The Blame Game
To the rational mind, it’s appalling that female genital mutilation still takes place with such prevalence in the 21st century.
The gruesome practice, cultural norms, lack of educational resources, and a deeply engrained misogyny force women into a cycle of suffering that pervades generations.
And then you hear about something like what happened in the Egyptian Parliament last week, and you’re left disgusted at the severely misguided logic at play. At what point did culture and tradition become more important than a basic human right? And will this politician be reprimanded for his backwards, blame-shifting opinions?
This member of parliament said women are to blame.
A violation of basic human rights, female genital mutilation (FGM) has thankfully seen a decline over the past several decades, but UNICEF still estimates that some 200 million women will undergo the procedure in 2016.
Common across North Africa, FGM is extremely wide-spread in Egypt, some estimates figure it as high as 98% of women. According to new data from 2016, UNICEF estimates the prevalence of FGM in women aged 15-49 in Egypt to be 87%.
Causes and Beliefs
Taken at face value, most people would see FGM for what it really is: a debilitating mutilation of the human body. So why is it still so common?
Sadly, FGM is typically a way for men to control the female body: to desexualize them, to stop their alleged “desires,” to butcher the most sensitive parts of their bodies for the sexual pleasure of men.
Based in entrenched sadism, FGM has become so tied to “honor” in some cultures that women most support it, whether because of traditional beliefs, lack of education or never having had the chance to experience sexual pleasure. UNICEF calls this a “self-enforcing social convention,” by which women feel the procedure is necessary for their daughters’ purity and acceptance into society. In 2007, anthropologist Janice Boddy explained that many felt FGM was a natural part of life: “[G]enital cutting completes the social definition of a child’s sex by eliminating external traces of androgyny. The female body is then covered, closed, and its productive blood bound within; the male body is unveiled, opened and exposed.”
Clearly, the practice is deeply-rooted in some society. So what happens when politicians vehemently support the practice as well?