Zero Tolerance Against Female Genital Mutilation
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, 2016
Don’t dirty my chair with your blood!
Once while my father was away, my grandmother said, “Aicha is going to be six (6) years old. We have to do it.” I was sitting, and a woman was standing on my right, my neighbour on my left, my grandmother was holding my head, and two other women had my legs. This other woman comes in, and it’s horror, then when everything is cut, there’s a lot of blood.
I didn’t forget; she didn’t want my blood to stain her chair. She said: “Let the blood fall on the floor.” My blood was not important to her, only her chair was important; I have not forgotten that!
Little Aicha must keep quiet. Sexual mutilation is taboo.
This testimony was taken from the Documentary: Present Time—Excision, a horror without borders, 2018.
Photo: Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press, about 20 centimetres of snow fell to the ground. February 7, 2020, is the day of the planned activity.
We seriously considered cancelling the event; we had a big storm and zero visibility on the road, there was a snowbank at the entrance of the Lausanne Community Center. The snowplows were on the road. We had to avoid any non-essential exit.
But long before the storm, there had been a strong reaction on Facebook a few days before the event created on our page: World Zero Tolerance to Genital Mutilation Day, which invited women to come and share their stories, experiences, and opinions. And the reason is this photo:
It served as the cover photo for the invitation to the event, and it generated strong reactions that we were even getting away from the real issue. This horror, it’s easier not to be associated with it than to make it a cause, obviously.
Comments on the event page
They were born in Guinea, in Mali, in Senegal; they are now Quebecers, Laval’s residents. They are young (in their early thirties and under), intelligent, educated; they braved the storm, 25 cm of snow, with a newborn baby well installed in its shell (baby carrier). It was an essential exit!
They came to testify with dignity and courage against excision. Their story is the same as Aicha’s; they were between 1 and 11 years old. Some of them were not aware that they had been mutilated, totally unaware that sexual mutilation existed.
“When you are not mutilated, you are an exception, you are disturbing, you are impure, you must not tell others.”
An aunt came to get me to go to a children’s party; it was false!
For others, it was blurred until then, but the video made them realize: but it’s me on the screen, it’s my story, I’m Aicha.
Others remember it well; they are angry. “What right do they have to attack my physical integrity, all the dimensions of my sexuality, to deprive me of pleasure that I will never know? All this to be acceptable to men? To be pure, otherwise, it is social death. But I must forgive, I must move on, I must turn the page.”
There are four types of sexual mutilation.
Excision is type 2; the exact term is sexual mutilation.
The video (Present Time: Excision, a horror without borders) is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, we cry, we cry, we hug each other, even the moderator of the activity is inconsolable, but after a few minutes, we wipe our tears. We realize how serious it is, that it is a pain in all respects, atrocious. They said it, there is absolutely no benefit to operating sexual mutilation on a girl.
They have agreed to break the immense silence that surrounds this ancestral custom. Thanks to them, we reaffirm the urgency of acting to prevent, to raise awareness here in Quebec, in Laval, the 3rd largest city in Quebec, which welcomes more and more people of immigrant origin. It is hard to imagine, but this cruel practice crosses borders, the risk of it happening on Quebec soil is low, yet a trip to their home country can change everything.
The challenge is great: “We must counter the weight of a tradition rooted in the families, convinced that if they don’t perform it, the girl will die a social death. All united, we will succeed.
It’s decided, we must do more because the prohibition of excision is not always enough. It is necessary to set up a network of alerts and follow-ups of situations at risk. They want to get more involved in this cause; we want them to want to, our door is wide open.
Stay tuned; the good news are coming!
A wise man is worth two
Do you need resources?
—For those who are refugees: PRAIDA (514) 484-7878
—For those who are pregnant and need an obstetrician-gynecologist: Dr. Élise Dubuc, 514 344- 4411
To learn more about genital mutilation: UN Women