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Female Genital Mutilation Mutilates Us All

On December 10th, women from around the world will gather at the European Parliament to fight against Female Genital Mutilation. According to the World Health Organization, some 130 million women have, over the last few years, suffered from genital mutilation in some form. In reality, those figures are probably even worse, because illegalities are almost always underestimated.

Female genital mutilation, according to the WHO, consists of the "removal of all or part of the external female genital organs." It is a painful procedure carried out in unsafe ways by old women who are seeking to initiate girls into womanhood, and, more concretely, into a life that will be an unending chain of physical pain and social marginalization. Indeed, genital mutilation makes a woman's experience of sex, that taboo of taboos, into a painful, humiliating, punitive procedure.

Over the last 80 years, women in democratic societies have struggled to be recognized and treated as citizens endowed with equal rights. The right to own property, vote, work, divorce, the right to choose whether or not to have children have been secured only through political struggle. All these civil victories for women contributed mightily to the advancement of social life and have been instrumental in initiating comprehensive social reforms that have transformed Western societies.

In these epochal battles, women's fiercest enemy has been tradition, and its staunch ally: religion. With the help of information, education and mass participation, women and men, have defeated ignorance and the violence that goes with it hand-in-hand. The fight against female genital mutilation is not a replay of the West's 'battle of the sexes' circa the 1960s; rather, it is a struggle against the fear of unknown enemies; against fear of change and the opportunities and contexts that arrive in the wake of change.