Women’s Month: Female Genital Mutilation, the Oxymoron

nicole lashombNicole Lashomb, Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times
Photo. TRT Archives

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By: Nicole Lashomb*/TRT Editor-in-Chief—

Each year in the U.S., March is dedicated to women’s history month. I’ve never been an avid fan of such recognized months like these because it implies, and certainly indicates, that the suffrage movement is far from over. Although our vote is no longer a denied right per se, women are still under attack—our bodies, our thoughts, our education, and our voice. Each day thousands of women in the very country that “honors” them this month, are being raped and tortured physically, psychologically, and socio-economically, at the perils of a misogynistic society and culture, often disguised in religious contexts.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds in the U.S. while 1 in 5 women in the have been raped and 94 percent of murder-suicide victims are female. It doesn’t stop there—not even close.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the cultural practice of removing part or all of women and girls’ genitalia for non-medical reasons. Sounds barbaric? It is—and it’s happening right here in our backyard. Mind you, this is not “female circumcision” as some may conveniently claim.

FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (it’s worth repeating), which means they have no health benefits for girls and women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths,” their website reads. “More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries around the globe” and it is often carried out without the use of anesthesia or pain medication.

Last month, Newsweek reported “more than half a million women and girls in the U.S. are at risk of undergoing FGM in the U.S. or abroad, or have already undergone the procedure, including 166,173 under the age of 18.”

WHO stipulates that FGM is an international violation of the human rights of girls and women.

“It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,” explained the organization on its website. “It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

These are only some examples of how women are actively persecuted around the globe and part of that is largely due to a lack of female leadership in positions of power. If the men in power were forced to endure the atrocities that women face—I’m sure you can draw your own conclusion.

No one can advocate more effectively for marginalized groups than the members of that same marginalized group themselves. No man, no matter how educated and advanced in understanding women rights issues, can fully grasp what it is to live in a female’s shoes, while overcoming the plights that are faced by women worldwide every day. Why, you ask? Because they themselves have been taught and trained their place in society—the patriarchal helm that hangs over the heads of women throughout the globe. Because of this learned behavior, even the fiercest advocate has likely violated a woman at some point in his life, whether it is as subtle as an unwanted sexual look or an outright brutality. That is not to undermine the role of male allies. They are critical in the struggles that lie ahead. But, being simply an ally and saying so is not enough. Men cannot lead this effort because they cannot speak the absolute truth of a woman’s experience without them, themselves, being women. This holds true for virtually every marginalized group.

Because they themselves have been taught and trained their place in society—the patriarchal helm that hangs over the heads of women throughout the globe. Because of this learned behavior, even the fiercest advocate has likely violated a woman at some point in his life, whether it is as subtle as an unwanted sexual look or an outright brutality.

Instead, it’s about solidarity as an ally, standing by the sides of women and other disenfranchised groups to unite against a culture of oppression and misogyny. Standing up and stopping or denouncing a behavior that takes place against a woman, against many women, and doing something about it.

Women have an obligation to lead and men have an obligation to be supportive, to speak out, to take action, not through societally taught patriarchal ideals, but through a leveled playing field. Perhaps when that is the majority thought and when crimes against women are not left unpunished, as they have been, brutalities against women will begin to cease.

This month, as every other month, I am in solidarity with my sisters locally, nationally and abroad. This is for you—for us.

To learn more about FGM, visit WHO.