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The Secret World of Female Circumcision

As a girl growing up in rural Kenya, the author was swayed by talk of friends and elders about how once a girl undergoes “the cut,” she gains respect and grown men consider her suitable for marriage. The she watched as one of her schoolmates was mutilated.

NAIROBI – As a child in rural Kenya, I was a secret admirer of female genital mutilation. I was swayed by talk of friends and elders about how once a girl undergoes “the cut,” she gains respect and grown men consider her suitable for marriage. Perhaps these were the reasons why, as a girl of 13, I longed to be “circumcised” and become a “real woman.”

My mother opposed the practice, however, because she was (and remains) a Christian and wanted me to become educated and to escape the fate of many girls in my community who are married off to older men and then lose their autonomy. I tried to persuade my mother to permit my circumcision, but she refused.

My mother’s decision angered me. In frustration, I spoke with a few other schoolgirls. Each of them gave a different version of the process, but they held a common view: circumcision is intensely painful, and I must be prepared for much bleeding. And yet the friends to whom I spoke encouraged me to get circumcised.

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