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Campaigning against female genital mutilation
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Lifelong complications


The pharaonic variant of FGM involves yet another aspect: closing the vagina completely – total control of female sexuality. Aisha remembers the most horrific day of her life as if it was yesterday. Her aunts came to help her mother, as she recalls.

"They sat on my arms and legs, while the old woman cut everything away," says  Aisha. There was no anesthetic. "Then they tied my legs together and I had to lie like that for four or six weeks." During this period, the wound, which is stitched up or closed with the aid of acacia thorns, is meant to heal. An inserted twig or straw ensures that a tiny opening remains.

The list of the consequences, which usually remain for life, is long: peeing can take half an hour, a period can last two weeks, and women are often prone to chronic infections of the bladder or fallopian tubes. This, in turn, frequently causes infertility. In the case of pregnancy, a normal birth is often not possible, but there is rarely a doctor around who could perform a caesarean. In all cases, infant mortality is clearly elevated, by around 55 percent.

With the pharaonic mutilation, there is yet another cruel aspect: on a woman’s wedding night, she is often cut open if the opening is too small for intercourse. This is sometimes done by the mutilation practitioners, but more frequently by the husbands, who use knives and scissors, often damaging the bowel or bladder in the process.

Aisha will only say that her wedding night was terrible, without going into details. She has since had a son and a daughter, both of whom were born in Germany by caesarean. She says that she is lucky that her husband is considerate. "But I only know that being with a man is supposed to be beautiful for a woman from books and from talking to my German girlfriends. For me, it has remained torturous."


Women in Focus Editor
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