While training in Paris, Khady heard a white gynecologist remark, “I can’t understand all the fuss about excision.” Addressing interns soon to work with African immigrant women, the doctor called their empathy “harassment” and admonished them “to mind their [own] business when it comes to African clitorises.” Enraged by this invitation to indifference, Khady quipped, “It’s so much easier to say if you still have yours.”
This special issue of Feminist Europa Review of Books was inspired by Khady’s anger at apathy and a wealth of excellent yet un-translated books on FGM that have not yet been made available in English due to this same unconcern. Take Mutilée. When it appeared in 2005 it became a best-seller in France. Soon translated into more than a dozen languages, it had to wait five years for a publisher focusing specifically on FGM—UnCUT/VOICES Press—to appear in English. With her message of outrage, action and hope, Khady tells of a “sand-bellied” African kid surviving debilitating customs that mark the life cycle of girls. The memoir—Blood Stains. A Child of Africa Reclaims her Human Rights—insists on male accountability, law enforcement and a multi-pronged educational campaign against acts like excision and child ‘marriage’ that cement gender inequality and separate women from girls.
In this unique edition of Feminist Europa, sponsored by The German Foundation for Gender Studies in Heidelberg, Germany, and edited by Tobe Levin and Waltraut Dumont du Voitel, you find reviews of the English and French versions of Khady’s memoir plus an author interview. The special issue also features thirty books on FGM, most available so far only in German, French or Italian. It looks at a number of indispensable documentaries and includes a nearly exhaustive bibliography of volumes (not articles) in many languages. (We sadly admit that two Italian books on FGM escaped our notice.) To provide a useful resource with extensive coverage, we’ve also made an exception to policy – normally featuring only foreign language books — by critiquing broadly disseminated work in English, some of it provocative in opposing scholarship to activism and rejecting principles espoused by the Inter-African Committee as codified in the Maputo Protocol, the Bamako Declaration, and Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation Day (February 6). Decades-long links of solidarity and friendship with the IAC, EuroNet FGM, and other adamant African women’s NGOs inspire the approach here, best expressed by professor and human rights activist Martha Nussbaum:
“We should keep FGM on the list of unacceptable practices that violate women’s human rights, and we should be ashamed of ourselves if we do not use whatever privilege and power that has come our way to make it disappear forever.” [qtd. in Feminist Europa 21]
Feminist Europa Review of Books on FGM is available for free download at
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We gratefully acknowledge On the Issues magazine where some of the following material first appeared in The Café. November 2010.