Meghan Tschanz

love shines on

Why Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) still happens today.

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I wrote this blog in October 2012, and FGM still happens today. See what you can do to get involved and see an end to this practice


 

“Is there female circumcision in America?”

Nearly every day I get asked this question at schools in Kenya, and it always takes me off guard.

A large part of ministry here is going to local high schools to do programs, counsel, and answer questions.

I love it, I love that I get an opportunity to inspire and shape a new generation of Kenyans. I enjoy answering questions about America; it makes me think about why we do the things we do.

The first time it happened, a group of students was asking me about pizza and whether or not we had ugali (their staple food made out of corn) or kasava (sweet potato).

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, one of them asked me if we had female circumcision in America. That’s a super random question, I thought.

I racked my brain for when I had heard of it before and remembered one of professors in college explaining how it was when someone removed some or all external genitalia from a girl so that sex would not be be enjoyable as an adult. It is a means of attempting to control a woman’s sexuality. And from what I remembered it was dangerous.

“It is dangerous, illegal in the United States, and a violation of human rights,” I answered. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that this was something they might practice until they all bowed their heads.

From meghantschanz.theworldrace.org
They were silent until the boldest of them said all Kuria women are circumcised. I asked who the Kuria were, and she gestured to herself and all of the city saying, “All of us, we are all Kuria.”

Immediately, my heart filled with compassion. How could this dangerous and fruitless procedure still exist? Especially on the girls sitting right in front of me?

Then came guilt: I had just spoken so negatively about a tradition, however dangerous, that was still part very much part of their lives.

As a missionary, we are taught to respect other cultures, no matter how crazy they may seem. This is a good rule, but there comes a point where you have to draw a line.

There is a fine line between cultural differences and things just being wrong. Female circumcision causes unnecessary severe physical and emotional harm with the purpose of keeping women in check. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, female circumcision, more commonly known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is a procedure that “intentionally alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

These procedures have no health benefit and can cause severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, problems urinating, cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth increasing risk of newborn deaths. In addition to this, many young women experience emotional trauma from the procedure but are forced into it by their families.

When I got back to the house we were staying, I asked our ministry contact about his experience with FGM. He told me that once every few years, leaders in the Kuria tribe decide when and where to circumcise the women. It usually happens in December, when they take all girls aged 12-14 and mutilate their genitals.

After the procedure, the girls are dressed up with balloons and are forced to walk home, bleeding, as others dance around them to celebrate this rite of passage. Sometimes girls even bleed to death on their walk home.

From meghantschanz.theworldrace.org

Shocked, I asked Pastor, “What’s the point? What good came of it?”

He simply shook his head and told me that FGM is wrong and admitted he sometimes hid girls in his church who were trying to escape FGM.

The reason it still continues today because it is a strong and ancient tradition of the Kuria people.

With that information, I was torn. Part of me wanted to close my eyes and not say anything to avoid unneeded conflict, but the brave part of me knew that something needed to be said.

So here I am, saying something. This practice must stop. FGM is not ok. It’s not ok for 92 million girls in Africa to be living with the consequences of this procedure. It isn’t ok to celebrate a girl who has been mutilated as she hemorrhages on her walk home.

Many girls here are starting to question female circumcision simply through education. In fact, Pastor’s tribe had once practiced FGM, but it stopped in the 1970s when the tribal leaders were introduced to other cultures where this practice wasn’t as prevalent.

Ancient traditions and cultures are hard to change, but Pastor’s tribe shows it’s not impossible.

This cultural practice has got to stop. FGM is not some distant thing that doesn’t happen anymore, it is happening right in front of my eyes.  And if you are reading this, it’s happening right in front of your eyes too.

Please don’t read this and think there is nothing you can do – you have a voice, so say something. 

Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your leaders that FGM wasn’t just practiced in the 1800s; it’s very much a part of African culture today. And that’s a problem.

Come here yourself, get to know the world outside of the one you live in.

I will leave you with the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

About Meghan Tschanz

I believe in love, empowerment. and adventure. The kind of love that believes in the face of adversity, the empowerment that allows people to step into their destiny, and the kind of adventure that leaves your heart pounding in your chest. I write because I want to remind us all that there is so much more to life.

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2 Replies

  1. This is just as prevalent and heartbreaking in Malawi. Thanks for spreading awareness Meghan!

    1. Gret! Glad we are both doing what we can to see an end to this practice.

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