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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Flying with fury at FGM

In my recent psychology class, I have learned that many people think differently than I do. I learned that I should be respectful of other cultural norms. While in principle I agree, I just cannot seem to understand or be respectful of female genital mutilation (FGM). The notion of it makes me angry because this is another way of beating women into submission in the name of religion and culture.

In most FGM societies there is the thought that this procedure will reduce a women's desire for sex and in doing so will reduce the chance of sex outside the marriage. It would seem that this would reduce the chance of sex even inside the marriage. And of course the woman's honor is directly tied to her virginity. Without that, she brings dishonor to her family and may not be suitable for marriage. What about the men having sex outside of marriage? Yes, I know that is a completely different discussion.

What I did not know is that many women are seeking political asylum in this country to avoid it. That was an easy process until last year when three women's applications were denied. Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey led a coalition of legal and medical professionals, politicians and law school clinical professors to assist in reversing the decisions. Many other women are waiting to hear the outcome.

Nearly 140 million girls worldwide--risk genital mutilation each year, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization. And in the Ivory Coast, nearly 40 percent of women between the ages 15 to 49 are cut, a 2008 UNICEF report states.

This is a horrific crime against women performed in the name of tradition. The procedure varies. The tip of the clitoral hood is cut off, while in other cases, the entire clitoris and inner labia are removed before the outer labia is sewed together. This causes extreme discomfort and sometimes infection as well as higher risk to HIV infection, urinary incontinence and childbirth complications.

Women who are fleeing their countries to avoid FGM should be given political asylum. Studies have shown that this is not just a one-time ordeal. Women are in danger of domestic abuse, rape or undergoing the procedure again. A woman from Sierra Leone had her vagina sewn together and cut open every time her husband wanted sex. I cannot even imagine. Don't the women of the world deserve better? We bear the children. We are the nuturers.

If this was about a penis, I think asylum would be guaranteed. Or better yet, the practice would be permanently stopped and those who did not comply would be executed.

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