You may be surprised to learn that Ethiopia and Ethiopian are not native African names. It comes from Greek Αἰθίοψ (Aithiops), meaning charred/ burnt face. It was a common Mediterranean belief that skin colour was determined by climate, ‘black’ being a result of overcooking in the sun so to speak. They also reckoned curly/ kinky/ woolly hair is caused by the same. However, this could be seen as negative (due to living at an “extremity of the world”) , or positive. Homer described Ethiopians as pious and divinely favoured while Herodotus called them the most attractive people in the world. Continue reading The term “Ethiopian”
Last Wednesday (6/11/13) on Channel 4, at 10:45pm, was a documentary called The Cruel Cut. A moving insight into the practice of FGM (female genital mutilation), it was presented by Leyla Hussein, a British-Somali woman and anti-FGM campaigner.
I nearly didn’t watch it because it was on so late. However, it was well worth it. She explained the different types of FGM*, where it happens, the laws regarding it, and what she does about it. As a victim of it herself, she’s well-placed to do all that. During the program she set up exhibitions where she spread awareness to ordinary members of the public (including videos of it being performed), performed a make-shift survey to members of the public asking them to support FGM**, and even directly emailed the government to ask why anti-FGM laws weren’t being enforced. Unfortunately she got a PC reply saying those laws are enforced and FGM has been successfully stopped in England. What?!?
To make it worse, she and a group of protesters went directly to public health minister’s office (forgot which one. I’ll add when I find it) to speak to her directly. Of course, she didn’t come out to meet them.
* There are 3 types, and I’ll list them from least to most severe. They’re pretty much just as painful as each other (absolutely effing excruciating!) but the latter 2 leave more room for medical complications:
Type 1 – the clitoris is either sliced through the middle or removed, to prevent the girl from experiencing pleasure during sex,
(there is a variation of this called sunnah-circumcision, in which just the prepuce is removed, making it exactly equivalent to a male circumcision)
Type 2 – same as 1 but the labia minora (inner lips) are also removed and sewn together so when it heals the vagina is completely sealed apart from a pinprick-sized hole that she’s meant to pee & menstruate through,
Type 3 – same as 2 but the labia majora (outer lips) are sealed instead. Both this and Type 2 can lead to menstrual blood and urine pooling inside, fuelling any number of vaginal infections.
It’s performed as part of culture in many countries in Africa and Asia, and due to migration most other continents. South America seems to have remained free, thank Allah. Among Somalis at least (which seemed to be whom Leyla was most focused on), it’s performed by women: mothers, aunties & grandmothers because they believe it’ll make the victim “clean” for when she gets married, proof of virginity before marriage. This means that when the girl grows up and she wants to have sex with her husband… he’ll have to open her back up. I won’t discuss that any further.
Once again the onus to remain “pure” is put on girls, from an age when they shouldn’t have to know “impurity”, while boys are given license to go amuck.
Men, however, don’t discuss it because as far as they’re concerned it’s women’s business. They usually don’t know how it happens and just go on what the women say – it’ll make them “clean”, it stops them from turning into whores & nymphos, etc. However, when Leyla confronted a group of Somali men to discuss it they were baffled & repulsed. They saw the natural uncut vagina as how Allah made it so it’s wrong for anyone to try to tamper with it. In short, women perform FGM because they think that’s what men want, while men don’t see its purpose and would prefer it to not be done.
And in case anyone thinks it’s a Muslim thing, no. It originated in Kemet (ancient, pre-Islamic, Egypt) and spread all over Africa thousands of years before Islam came to the continent. And it’s practised by many non-Muslim communities, as was evident from her friends who spoke about their experience with FGM (all of them had it done to them) and how it’s affected their lives. Which goes to show that once again culture trumps religion in many parts of the world.
** No that wasn’t a typo. She made a survey asking people to support FGM, just to see if they were politically incorrect enough to refuse. Within half an hour she got 19 signatures, some of them from people who were personally against FGM but felt because it was Leyla’s culture they had no right to criticise. Only one person had the backbone to express outright disgust.
Face palm + tears.
Another interesting fact about FGM laws: in England it’s banned so the law knows it happens (~24,000 girls a year have it done in England), yet the number of people who’ve been prosecuted for it is exactly ZERO. The rest of Europe is much more no-nonsense, and France routinely examines girls for evidence of the procedure, and if such evidence is found people get their asses locked up.