According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 150 million women live with the consequences of genital mutilation. And every day, at least 8,000 more girls are mutilated. Now, a new book is being distributed declaring genital mutilation a crime.
Razor blades are often used in female genital mutilation © Target
In Aisha's household there are no razor blades. The 43-year-old could not bear it. So instead, her husband uses an electric razor. These days, Aisha (whose real name has been changed to protect her identity) lives in Europe. But she is still haunted by the memory of what was done to her when she was a 5-year-old living in Djibouti, a small desert state in north eastern Africa.
"I was told at the time that it was going to be a marvellous day," she says.
Instead, she was mutilated, her entire external genitalia were cut off, and her vagina was sewn up. As a result, Aisha has had many medical complications, and will never be able to experience a normal sex life. She says that she will never forgive her relatives, the people she trusted most, for lying to her.
The custom of female genital mutilation (FGM) is predominant among Muslims, but is also sometimes practiced by Coptic Christians, Jews and followers of natural religions. It is most widely practiced in Africa, in some 28 countries. The tradition has been in existence for thousands of years – the most brutal form, which Aisha experienced, is referred to as "pharaonic. These days, many advocates of FGM invoke Islam.
Male proponents of female genital mutilation often refer to the practice as female circumcision, and like to point out that many men are circumcised, too. But from a medical point of view, this comparison is invalid. While it is true that some women only have the clitoral hood removed, in the majority of cases FGM – which is carried out using anything from razor blades to glass shards and even the lids of tin cans – goes much further, depending on regional tradition. In most cases the entire outer and/or inner labia are cut away along with the clitoris. The women who carry out the mutilations are held in high regard and earn good money.