Lessons From a 'Dirty' Book

23/01/2012 12:18 GMT | Updated 21/03/2012 09:12 GMT

Girls pass round 'dirty' books at school. It's our equivalent of the boy's porn tape (although I guess it's DVD now). 

There was one dog-eared copy of 'Lace' by Shirley Conran that we passed between ourselves, because it contained a highly graphic sex scene and it was the closest we were going to get to that illicit activity for a while. But whilst Lace may be categorized in the same genre as Jackie Collins or Jilly Cooper, it is significantly better quality and highlights - amongst other things - war, rape, abuse/sexual exploitation, the stigma of unwed pregnancy, abortion and female genital mutilation. It has a permanent place on my bookshelf (or at least it will do when I get it back from the last person who borrowed it - yes, it's still doing the rounds).

I don't often use this blog to highlight serious issues, but just as Lace was able to naughtily enthrall me and also cover some thought provoking material I feel that this blog could also, especially as yesterday I promoted freedom of choice. In that serendipitous way that life has, it brought freedom of choice close to home last night when my Mother in Law asked me to support her cause on facebook against 'Female Circumcision.' (NB. My mother-in-law is one of those inspiring women who is is a staunch feminist and president of the Abused Women's Shelter in Gothenburg).

With one simple click of support, I opened the way for what can only be called a tirade from a tweeter in the US who called me sexist for specifying 'female' circumcision as opposed to generally tweeting that ALL 'genital cutting' was barbaric. 7 tweet exchanges later, and I offered him or her a spot on the multi-author blog on our site when it launches. Not because she or he - (although am inclined to think the amount of emotional anger and aggression felt like an angry mother) managed to convince me of their position, but because I take the insult 'sexist' very seriously given my fight for equality, hence my unusual amount of engagement with him or her on Twitter. I also support the fact that this person has another point of view and - if they can control their temper - a powerful message for the world.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, female so-called circumcision, better called genital mutilation so prevalent in Africa and Asia is a radically more serious matter than the cutting of the foreskin. They both involve no freedom of choice for the child and I whilst I personally would only operate on any child out of medical necessity, I find one potentially an injustice which results in relatively little psychological or physical damage, and the other a grotesque demonstration of a patriarchal society's 'socially acceptable' female oppression and a child abuse which is almost unbearable to think about. Please...try to dwell in depth on the subject and it's emotional, physical and psychological consequences for more than 5 minutes and you may well find tears rolling down your face.

In a paraphrase from Lace (remembered from when I was 15, because my book is clearly still missing)

Needless to say, the woman can feel no sexual pleasure [because her genitalia have been amputated] and often unbearable pain as she is cut open by her husband on the wedding night to have intercourse. Sometimes he does not cut enough and when the woman gives birth for the first time she splits open like a water melon.

And that's even if she lives through the procedure which is generally carried out with no anesthetic by a village doctor whilst the girl (often a child as opposed to a baby since the labia/clitoris is easier to cut away the older you get) is pinned down by her mother (and other female relatives).

Pinned down by the woman you trust to protect you.

I'll round this off with some key facts that I pinched from the WHO website.

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
  • It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years.
  • In Africa an estimated 92 million girls from 10 years of age and above have undergone FGM.
  • FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

That's double the entire population of the UK.  

Now am off to grab some Kleenex, cuddle my beautiful daughter who will thankfully never personally know such abuse and dry my eyes.

I started an online consultancy. It made me want to drink copious quantities, smoke myself into oblivion and hit my head against a brick wall. Instead I wrote a blog.