Female Genital Mutilation- The Horror Story

 

Odmangal C. has performed more than 1,000 FGM procedures in children in Chad. She has never cleaned the blade. She believes that doing so would destroy its magic.

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Partial Picture and opening words Courtesy: https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/its-time-end-female-genital-mutilation/31809

 

The following piece made me sick to the stomach. Literally. I have read about the “act” before, but only today, with my 27 years of existence on this earth have I indulged in detail. To be honest, I could not digest some of it. I am nauseated, for the first time in a long time.

In April of this year, Dr. Jumana Nagarawala, was arrested and charged by the Federal Court, ‘after an FBI investigation uncovered that she allegedly removed clitoral skin from two 7-year-old girls at a medical office earlier this year[1].’

According to the Human Rights Watch, Female Genital Mutilation(FGM) is defined as ‘all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.[2]’ It is an act of absolute horror, stripping away the dignity of human rights for women.

How come a culture is so threatened by a women’s sexuality that it pursues mutilation?

The FGM is performed, so that the women are perceived as clean and hygienic by the community, post procedure. To other cultures, it is also associated with beauty and femininity or a rite of passage to adulthood.  It is also practiced, to reduce the sexual libido of a woman. Since the vaginal opening is closed or narrowed down in some cases, FGM is performed to discourage extramarital sexual intercourse. On a side note, some cultures who did not have it before, include FGM as a part of their “mistaken” culture to included in the religious revival movement.

At least 200 million girls and women in 30 countries have been subjected to FGM till now. FGM is a worldwide issue, because it threatens the health of the girls being cut. FGM is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and age 15[3]. Some people even call it female circumcision mistakenly, without knowing the health aspects of it. In no condition, sterile or otherwise, does FGM guarantees the safety of a woman. The complications from FGM can include severe pain, excessive bleeding, fever due to infections like tetanus, injury and infection to surrounding genital tissues, sexual problems, childbirth problems, psychological problems and death.

How can we justify the risk of taking away the human life, in the name of tradition?

There is no dignity in trampling a human life. There will never be one. The FGM is considered as the violation of human rights by The World Health Organization today. It is a violation of a woman. It is a defilement of a young girl, barely old enough to understand the implications of it. In a culture of silence, who knows, how many children are undergoing this procedure right now under unsanitary environments. Up until now, we thought that girls are abducted by their aunts and village chiefs, to be cut and then treated for months at a time. There were no medical services available to these women, and they usually suffered from lifelong difficulties. Sexual intercourse would be traumatic and painful. FGM used to be performed in those countries, which did not have proper medical facilities. In some events, after being cut, the women and children were left to bleed for hours in the pits dug in mud. If you were not cut, the community will outcast you. However, with the immigrants migrations, the FGM also migrated to developed countries.

Dr. Nagarwala still denies that she has committed the crime. In her defense, she maintains that she is performing a religious custom for India Based- Dawoodi Bohra sect.  She could do it for almost a decade in a developed country like United States. Even though, Dr. Nagarwala has been released on a bond of $4.5 million dollars, she was charged for mutilating at least 6 girls in a clinic of suburban Detroit. It is the first case in US of its kind. [4]

My discomfort stems from the fact that Dr. Nagarwala was not a tribal chief or an unschooled aunt, but an educated individual. It unnerves me, to think about the demons one has to silence to wield a knife against another woman. How heartless and careless can we be?

To determine the failure of only the doctor is part of the problem. I also wonder, how mothers can subject their kids to such terrible pain and danger? How fathers can sanction such a horrific act? Is there no liability, no thought process?

A daughter looks up to her father for safety, and cherishes her mother for friendship. The trust of their child is abolished, when parents gives in to such customs that may guarantee physiological and psychological pain to their progeny. It’s a lifelong struggle to overcome this overture.

Is there no humanity left behind?

 

[1] Kuruvilla, Carol. “Detroit Doctor Charged With Female Genital Mutilation.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Apr. 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-doctor-charged-with-female-genital-mutilation_us_58efbdeae4b0da2ff85f1292.

[2] “Q&A on Female Genital Mutilation.” Human Rights Watch, 26 July 2016, http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/06/16/qa-female-genital-mutilation.

[3] Https://Www.unicef.org/Media/Files/FGMC_2016_brochure_final_UNICEF_SPREAD.Pdf.

[4] Wjbk. “Doctor to be released on $4.5 million bond ahead of female genital mutilation trial.” Fox 2 News, http://www.fox2detroit.com/news/local-news/doctor-to-be-released-on-45-million-bond-ahead-of-female-genital-mutilation-trial.

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Venezuela is Hungry!

Nearly three-quarters of Venezuelans have lost weight over the past year, and the average loss was a huge 9kg, or nearly a stone and a half, according to a survey by the country’s top universities[1].”

When I read the above sentence a couple of days ago, I mentally accounted the fact that how imbalanced the world can be. Here I was, living in United States, where aisles upon aisles of food and  variety is available to me. On the other hand, just across the ocean, there is a country where the inflation rate is whooping 741% per month[2]. Venezuela has been undergoing a major economic crisis since 2012.

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 Empty shelves in Caracas. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, has assumed the tyrannical rule, where his new constituent assembly will be re-writing the nation’s charter. They would be doing so, after completely bypassing the Congress. He single handedly will be stripping any democracy left in the nation. To pay the country’s debts, the ruling party has dropped imports- including importing of food. Venezuelan economy thrived on Oil exports, however due to the decline in the oil prices, the country has been in an outstanding debt of remaining 25 billion dollars, with powerful allies like China. The terms of the contract are opaque, and to be repaid in oil. However, Venezuelans are not able to see the light of the day. There is no way to understand where the money is being spent?

There is no infrastructure development, no elevation of poverty, no construction in power plants! Only plans- and no actions on those plans. To top it up, corruption is on the all-time high. In 2013, 84 million dollars were appropriated and 8 people were arrested on the charges of corruption. [3] Since, China is reluctant to grant more loans, Maduro has turned towards Russia.

The poor remains hungry. The government of Venezuela provides a monthly bag of subsidized groceries and toiletries for little more than 1 dollar. It may be just enough for an individual, but not even close to sufficient for households with families. That is probably why, Venezuelans are fleeing to other South American countries, like Argentina.

Venezuela’s minimum wage for a month is 97,531 bolivars, or just over $10. At Rey David, a bottle of Aunt Jemima maple syrup goes for 95,230 bolivars.[4]

There is no money in the economy and there are no places to buy the food. There is not enough stock. Of course, there is plentiful of food available in the black market, but with an average hike of 1000%, where no normal working-class individual would go and buy.

If a woman becomes pregnant, there is no affordable care. If there is affordable care, then there is no equipment in the hospital for adequate help and treatment. If the child is born, there are high chances for that infant to die of malnutrition. There is no formula available in the market, the undernourishment of mothers is affecting the breast milk. The first 1000 days, post a child’s birth are critical as it is, but in the current state of Venezuela, it’s an immediate life and death situation.

Girls, as young as 12 and 13 years of age are adopting prostitution as a profession to support themselves and their families.

The average earning of a prostitute is around 400,000 bolivares, a month. Even though it is 4 times the minimum wage, it roughly amounts to $30.[5] 10 million people skip at least 1 meal per day, to feed their children. Many just get 1 meal per day to sustain.

A child of 12 or 13 years of age, needs nourishment to grow. The struggle is real. Often, we fail to realize how fortunate we have been to be able to feed ourselves. Food is the most necessary component of a person’s wellbeing. I cannot fathom, the horror of the mothers carrying their dead children.

Amidst all this, I ask myself, “How can we help?”

 

[1] Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.” The guardian, 26 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/26/nicolas-maduro-donald-trump-venezuela-hunger.

[2] “Inflation Rate.” Inflation Rate – Countries – List, tradingeconomics.com/country-list/inflation-rate.

[3] Ellsworth, Brian. “Venezuela seeks $5 billion China loan for scandal-Plagued fund.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 23 July 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/venezuela-china/venezuela-seeks-5-billion-china-loan-for-scandal-plagued-fund-idUSL1N0FT0N520130723.

[4] Gillespie, Patrick , and Stefano Pozzebon. “Venezuelans scramble for food, but it’s often out of reach.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 27 July 2017, money.cnn.com/2017/07/27/news/economy/venezuela-food-shortage/index.html.

[5] Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Hunger eats away at Venezuela’s soul as its people struggle to survive.” The guardian, 26 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/26/nicolas-maduro-donald-trump-venezuela-hunger.

Where is the honor in Honor Killing?

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Map Courtesy: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqrglobal2011041900 

 

Sometime in September of 2017 a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl ran away from their homes located in Karachi, Pakistan. [1]They were tracked down by their families and electrocuted after consultation from their council affiliates. The execution of the two teens were carried out by their own family members.

The very same month, in the same year of 2017, a 13-year-old girl was strangled, bashed on the wall, and set on fire. The teen from Telangana, India-was talking to boys of her class after school ended. She was later murdered by her own father who tried to pass this murder as suicide. [2]

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, Honor Killing is the traditional practice in some countries of killing a family member who is believed to have brought shame on the family[3].

Bear in mind that Honor Killing has extended its claws to almost all religious communities known to mankind. The only shred of positivity that I see in this horrific crime is that it does not believe in religious/caste/creed discrimination.

How much a man can hate his own children? How can you justify the actions of a father and a grandfather of Medine Mehmi- a 16-year-old girl who was buried alive and discovered after 40 days? She was found in a sitting position, with her hands tied. Her crime was to befriend boys.[4]

What kind of a society do we live in? How heartless can we be to witness a 13-year-old girl buried in a hole till her neck- and stoned alive for adultery?

How unnerving it is, that sometimes we are willing to solicit to rapes in the name of the honor? In the year 2002, a 11-year-old Gujar boy from Punjab- befriended a 30-year-old Matsoi woman. The Matsoi tribal punishment was to bring the 18-year-old sister of the Gujar boy and gang rape her. The men cheered outside the tent, where the girl was facing her derogatory fate.[5]

A total of 5000 honor killings are reported in the entire world. Between 2002-2009 there were 953 women killed in the name of honor and 66 men were murdered in Turkey alone.[6]

The deep-rooted delusion, that a woman is a property of her family, has surprisingly percolated from pre-Islamic and pre-Christian times. In India, Manusmriti-Manav Dharma Shastra is a biblical law book. According to Manusmriti, one of the laws regarding women may sound almost chiming in with what we see of the Indian society today- “It is the duty of all husbands to exert total control over their wives. Even physically weak husbands must strive to control their wives.”

Paralyzed with cultural representation and glorifying the killing of a character’s daughter, even Shakespeare thought through the madness. In his play, Titus Andronicus, the Roman general protagonist named Titus, kills his daughter. The daughter was raped and mutilated.  She died, along with her father’s remorse. The code of Hummurabi- which is a code of 1752 B.C. is not easy on women as well. According to the code, a woman adulterer should throw herself in the river.

It is shocking to me that we are carrying the load of our previous era and sprinkling its effects in the most gruesome way. A life seems so insignificant in the way of honor. There is no integrity in honor killing. It is just a limp demonstration of power. The sexual gratifications, the ego satisfactions and the power play role-plays with honor killing. There is no accountability, there never was! Till today, there is no real statistic regarding honor killing. I wondered about social stigmas that brings about your own murder. What kind of mental makeup does a man/woman need to undergo to resort to violence?

In all, we are a hateful society of hypocrites and we are submerged in ignorance. We are educated in the best of schools, and we are turning our heads the other way. If you can read this, you are literate. If you can understand this, your brain can process information. Yet, you and I are so powerless.

Oh! I feel so powerless.

 

[1] Barbash, Fred. “Two Pakistani teens accused of plotting to elope tied down and electrocuted by own families in ‘honour’ killing.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 18 Sept. 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/pakistan-honour-killings-teens-electrocuted-parents-families-elopement-plot-karachi-a7952691.html.

[2] https://www.ndtv.com/telangana-news/in-telangana-father-allegedly-strangled-13-year-old-for-talking-to-boys-1752421

[3] “Honor Killing.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honor%20killing.

[4] Fisk, Robert. “Robert Fisk: The crimewave that shames the world.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 7 Sept. 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-crimewave-that-shames-the-world-2072201.html.

[5] Fisk, Robert. “Robert Fisk: The crimewave that shames the world.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 7 Sept. 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-crimewave-that-shames-the-world-2072201.html.

[6] Keiner, Robert. “Honor Killings.” CQ Researcher by CQ Press, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqrglobal2011041900.

The state of Nuclear Affairs

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Picture Courtesy:http://www.starpolitical.com/2017/09/alert-reuters-south-korea-confirms.html

 

After the shitty day, I at least got to have drinks and amazing Mexican food. My sponsor and I were discussing the state of Nuclear Affairs, standing outside in the foggy Arlington night. The “Supreme Leader” of North Korea had just fired Nuclear missiles over Japan, where emergency sirens blared and Japan ran for shelter. Of course, this was not a light-hearted conversation. Heaviness hung in the air, when my sponsor explained the current situation in her home country.

Japan has seen its fair share of Nuclear attacks. Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes into mind where generations were being wiped out. Well, that is Japan’s story where you must have heard 80,000 deaths in Hiroshima alone and 40,000 deaths in Nagasaki later.

In the last two months, I have tried to understand the underlying effects, when we went Nuclear. Nuclear tests are now internationally banned in atmosphere and in sea. Interestingly, terms were negotiated for an underground Nuclear test in 1996. [1] So, there is no doubt in my mind, that whatever the Supreme Leader of North Korea is doing, is illegal.

What if the test fails? What if the missile following its pre-decided trajectory, fails to do so? What if the debris of that missile, falls on the citizens of Japan? Men, women, children, animals, plants, will die and they will die in the year of 2017, the year you and I are both alive. We both get to live and they don’t.

Between the period of 1945-1992, United States was responsible for conducting 50% of the total Nuclear tests orchestrated in the entire world. According to ‘ican-International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons’, 2.4 million people eventually died worldwide, due to cancer. FYI- Atmospheric Nuclear Testing can cause cancer due to radiation exposure. In case you did not know.

To give you a perspective, America’s first detonation of a Nuclear Weapon was codenamed as Trinity, and the test was conducted in a desert of New Mexico. We are living in 2017, and 72 years later, the following stories were reported by Aljazeera America.

There’s Rosemary Cordova, whose son Danny lost his left eye after undergoing four major brain surgeries for cancer; Henry Herrera, who saw the blast and must now make regular trips to Albuquerque for cancer treatment; Edna Hinkle, who submitted over $300,000 in claims to her insurance company for chemotherapy; and thousands of other New Mexicans known as “downwinders.””[2]

Feel lucky yet?

In my opinion, there is no action in this world that can justify mass murders or genocide. There is no place in this world, where we would be able to hide, if a Nuclear test goes wrong. There will be no power to show, no food to eat and no oxygen to breathe, if the Nuclear tests are not abolished. Moreover, if we as youth are unable to decipher the mass impact that our ignorance is going to have, our entire generation and the next may not co-exist.

Any technology that decimates the human advancement in intellect and health is recipe for a disaster. South Koreans and Japanese are preparing themselves for Nuclear attacks. They are investing in bunkers and missile defense trainings. Their smartphones beeped in unison and televisions blacked out to high alert, when the Nuclear missile flew over their heads. I wonder, if I had been in that state, where the world is about to end, who would I blame?

You and me.

[1] “The legacy of nuclear testing.” ICAN, http://www.icanw.org/the-facts/catastrophic-harm/the-legacy-of-nuclear-testing/.

[2] Ahtone, Tristan. “The first victims of the A-Bomb were American.” Al Jazeera America, 16 July 2015, 5AM ET, america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/16/the-first-victims-of-the-bomb-were-american.html.