Meet Inna (Modja) Bocoum.
Pierre Foldes’ patient and former top model, she was excised at just short of five. Addressing a full house from the broad screen, her sincere beauty, seemingly tranquil, hints at horror beneath a camouflaging caul of faith.
I am in the audience in Düsseldorf on February 5, 2014, a guest of JAPPOO, association of Senegalese in North-Rhine Westphalia, on the eve of International Zero Tolerance to FGM Day.
Inna has been restored, but the journey to that instant of courage had been long.
Enumerating erroneous beliefs taught her to justify excision, she mentions one I had forgotten: that an intact clitoris, like a Venus’ Flytrap, could ensnare a penis, preventing escape. The vagina dentata? The nearly universal angst expressed in global legends? A masculine projection of female revenge? Whatever, a “cultural imperative” dictates that the cause of male malaise must be destroyed …
And it was taboo, Inna goes on, to ask questions at home although her need to understand was strong, especially when, at age 18, having come to France, she learned from her gynecologist what she had lost. Leaving the consultation room she had felt “vraiment bouleversée,” she says, blown away. Despondent, then enraged …
Until that day, age 25, when she read in Elle that you could get it back! What a pleasant shock, she testifies, though jubilation immediately dimmed. “It can’t be true,” she thought. “Not yet, anyway. They can’t be ready. It must be in an experimental stage. Maybe one day, in a year or two, or even three, from now…”
Still, with trembling hand, she dialed Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Dr. Foldes’ clinic. And her quivering hope muscled up with joy.
Only four weeks later, she met Foldes who talked to
her – “très longtemps, presque une heure” – for nearly an hour, she says, as she sat in wonder, asking herself frankly why “a white man from another culture would take such an interest in us.” This IS what she said, “pourquoi s’interessait-il pour nous?” – for us. The answer comes shortly…
Following the operation, Inna assures us, she felt “different,” though the difference was less about sexuality than identity. She perceived a renewed sense of self.
But we’re running ahead of our story. First, a Herculean task of remembrance had to be performed. Its aim? To reassign allegiance, freeing a ‘prisoner of ritual’ from the culture of harm her Malian grandmother claimed. Yes, the matriarch had had it done, Inna feels, fearful of losing another child to a foreign culture. Still, the trauma of the little girl, deleted from her conscious mind, had to be recalled – “un vrai travail psychologique.” Sentenced to hard labor mining the mind, she was enabled to retrieve what had occurred. The blade re-emerged in language, and a fighter’s tongue would fist it to the world. …
Dr. Foldes emphatically supports women’s bearing witness …
What a privilege to meet Inna, even if only her celluloid image, at one of the best colloquia on FGM that my long experience has allowed me to attend. Technical presentations suitable for medical students by Dr. Dan mon O’Dey, plastic surgeon at the University Clinic in Aachen, Germany; Dr. Abdoul Aziz Kassé, head of the Cheikh Anta Diop University Cancer Center in Dakar, Senegal; and Dr. Pierre Foldes of the Institut en Santé Génésique who pioneered restoration technique in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, joined moderator Ibrahim Guèye in expressing their outrage in a single voice. In unison they exclaimed, “L’excision est un crime” – FGM is a crime that should not be ennobled as “tradition” if anything positive adheres to the term. The amputation of girls’ and women’s genitalia is “mutilation,” these medical professionals insisted, and an “act of violence” that law should pursue and punish. Calling for “government accountability,” they showcased their belief in male responsibility. They spoke as men ashamed of what their gender has done, and still does, to the other.
For Pierre Foldes, FGM is a “macho” abuse for which men must be held accountable. Luckily for us, many men feel the same.
Remember, you can bring smiles to FGM survivors like Inna who long to have their birth anatomy restored. Please contribute to the Clitoris Restoration Fund. In the United States, your donation is tax deductible. Send a check made out to Healthy Tomorrow with a clear notation that you are contributing to the Clitoris Restoration Fund.
The address: Healthy Tomorrow c/o Susan McLucas, 14 William St., Somerville, MA 02144
You can also make a tax-deductible contribution in Germany by bank transfer to FORWARD –Germany with the clear notation Clitoris Restoration Fund and your mailing address for the tax exempt certificate (Spendenquittung): FORWARD – Germany e.V., Frankfurter Sparkasse, BLZ 500 502 01, Account # 200029398
For more on Inna Bocoum see http://www.afrik.com/article23820.html