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The Burqa over barbarism and trauma: Millions of Muslim women at risk due to Female Genital Mutilation, no Islamic organisation protests for their rights

Female Genital Mutilation is a traditional practice that involves altering or removing the female genitalia for cultural reasons. FGM is mainly carried out on young girls between the age of 7 to 15.

Over the last few weeks, the Islamists worldwide have descended on social media platforms to cuss Indians after one of the state governments asked the students to adhere to the secular ideals of the country and not to wear religious attire such as hijab or burqa inside educational institutions. Islamists are demanding that Muslim women be allowed to wear hijab and burqa in schools and colleges violative of the dress code of the institutions.

The Islamists argue that the enforcement of constitutional values is incompatible with the Islamic laws, thus insisting on wearing their religious attire such as hijab or burqa inside secular educational institutions. The Islamists and their strategic allies, i.e., the left-liberal establishment, have been claiming that the hijab represents the choice for Muslim women, and hence the state must permit the Muslim women to wear whatever they wish to.

Amidst all these noises around the Islamic clothing – hijab, the real issues concerning Muslim women that mandates a serious discussion have found no takers in the Islamic-liberal circles. One such issue involving a global movement is to end the savagery that continues in the form of Female Genital Mutilation. In fact, the progressive Islamic society should take up the matter of FGM, making it a choice-based practice and ending the trauma and humiliation Muslim women face.

As the FGM issue has no takers in the left-liberal establishment, the Muslim women themselves have come forward in the last few weeks to recount how they are being subjected to the practices of FGM without their consent. One such story is spine chilling.

GIRDLE – an organisation that runs a field awareness programme on the atrocities committed against innocent Muslim women in the name of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practise has shared a story of Hibaaq, a Muslim woman from Jowhar in Somalia.

Hiqaab narrates how she had to face trauma after she was forcibly subjected to FGM by the community at an early age, including infibulation, a more drastic part of the process.

For starters, Female Genital Mutilation is a traditional practice that involves altering or removing the female genitalia for cultural reasons. FGM is mainly carried out on young girls between the age of 7 to 15. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. The practice is recognised internationally as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women.

The practise is mostly carried out by traditional practitioners, mostly in Islamic societies and also sometimes in orthodox Christianity. The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.

The infibulation includes another step in the mutilation, where the vulva is sutured or stitched together after removal of the external genitalia, which makes this practice most horrific for women. After sewing together the entire labia majora, only a small hole is left for urination and menstruation, and it is impossible to have intercourse without opening the vagina first. As per ritual, the husband cuts it open on the first night of the marriage, or sometimes a circumciser does the job. Female infibulation is known as Type III FGM, and it is practised in Northeastern African countries.

As per Hiqaab, just like several Somalian girls, she had undergone Type III FGM when she was eight years old, which means her external genitalia was cut and the vulva was sewn together. As she remained in the condition for a long time, her skin had joined together, like how the skin gets joined after an injury or surgery, closing the genitalia almost permanently, except for the small hole. After her marriage, when she and her husband tried to open it, they were unsuccessful and she was bleeding from the process.

“When I got married, we tried for five days to get me opened, but the blood just poured out, and in my pain, I wrestled with my husband out of bed! We visited a doctor, who said that along the years after my infibulation, the skin had grown together to partially cover the small hole left for me to pee and menstruate!” Hiqaab penned the terror she had to face after being subjected to FGM at an early age.

Due to the underlying complications, Hiqaab says, she consulted a doctor, who called it “as spontaneous adhesion” and advised her of having surgery to open her genitals so that she could continue to perform intercourse with her husband without pain.

What followed was worse. Hiqaab’s husband refused, saying, “I will be the one to open her up; no one else. It’s a shame for me not to be the one to open her up”. For Hiqaab’s husband, it was a matter of prestige as he yelled, “how would I be seen as a man among my family and friends!”

Hiqaab says she disagreed with him, but he threatened her, saying that he would divorce her if he did not consummate the marriage by “personally opening me up”. As a result, she conceded and allowed her husband to forcefully open her without surgery. This resulted in months of pain and agony for her, she said.

“Out of shame for my family’s name, we went back home. I cannot describe the amount of pain he did. I was passing urine uncontrollably for two months!”

The young Muslim girl’s story on the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation has now ignited a stirring debate on social media on why such archaic practices still exist in Abrahamic cultures.

Well, this is just one story.

GIRDLE has put out several such stories on its platform revealing the horrors and trauma Muslim women faces in the form of forceful practises of FGM. The ordeal is not just limited to Hiqaab, Rahma, and a few others alone. According to WHO’s estimate, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM in more than 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Each year, around 4 million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, with most girls cut before the age of fifteen.

The consequences of FGM are terrible on women’s health. It can cause severe bleeding and urinary related issues and lead to cysts, infections, complications in childbirth, and sometimes even death.

The economic costs of treating health complications arising from FGM have been estimated at $1.4 billion for 2018. If the barbaric practice remains, the health cost is expected to rise to $2.3 billion by 2047.

In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) is opposed to all types of FGM and intends to end all forms of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030.

Amidst all the unimportant debates surrounding the hijab and burqa, the Islamists have actually remained tight-lipped on the FGM practice. In fact, some of the radical Islamic organisations worldwide and in India have been vocal about preserving such practices. Strangely, the Islamic organisations that back pro-hijab movements have never shown any such eagerness to liberate Muslim women by ending such practices.

There is hardly any global movement led by Muslims in support of their women’s bodily rights. But, when it is about hijab or burqa, the Islamic organisations puts out the ‘choice’ trope to defend the patriarchal attire. The FGM debate has exposed the dubiousness of both Islamists and the left-liberal establishment over their differential treatment of two similar issues that concern Muslim women.

The issue has also raised pertinent points on why have these societies turned a blind eye towards such a heinous practice and instead defended the patriarchal symbols such as hijab or burqa that has turned Muslim women into perpetual prisoners.

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