E’s Story

June 27, 2016

I am a Sudanese man. I think men need to be honest with women about FGM. Men and their wives need to decide together to stop FGM and this comes from awareness and raising children according to values and morals. I would remind other men that the Prophet said that if you want your daughter to be safe, you must be safe towards other women. Otherwise it will come back to you.

I was born in Sudan and I have lived in the Netherlands. FGM has affected my two sisters, my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. They call it “sunnah”. My mother was very worried but also happy that her daughter was grown and going to be cut – this gave her value in the community but my mother remembered her own FGM so was worried also.

My sisters were about 5 or 6 years old when they were cut and I was 8. I remember my sisters were very happy. There was a feast and the family gave them money, but I think inside they felt something would happen. I was at the celebrations at the house before and after their FGM. I remember that my sisters were in the house and people were saying that it was good and giving them money, new clothes and gold. Someone in the family would have cut my sisters. Girls would ask each other if they had had FGM and if anyone had not had it, maybe no one would talk to her and they would look at her as a dirty girl.

I worry about my sisters. I feel that something wrong happened. It was taboo so I couldn’t ask anyone at the time but I understood later.

My community in Sudan asked me when I will do FGM for my daughters and I said I will not do it. I think families know information about FGM but don’t know a way to face the community. I told them “this is my life, my daughters and I’m responsible for them”. People said “this is our religion, our habit”. My daughters faced problems at schools – girls commented that they didn’t have FGM and said bad words.

For 12 years I was a member of a Sudanese family planning organisation in Khartoum. I think people there don’t care about the health of the mother – every 12 months women would have a new baby. Over time, this is a problem for the mother for work, having lots of children and food. Family planning is to try and plan a baby every 2-3 years. The organisation also helped with the “bad habit” of FGM. We raised awareness and gave information to women. Educated women were happy to talk to me as a man but I couldn’t talk about the physical effects with rural women as this is very sensitive and a woman did this. It is taboo to talk about sex in our culture.

The woman would explain how cutting would make suffering for the women and affect their health. I would talk about why people do this. They thought that girls with FGM were cleaner than girls who didn’t do FGM. We wanted women and men to understand the effect of FGM. We always tried to respect the people. The habit of FGM came because people care about the girls’ value in life. People tried to keep the women in a good situation, respect them, keep them in a safe place and not have any problems.

The habit of FGM comes from a long time ago, thousands of years ago, before Islam. FGM already existed when Islam started, together with another habit. The other habit was that a father, especially if he was poor and weak in the community, would take his daughter aged 5-7 and put her in a hole and bury her alive. This was to save her from becoming a slave to another man and he did this because he loved her and there was no other way to keep her safe. It is like a cat who eats her baby if it is in a dangerous situation. Islam stopped this immediately and said that nobody should kill his daughter.

There is nothing in the Qu’ran about FGM. Some of the Prophet’s wider family did FGM and one woman said she wanted to do FGM. The Prophet told her that if she must do it, to do very little, a touch, don’t cut everything. I think the Prophet needed people to stop FGM but couldn’t stop it immediately. I think maybe FGM protected girls at that time in those communities because if a girl has FGM it is very difficult to have sex with her – you need a long time to have sex with her. The Prophet said that God is with us at any time. If there are no police to control us, God know us and controls us.

I think the solution to stop FGM is not with the law. People in the USA, Europeans etc think that people in Africa are not educated and an underdeveloped nation and bad things must be stopped with the laws but this creates resistance. I am not satisfied that the Netherlands and the UK has used the law to try to stop FGM. I think there are professionals talking about stopping FGM and writing articles but doing it in private. Some doctors came and did only an injection and mothers said that they did FGM but this makes conflict with the girls.

In some areas, people think that FGM protects women but FGM does not prevent women from having sex. It’s about what is in her mind. The law can’t stop people. The best way to stop me from doing sex is by what the Prophet said – he is my reference.

If there are two girls and one girl has had FGM and the other is natural, it is much harder for the girl with FGM to have a baby because of scarring around the narrow opening. Likewise, it is easier to have sex with an uncut girl as it doesn’t take time. Many men who get married have a lot of difficulty to get “in” with his new wife if she has FGM. In most traditional countries, you must have sex within the first 3 days of marriage or you are considered not a man. Some do it with their finger or a knife. It is very difficult. People think that there is “protection” with FGM in the short-term because it takes longer for a man to get in. A man can’t force himself into her quickly. People think that if a girl is interested in sex and doesn’t have FGM, they can’t protect her. They think that if she’s had FGM she won’t like sex and will fight with a man who tries to force her. I think FGM comes from a background of value and people trying to keep women in a safe place.

Islam does not allow men to have sex with any woman, except his wife. Men must look at other women as their mother, sister or daughter. Anyone who respects women is a good Muslim.

Awareness, with respect for the customs and traditions of the people, and with education on good values, are the right way to eliminate female genital mutilation. Awareness is very important and the way to stop FGM. Awareness needs to be about how we do this. FGM is meant to keep the value of girls and women but the way is not good. Consider what the girl is facing when she gets married and has babies. I think awareness is needed first and then at the end, the law. People need to respect the law. We can’t change habits by force and the law.

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