Elongating the labia, a form of FGM?

25 Feb, 2017 - 00:02 0 Views
Elongating the labia, a form of FGM?

The Chronicle


AS we near International Women’s Day celebrations, I want to look at something that is quite troubling; the issue of female genital mutilation also known as FGM. This is a cultural practice that is practised mostly in Central African countries and especially in Kenya.

It is always so easy to point fingers at Kenya and other countries that practise it when we have our own way of meddling with the genitals for sexual reasons. Yes, the pulling of the labia that is widely practised in Zimbabwe.

Some say it is not female genital mutilation because in actual fact nothing is being removed. I don’t think that the term should be looked at literally. While nothing is being removed, what we are adding is for the benefit of sexual expectations that we have made cultural expectations as well.

In Zimbabwe, girls as young as seven years old are taught to pull the vaginal labia until it is as long as the elderly women prescribe. That doesn’t sound right to a foreign person, but to Zimbabweans, it is considered normal to teach a Grade Two child to elongate her private parts for the sake of pleasing a man who might appreciate it later on in life when she gets married. We find it easy to judge other cultures when we do the exact same thing in a different way. It sounds ridiculous when put across that way, but it is the truth.

Our culture, the same culture that initiates children about sexual pleasures, is the same culture that is “conservative” and then advocates for no sex before marriage. Now, that is strange to me.

A Grade Two child, who is busy playing house and being a child is made aware of sex and how to please a man at such an early stage but is expected to keep that to herself until marriage. We all know the curiosity of childhood and how it works.

Children want to discover as much as they can. You teach them that elongated labia are important. Is it not logical that they want to experiment? Once the interest in boys is ignited, there is no stopping them. We should really think about the implications of some of the practices we teach our precious future generations.

My baby just turned eight years and I cannot imagine teaching her to do anything to her genitals for the sake of marriage. I don’t know if it’s just me who is too busy teaching her reading skills and filling up her library with topics so diverse she never gets bored. I worry about the world she is growing in and how bad it is for children.

With the kind of food that we are eating now, girls are starting their menstrual cycles as early as nine years old! That’s very unsettling for me. I think of crime and all the disasters and how I can shield my baby from going through them.

I think of education and investing for her university. Her moral muscles are a worry for me as well. Will she be a principled young lady who can say no?

Will she be a woman of integrity and trustworthy? That’s what I think about when I look at her, not putting the responsibility of the sexual pleasure of the man that she might marry if ever she decides to get married in the future. I just can’t do it.

Why do we pretend to be surprised when our young girls are enticed by older men who know that they have everything ready for them to enjoy? Yes, I say we pretend because if we don’t want our girls to engage in sex, why do we prepare them for it at such tender ages?

Statistics clearly state that there are more women than men so obviously not everyone will end up married. Why not equip them with skills to invest in themselves, rather than skills to keep the few men that are there?

We have many conferences that are planned to empower women on things that could have been instilled in them from infancy. Why do we prefer to right the wrongs of the past rather than being the masters of their journeys from infancy?

We should tell the girls that they are capable of anything from the moment they can sit! Instead of passing on the practice of elongating the labia, we should ignite their interest in Mathematics, Science and Accounts. We must show them examples of women doing great things for themselves and the world.

If we really believe that education is the most important thing a human can have as far as development is concerned, why don’t we intertwine that into their brains so that as they grow, the admiration and inspiration for education grows too.

We really need to go back to the drawing board if we are going to change the topics of women’s conferences from themes like “Claiming Back Our Power” to “More Women Asked To Move From Aviation To Aeronautical Engineering Again!”

If we place our efforts strategically, we can move forward from lamenting about historical misfortunes, to celebrating the continual successes of women.

As we celebrate womanhood, why don’t we think of ourselves independent from all the responsibility that have been constructed for us by society?

Why don’t we celebrate our strength, our nurturing qualities and our achievements? Let’s celebrate the influential power that we possess, that influence that changed the fate of this world through Eve? Why don’t we talk about how we can use that influence to make the world a better place? This year, let’s celebrate the young girls that were not forced into marriage by being removed from school. Let’s celebrate the men that support social justice issues.

Women have written books in the past year, let’s celebrate that. Some have changed their status from non-degree holder to degree holder, that’s amazing.

Let’s celebrate events that are worth celebrating rather than exhausting our energy on upholding cultural practices that do not make sense if you really think about it.

I am not attacking our culture, no. I respect how we were brought up and I understand the reasons that they brought us up in that way. What I am saying is that the world is changing every day. What held a marriage together in 1960 might not be the same to date. A marriage arguably works because of an encapsulation of virtues, not only because of elongated labia. If you train the young ones to do it, and then neglect other virtues like morals, respect for adults, respect for people, giving, accommodating extended family, treating the in-laws well, you will be wasting your time. How about we teach our children everything else that matters and not worry much about what keeps a man.

All women with the cultural adornment would be immune to disappointment and divorce as they would all be happily married. Also, the current generation would be instilling the same cultural values in their own children but I doubt that that is the case from the few conversations that I have had.

Our children are precious; let’s not gamble with their future for the sexual pleasure of their future sexual life partner. It’s in our hands.

Tsungai can be reached on [email protected]

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