|Dr. Isatou Touray|
|some instruments for FGM|
Scores of women who were sensitised FGM and its effect shared their views with Women’s Bantabaa at the Sukuta Health Center, revealing the most shocking times of their lives.
These women have explained that The Gambia Government has to criminalise the practice.
The practice which involves the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia has left many women’s lives miserable.
The most common form of genital mutilation performed in The Gambia is known as the excision, which includes removal of all, or part of the labia minora, and cutting of the labia majora to create raw surfaces, which are then stitched or held together in order to form a cover over the vagina when healed.
During this process, a small hole is left to allow urine and menstrual blood to flow. In some less conventional forms, less tissue is removed and a larger opening is left. Other forms, such as clitoridectomy and infibulations are also practiced.
The different practices of FGM, according to Kumba Nyang, a native of Wellingara, are only beliefs that have been attributed to the efforts of the practitioners to minimize the sexual desire of women.
Generally, FGM in The Gambia appears to be linked to traditional beliefs rather than religion. Kumba told Women’s Bantabaa that the body of a woman should be respected and protected.
Fatou Cham of Sukuta said the belief that FGM leads to cleanliness and fidelity of the woman are all norms that are not based on facts.
“Why should one reduce the sexual desire of a woman? It is a gift that is given to women by the creator. This is a way to suppress a woman’s sexual desire and make her less promiscuous,” she added.
“For me,” she said, “I have forgiven whoever might have circumcised me, but the wound is not yet healed. It will remain with me forever.”
According to the lady councilor of Banjulinding, Mariama Bah -Saine, in some communities, uncircumcised women are said to be less attractive and less desirable for marriage.
She said social or peer pressure is also cited as a primary reason why some women undergo this practice.
“It is a practice that has made our lives difficult and makes us suffer. How can you mutilate the women’s sexual parts where she gets her pleasure?”
Sealing, she said is the worst. “It is really painful and not easy to forget,” Mariama said.
She added that it is why many women become afraid of their husbands after penetration. She said sealed women are unsealed the day they are taken to their husbands which involves another pain with the use of a cutting material.
“Imagine injuring a fully grown woman in the genital with a knife again. The worst part of it is that after the unsealing, you will be taken to your husband or else it will be tight closed again,” she said.
She said some women who have undergone the practice have indelible scars after they have been cut to allow delivery, adding that the cut can result in tough scar tissue in the genital area.
Ndellah Sanneh also said that female circumcision is not an Islamic obligation. “our Islamic leaders should not mislead us,” she said.
She called on Islamic leaders to consider joining the fight against FGM, suggesting that religious leaders and other organisations in our remote communities should be encouraged to talk loudly about it.
Women’s Bantabaa also had an encounter with a lady who went through this harmful practice at the age of twelve.
“I was about twelve years when I went through the painful ordeal of female circumcision. It was really painful with several women surrounding me with each holding me tight.
If I sit now, close my eyes and ruminate about the most unforgettable agony of my childhood, it’s just like an electric shock in my body. It goes like that. I would think and think, Oh God!” narrated Mariama Njie, a native of Sanchaba.
According to Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director GAMCOTRAP, women and girls are currently living with the consequences of FGM which remains one of the main reasons for the high maternal mortality and infant death in many African countries.
The practice, she said, affects the genital and can lead to death, as pain, shock, haemorrhage and damage to the organs surrounding the clitoris and labia can occur.”
She mentioned that urine might be retained and serious infection developed. Chronic urinary tract infections, stones in the bladder and urethra, kidney damage, reproductive tract infections resulting from obstructed menstrual flow, pelvic infections, infertility, excessive scar tissue and many others may also occur.
Isatou Jallow, a native of Sukuta said FGM is the worst violence against women and the worst crime against humanity. She said she has undergone it with many others but pleads parents to respect the rights of the girl child and that of the women.
“We must save our young girls from this torture, I suffered and I am still suffering. That painful experience still lives with me,” she sobbed.
A young girl who also spoke to Women’s Bantaba said: “For me, it’s really very painful when I get my period. I can’t go to school, I can’t do anything… All girls who have gone through the same practice as me have the same complication,” she said.
She urged the government, NGOs and individuals to take the issue as important as politics, health and other development undertakings.
“Let’s save our young girls from this painful experience,” she added.
Apart from the innumerable health effects, female circumcision can cause chronic pain, excessive bleeding, shock, infection, depression, potentially lethal complications during childbirth and increased susceptibility to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Together, we can make a change.