“They Promised Me a Wonderful Party” … FGM in Egypt

Although always ‘controversial’, FGM has recently attracted heightened attention that would be welcome if those concerned wished it to end. Unfortunately, most I have read do not.

Terre des Femmes campaign poster

Mona Eltahawy, a U.S.-based Egyptian-born columnist, wrote a cover story for Foreign Policy magazine in which she excoriates Arab governments and Arab males who, for instance, support FGM. The focus on Egypt ties her to the concluding chapter in Undoing FGM. Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris, and an excerpt is below. The link to Eltahawy’s “Why Do They Hate Us? The Real War on Women in the Middle East” is http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us?page=full

Meanwhile, Makode Linde, an Afro-Swedish artist, has unleashed a firestorm. Not unlike 2004 Nobel Laureate in Literature Elfriede Jelinek who, in her novel Lust, de- and recontextualizes pornography only to be attacked by those whose inexperience in reading irony prevented their understanding how it worked, Linde was condemned for trying something similar with racist stereotypes. The artist’s installation, by definition a live performance, went viral with its black-face and grinning Jim Crow-era icons. No doubt, Linde uses racist images. The centerpiece was a black chocolate cake shaped like a female torso whose head, the artist’s in black-face, whimpered each time the vulva area was cut — to accompanying laughter  so clearly inappropriate as to open a space for thinking about the object of the art:  the real-life slicing of little girls’ flesh that takes place thousands of times each day. I doubt that anyone present at the installation thinks FGM is funny. As Waris Dirie contends: ” ‘If a white girl is abused, the police come break down the door. If a black girl is mutilated, nobody … care[s about] her. This is what I call racism‘.”  http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/medics-offered-genital-mutilation-1?cp-documentid=161153004#scptmh

ALSO: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2133427/100-000-women-undergo-brutal-sexual-mutilation-illegally-Britain.html#ixzz1so7z5PVd

Excerpt from Hubert Prolongeau. Undoing FGM. Pierre Foldes, the Surgeon Who Restores the Clitoris.

Chapter 9 “In the Land of the Pharaohs”

…Rupturing the tacit omerta … Hayet has told Christiane … what her excision had been like. “I was eleven. Nobody told me anything. The daya[1] arrived. I knew her because she’d already been to our house to deliver my little sister. So I had confidence. But it hurt so much. The pain was horrible. Still, I forgot about it and understood only years later what they had done to me, one day while watching TV. But they switched off the set. You just don’t talk about these things.”

We’re in Egypt. Why would we finish this book in that country? First because Pierre Foldes has had high-level contact and his discovery has attracted attention there, but above all because, in contrast to Burkina Faso, Egypt is one of those nations where excision stubbornly persists. It’s omnipresent yet at the same time taboo and a pretext for confrontation between a relatively moderate but rapidly expanding Islamist milieu; a government in denial that nonetheless tries to oppose it; and strong-minded militants, too few, who fight as they can.

Ninety-seven percent: 97% of Egyptian women who have ever been married and are aged 15 to 45, as often Christian as Islamic, are excised. This number, which dates from 2000, is official. It is stupefying. Most specialists on FGM consider it exaggerated: the questionnaire that produced it was the first to use the word “circumcision” and, because “circumcision” is thought to be an Islamic practice, not admitting it would make oneself appear a bad Muslim. OK, let’s accept the argument. That doesn’t obviate the fact that, even if inflated, the figure speaks to a reality that according to other sources touches 80% of Egyptian women. Who, among the hordes of tourists unfolding regularly on the Nile River to cruise between Luxor and Aswan, to run from the Museum of Cairo to the Pyramids amid the concert of horns and the dust of the capital, to plunge into the shadows of royal tombs, among all those people, who is informed? In Upper Egypt, where vestiges of the past are most famous, prevalence explodes, far exceeding 90%. …



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