genital mutilation – At Barcelona airport, the Mossos d’Esquadra arrested a woman who was trying to take her daughter to Morocco to fly from there to her hometown in Sierra Leone.
What they did was, at the same time, to take away the passport of her 17-month-old daughter, with an order to return her when she turns 18. The woman’s intention was to travel to perform an ablation on the minor, which is totally illegal in our country and is well known to be prosecuted.
Now, the Catalan Social Services are in charge of the girl, but let us remember that this practice is widespread in sub-Saharan African countries and families do not hesitate to travel to their places of origin in order to carry out this mutilation on their daughters’ bodies.
Used to control female sexuality, the practice involves the total or partial removal of the external genitalia. The most extreme practice is called infibulation where the opening of the vagina is stitched up to the minimum permissible limit to allow urine and menstrual bleeding to escape.
Its origin is unclear. There is talk of Ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa and even ancient Rome where slave girls wore fibulae or clasps attached to the labia to prevent pregnancy.
Actually, in Ancient Egypt, no evidence has been found in mummies, nor a figure in which this practice is reflected, in any document or even in works of art of the time. The first mention of it dates from 25 BC, and it is likely that it was exported by the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa.
A Greek papyrus dated 163 BC mentions the operation being performed on girls in Memphis, Egypt, at the age when they received their dowry, which would support the idea that female genital mutilation originated as a form of initiation for young women.
The fact is that ancient civilisations saw it as a deformity and a disgrace if the clitoris was too large due to the continuous rubbing against the clothes, which stimulated sexual appetite. The Egyptians therefore considered it necessary to remove it before it became too large.
As early as the 19th century, clitoridectomy was practised in England and the United States to treat psychological symptoms such as masturbation and nymphomania. Depression and neurasthenia were believed to be caused by genital inflammation.
Female genital mutilation is now recognised as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
Sweden was the first country in the West to ban female genital mutilation, followed by the United Kingdom in 1985 and the United States in 1997. In the same year UNICEF and WHO launched a joint statement against the practice, considering it a crime.
Islam, the religion practised in most countries that follow it, has begun to distance itself from an action that has nothing to do with its religion, according to Secretary General Ihsanoglu at the Fourth Conference of the Intergovernmental Organisation on the Role of Women in Developing Countries.
Today, an estimated three million girls are forcibly subjected to this mutilation procedure in 28 African countries and others such as Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and some communities in South America.
The 6th of February has been proclaimed “International Day of Zero Tolerance Against Female Genital Mutilation”.
It is a long way to go considering the recent reaction of countries to abolish this aberrant practice, but we will continue to fight against it in order to eradicate it, like so many other evils affecting women in our century.