Review: Islam against FGM – Female Genital Mutilation by William Hanna

Author William Hanna agreed to review this book on Female Genital Mutilation not because he is an authority on the subject, but because — having lived and travelled in Africa and the Middle East — he had become vaguely aware of the procedure which can only be described as a barbaric invasion of, and an assault on the most cherished part of a woman’s body with its role and capacity in the production of new life.

We all — men and women — have an inalienable responsibility for what we tolerate and allow to happen in our society and must recognise that FMG is not a harmless circumcision procedure as in the case of men who simply have a foreskin removed, but a violent violation of girls’ and women’s human rights involving either the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or the causing of some other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

FGM poses immediate risks to the health of its victims with severe pain and bleeding, difficulty in passing urine, infections, and even death due to hemorrhagic or neurogenic shock. Other effects include long-term scars, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, HIV infection, cysts, abscesses, genital ulcers, difficulty and pain while having sex, and an increased risk of complications affecting menstrual cycles that could result in infertility. The disturbing extent of this barbarity was made apparent earlier this year by a UNICEF report showing that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual mutilation.

Apart from documenting the obvious consequences of FGM on young girls and women, Milena Rampoldi’s book points out that there are no sacred texts in any religion — including Islam — that actually promulgate FGM so that its practice has evolved over time through misguided beliefs and interpretations whose acceptance became an established tradition that required compliance from individuals wishing to be seen as belonging to their social group. Consequently women who have been unwittingly conditioned by their culture are prone to being led like lambs to the slaughter so as to perpetuate a harmful tradition that lacks any legitimacy — religious or otherwise.

The book contains many interviews with and opinions from a wide range of people including feminist activists, doctors, gynaecologists, victims, and university professors who are all variously versed on the subject even from an Islamic Philosophic point of view. Milena Rampoldi’s passionate desire to bring an end to a procedure that is deviant, abnormal, and unhealthy, is supported by the book’s wealth of overwhelming evidence that FGM has no place in a modern world that is allegedly dedicated to human rights equally for men and women. The embedded notion, for example, that FMG is a prerequisite for finding a husband, must be exposed as a misconception and to this end men have to stand up and be counted as being opposed to such outdated barbarism. The book’s recurring theme is that only through “education” — and implementation of a woman’s right to have control over the sanctity of her own body — can this medieval procedure be gradually eliminated. Reading this book and taking into account Amnesty International’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights for Women could for example form the basis of such education which should most certainly also include us men.

  • Make decisions about our own health, body, sexual life and identity without fear of coercion or criminalisation

  • Seek and receive information about sexuality and reproduction and access related health services and contraception

  • Have access to comprehensive education on human sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and gender equality

  • Decide whether and when to have children, and how many to have

  • Access safe abortion services in cases of rape, incest, when the life or health of the pregnant woman is at risk, or when there is severe or fatal foetal impairment

  • Choose our intimate partner, whether and when to marry and what type of family to create

  • Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, including rape and other sexual violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilisation and forced marriage.

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