In the narrative about closing intergenerational gaps, traditions play one of the key roles. When we build some rituals in which we participate as a group, we build community.
We naturally enjoy belonging to a group of like-minded people. Being a part of a community is driven by our instincts. In prehistoric times, hunting and gathering were easier in a group than alone, ensuring our survival. Times changed, but evolution preserved the benefit of belonging to a group of people as an advantage for survival, giving us one of the basic fears - to be excluded from the social hierarchy.
However, traditions need to be constantly reevaluated for their relevance to the social environment in which they operate. Unfortunately, some traditions have an expiration date. As we don’t wash clothes with a rock at a local river with other women from our community anymore (as a way to connect and bond), we should also question other ways in which we seek social belonging via traditions. The practise of female genital mutilation(FGM/C) is one of those ways, in which women are still trying to belong and ensure survival in many communities around the world. The tradition of FGM/C is often contributed to a false notion of “purifying” a woman and making her desirable for marriage, or worse, to the non-existent religious connotations. It puts thousands of women and girls around the world at risk of harming their health and removing their basic human rights for the agency and integrity of their bodies.
FGM/C is a partial or full removal of external female genital organs, or other damage to the female genital area(such as piercing, pricking, incising, scraping, and cauterizing). It is still widely performed in more than 30 countries of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. There is a growing body of evidence that, due to migration, this practice is performed in diaspora communities in the West(including Canada and the USA) as well. There is also a term “vacation cutting” referring to an immigrant family taking their daughters(aged infancy to approximately 15 yo) to be “cut” in their country of origin. Despite FGM being illegal in many countries, this practice persists, being silent in nature. Girls and women do not report it to the local authorities. No one still wants to be excluded from the community, especially in the foreign land, often unwelcoming to racial and religious minorities. As every tradition, when left without questioning, FGM continues to exist.
Many non-profit organizations around the world ring the alarm and include governments in the conversation about measures to eliminate FGM/C and help the victims and those at risk. And there is certainly great progress. However, every global change starts locally, with the decision that each of us makes. As women, we are conditioned to follow, to strive to belong to the social unit(family, church, community, etc). Certainly, there is a precious gift in belonging to your “tribe” of like-minded people. However, we need to start by questioning the rules of the “tribe” we are belonging to, and start to be guided by considerations of our own(and our children's) safety and wellbeing. If something seems “not right”, it is probably so. Reach out to someone outside of your circle, search for information online, and find a mentor. Read, listen, ask questions. Once you have all the information you can acquire, ask yourself ”Is it right for ME?”. If not, maybe it is time to take action and to leave the tradition in the past?
…Or to leave the tribe.
FGM is a criminal offense(aggrivated assault) in Canada. It is illegal to perform or assist in performing FGM in Canada, or to take female children abroad for FGM. As Bill C-27 states, “no consent to female genital mutilation is valid except where given for a surgical procedure performed by a person duly qualified by provincial law to practise medicine, for the benefit of the person or, in the case of an adult, where it does not result in bodily harm”.
If you know somewomen or girls at risk, report to the local law enforcement agencies or child protective authorities. As stated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on 6 February 2021, if you or the person at risk is a Canadian citizen abroad, please contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate, call 1-613-996-8885 or email email@example.com.
Post by Ielyzaveta