This week the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival are offering the general public an opportunity to learn more about women’s issues around the world through the camera’s eye and through live performances.

Sarabah is a rapper, singer and activist striving to bring attention to the cultural practice of cutting female genitalia to make girls more chaste and marriageable.

The custom is practiced in many countries in Africa as well as in parts of the Middle East. In the western world it is considered a form of torture. New York Times writer, Nicholas D. Kristof reports:

“People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.”

Human rights groups have been struggling to make headway into stopping this ritual that in many cases predates Christianity, Islamic faiths as well as the Jewish faith. Human Rights Watch have developed a list of questions and answers about female genital cutting.

Practitioners believe the tradition keeps girls chaste and lowers their sex drive. However, it has led to a wide variety of health problems and in some cases even death.

Nadia Sussman, a New York Times reporter, interviewed high school students in Brooklyn who have immigrated to the U.S. from West African countries. The healing process from female genital cutting is more than physical as these young women attest.

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6 thoughts on “Female genital cutting

  1. And is it not ironic that many of the faiths that are opposed to female genital mutilation, impose the same ritual on their newborn boys? The “just a flap of skin” argument has been debunked by new research that shows great physical loss, yet humankind continues to practice these ancient rituals.

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    1. The biggest problem with rituals such as female genital cutting is that many women in these cultures embrace it and there are often celebrations following the ritual. As I believe there are as well for the ancient rite of male circumcision. There are no easy answers and while I believe we must respect all peoples of the world and their cultures, rituals such as these are difficult for us in the Western world to understand and hard to accept.

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    1. Thank you. As I mentioned in my blog this is an ancient practice that predates all of the world’s religions, in other words, it has been going on for thousands of years.It will not be resolved overnight. In addition there is the struggle to put a stop to this practice while maintaining respect for cultural differences. As with many human rights issues, there are no definitive answers.

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  2. Hi Carol,
    This is of such a benefit to the entire class. Some of the first-years didn’t even know that this practice existed. When it comes down to it, it’s up to the societies that harbour these inhuman practices to change it. But we in the West can lend our support – moral and financial – to individuals and organizations who do the work.

    Frank

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    1. I hope that there is more awareness around this issue. It is a very sensitive and controversial issue and I really admire Sister Fa (a.k.a. Sarabah) for the work she is doing to get the message out there.

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