reality for millions of unrecorded girls and women.

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

-World Health Organisation

This practice is predominant in African and or Muslim cultures around the world. There are laws in place to punish anyone who violates a girl in this manner. However, in most countries the traditional circumcisers disregard the laws and still continue to chop away at the clitoris of dissenting girls. There is no founded medical benefit for this practice and frankly the reasons our mothers and aunties and grandmothers give for violating our bodies are never centred on medicine. It is always something along the lines of “if we had left that thing on you, it will make you sleep with a lot of men and become a slut. You’re not a respectable woman if you have that thing on you”

if we had left that thing on you, it will make you sleep with a lot of men and become a slut. You’re not a respectable woman if you have that thing on you

Our bodies are spoken about with such disgust. This culture is associated with the notion that as women, we are not to enjoy sex. Sex is solely for reproduction and the pleasure of men in marital relationships. So what do our mothers do? They take away one of the greatest sensory organs for women in relation to sexual pleasure. Not only is this practice a violation of human rights, it is also extremely dangerous as it is rarely ever practiced in a medical environment leaving the survivor with many reproduction related health issues. Oh and also a pretty painful and shitty sex life.

These women who have made it their life long mission and career to take away significant parts of our bodies choose between three types of FGM; I guess it just depends on what level of pain they are in mood to inflict or how much they hate the way your vagina looks.

THE THREE TYPES OF FGM

TYPE 1: This is where someone decides the external part of your clitoris should not exist. So they saw it off with a razor blade.

Illustrations by : @Martic_design

TYPE 2: This is where they really hate your vagina so they decide to saw off both the external clitoris and the labia.
TYPE 3: This is where they actually hate everything about your sexual and reproductive organ so after chopping off the external clitoris and labia, they sew the everything shut leaving only a tiny opening for urine and menstruation.

My identity and relationship with my vagina has been tumultuous and required a lot of learning and adapting. Despite their efforts, I have indeed grown up to be a slut. A slut who loves pleasure and sex. A slut who like many of the 0.1% of the statistic that makes up each FGM victim has had to endure pain, a mental battle with every partner. “Will he recognise that my vagina is incomplete?”, “Will he recognise that by body is not normal. Not beautiful?”

I was one of the lucky ones to have only gotten Type 2 and made it alive to share this post with you today. Unfortunately many girls die from the pain, the infections, the complications. Unfortunately many girls have had their level of pleasure, risk of infertility and pregnancy complications determined for them by the women who were to protect them.

We are a generation battling this inhumane practice. We understand that this has no benefits to us so I hope we also understand that no amount of pressure from family members or partners should make us subject our daughters to the pain we are enduring. Our daughters deserve to have their bodies intact. The deserve to grow up into women who own and enjoy every single part of their body boldly. Patriarchy has our society by the throat but it is your duty as a parent to protect the child you chose to birth into this world. It is your duty as a mother who realises FGM has fuck all to do with medical benefits to put a stop to it. It is our duty as women not to subject other women to torture, humiliation and abuse.

Women are fighting a massive battle with the male gender in every department of life especially Gender Based Violence, as a woman, do not make yourself the centre of another trauma they have to battle.

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An African Girl’s introduction to sex is an experience of Abuse.

Most African women’s first sexual experience is one of abuse

Sanusia, in a clubhouse room on 21 January 2021.

The statement above is quite a big statement right? It was my intention to welcome to you to my blog with a light-hearted Valentine’s Day post decorated in red roses and hearts. You will see red all over this post; unfortunately not roses. This post has hearts; unfortunately they are broken fragments scattered around the statistics I will be presenting you and my personal account. Let’s get to the lovey dovey stuff another day.

Statistics are the numbers and percentages we use to validate a statement or an experience of a group of people. We are all pretty much on the same page on the fact that many women get sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime right? At least I hope I don’t have to insert some numbers in here to convince you of this reality. On the discourse of sexual assault and rape in Africa, statistics simply do not represent the extent of the damage done.

“In most countries with data available on rape, less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence seek help. Less than 10% seek assistance from law enforcement”

World Population review

Rape statistics in Africa are badly skewed because our society includes that of rape culture on steroids. You know…. the victim blaming; you are a girl why were you wearing that? Why did you go to his house? Why were you out at night alone? Why do you want to embarrass our family with such an accusation? He is your uncle, you have to respect him. This is just what men do, boys will always be boys….

Why am I talking about this today?

This post is inspired by a series of events that transpired after joining a Clubhouse room. This room focused on Black women statistics with the discourse centered on mental and sexual health. The hosts present a statistic and open the conversation for contribution from the audience (more statistics, a statement, perspective). We were presented with a research by Public Health England on sexual competence at sexual debut. This research stated that lower amount of Black African women reported being sexually competent at sexual debut. The amount of education you have on sex, safe sex and consent contributes to your sexual competence.

My response to this was ” most African women’s first sexual experience is one of abuse so they have cultivated a culture of silence and shame. Sex is introduced as something done to them not something they are an active participant in therefore they are usually not sexually competent….” My statement was important and relevant and I was taken aback by the anxiety that enveloped me when I started speaking so I quickly finished off without presenting statistics on this statement. I did not realise that even though some speakers who had spoken before me presented no numbers, the absence of statistics invalidated my statement and made it unfathomable. I immediately left the room after speaking and went into a meditation room to calm my anxiety. A couple of hours later I research the hashtag to catch up on any relevant information I had missed, then I found this.

she made a big statement based off nothing.

I repeated that statement over and over again. I was filled with rage. Why am I so angry that a stranger disregarded this statement? Surely it’s not that outlandish of a statement right? Why am I crying? I breathed. It did not stop. I woke the next morning and the bells chimed loudly in my head again. See to a sexual assault victim, their statements are always based off something even if it is just their own experience.

So here goes NOTHING…..

I could spend an entire day giving you numbers to justify the reality of these experiences but as someone who understands that the statistics on sexual assault in Africa in greatly underrepresented particularly in minors because of a culture of silence, shame and blame; I will give a story of someone who would’ve made 0.1% of the statistics if she participated in any of this research at the age of 6 and 13.

TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptive sexual assault and rape.

It has taken me a decade to understand and accept that these experiences I had are categorised under these terms. When I say “most African women’s first sexual experience is that of abuse” I speak for the “most” women who were not in the areas the research was done, so they didn’t make it to the statistics.

I speak for the “most” women who live in a society where sexual assault is so normalised that it will take them a decade plus to realise that the first time they had sex they were assaulted.

When I say “most” I speak for the 5 year olds, the babies, the 6 year olds, whose sexual assault traumas will be buried deep in that part of their brain that protects their innocence.

When I say “most” I speak for the girls who were raped by the 46% of men who admitted to committing rape when they were 10-14 in South Africa.

When I say “most” I speak for 6 and 13 year old Sanusias around the continent who will only have the courage to face the reality that their sexual debut was an experience of sexual abuse decades later.

6 year old Sanusia loved dancing. She happily joined Uncle Sofie’s dance competition he organised for the girls that night. If you win, you get a special prize. Of course I won. I have always been competitive and a great dancer. Uncle Sofie took me to his bedroom to give me my gift. I vividly remember my skirt being lifted, he complimented my panties and pulled them down. The rest well.. my 6 year old brain is still protecting me from that.

You know how the first sexual experience is usually depicted in the movies as two clueless teenagers exploring their bodies….. well reality is a little different for some of us. At 13 I was the most beautiful, radiant girl. Thanks to puberty the hips were doing their thang. I had gotten into an argument with my “boyfriend” at his mom’s house, she was not home. He was 19. Mid argument he slapped me and pushed me over the table. He took off my underwear and pushed, and thrusted, and pushed and thrusted until he was in. I winced at the pain from the force of him pushing and I hate myself for not crying, for not fighting, for simply laying emotionless watching him thrust and thrust until he was done. I was not ready for sex. I did not know about contraceptions or STDs I just knew I was “in love” and I was powerless. I got up when he was done and put on my stuff and left. This experience will repeat a few times until someone asks me for the first time when I was 20 “are you sure you want to have sex with me”.

I do not speak nor attempt to speak for all African women. I speak for the 0.1% of the statistic that each girl who couldn’t voice their experience would’ve contributed. In another post we will explore how abuse as a first sexual experience influences sexual behaviours. Again in that post and future topics like this, I will provide you with some numbers to add some validity to reality but I will always speak for me and for the “most” who do not make it to the statistics.