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“Women Don’t have to Die in Silence”, Depicts Kenyan Female Genital Mutilation Survivor’s Film

The film features a series of conversations between women in search of bodily autonomy, a sense of beauty and sexuality

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FILE - A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads "Stop the Cut" referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016. VOA

As a 10-year-old in rural Kenya, Beryl Magoko was not surprised when her Kuria community arranged for her to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as it was normal for girls.

But she was shocked to learn about reconstructive surgery for FGM at a 2013 screening in West Africa of her award-winning documentary “The Cut” — and started to film her own quest to decide whether to undergo this surgery, invented a decade ago.

“I wanted to use myself as a mirror so that women can reflect about their lives … and encourage circumcised women [to realize] that it helps to talk about this trauma,” Magoko, now 35, told Reuters. “We don’t have to die in silence,” she said from Germany, where she now lives.

In her second documentary “In Search…”, which has its U.S. premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival on June 17, Magoko talks frankly with other women about FGM and her uncertainties about undergoing surgery to feel complete again.

female genital mutilation
Magoko said she wants to share the stories of FGM survivors and shatter the stigma, but she needed to help herself before she could help others. Wikimedia Commons

The World Health Organization says about 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and can cause chronic pain, infertility and death.

Reconstructive surgery involves breaking open the scar formed by FGM, and pulling the clitoris, the majority of which lies beneath the surface, back to the surface, relieving the pain associated with FGM and restoring sensitivity.

The technique was developed in 2004 by French urologist Pierre Foldes, who has trained hundreds of doctors in the practice. Doctors from Clitoraid, a U.S.-based non-profit, have performed 500 such surgeries since 2009 and have a two-year waiting list.

Women speak out

The film features a series of conversations between women in search of bodily autonomy, a sense of beauty and sexuality. Magoko meets women in Kenya and across Europe who have undergone FGM, some who have had reconstructive surgery and others who have never heard of it, including her mother.

One woman in the film told her reconstruction was the best decision she ever made. Another said she would not do it because it was “impossible to imagine someone touching me there.” All speak of the emotional trauma and physical pain from the resulting scar tissue that can make childbirth, sex and periods excruciating.

female genital mutilation
File:Campaign road sign against female genital mutilation. Wikimedia Commons

While FGM is outlawed in 22 countries, according to the campaign group 28 Too Many, the news about reconstructive surgery has not reached many villages, Magoko said. Women in search of genital reconstruction do so in secret, for fear of being shamed by their family or community.

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FGM in Africa

Magoko’s goal is to screen “In Search…” where FGM is practiced, including her home country Kenya. Six African countries — Chad, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan — do not criminalize FGM, which world leaders pledged to end under global development goals in 2015.

Magoko said she wants to share the stories of FGM survivors and shatter the stigma, but she needed to help herself before she could help others. “There’s no way I could help other women if my story or my history is still present and it’s haunting me,” she said. “I felt like young Beryl got justice.” (VOA)

Next Story

Somalia Calls To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

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FILE - A badge reads "The power of labor aginst FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

A spate of deaths of young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) has renewed calls for Somalia to outlaw the tradition.

Four girls, ages 10 and 11, from central and northern Somalia have died in the last three months after having been cut, and seven others are in hospitals, activists said.

“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a local women’s group in the east African country.

“These cases confirm what we have been saying all along — that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it,” Mohamed said. “The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”

 

Somalia
A Somali woman walks through a camp of people displaced from their homes elsewhere in the country by the drought, shortly after dawn in Qardho, Somalia, March 9, 2017. VOA

 

An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, the United Nations says.

One of 28 African countries where the tradition is endemic, Somalia has the world’s highest rates of FGM — 98 percent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone the ritual.

Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing voters who view FGM as a part of their tradition.

Government and hospital officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths or hospital admissions.

The charity Save the Children said it rescued seven girls — aged between 5 and 8 years old — on Sunday from Somalia’s northern Puntland state. The girls had undergone FGM and were bleeding excessively; they are now receiving hospital treatment.

Somalia
Ads Campaign against female genital mutilation Flickr

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more cases go unreported,” said Timothy Bishop, country director of Save the Children in Somalia.

Campaigners said Suheyra Qorane Farah, 10, from Puntland died Sunday after contracting tetanus, having undergone FGM on Aug. 29.

Two sisters, Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, age 10 and 11, from the same region bled to death Sept. 11 after visiting a cutter across the border in neighboring Ethiopia.

The death of Deeqa Nuur, 10, in July from severe bleeding following FGM prompted the attorney general to initiate Somalia’s first prosecution against FGM — using existing laws — but the investigation has faced challenges.

Also Read: Every Three Minutes a Teenage Girl is Infected by HIV- UNICEF

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

“A specific law can express punishments and specify stiffer penalties, ensure that all accomplices are held accountable, and gives guidance on the kind of evidence needed to prove the crime,” she said. (VOA)