| Female Genital Mutilation
This poem was written following conversations undertaken with people from the horn of Africa, in preparation for the formulation of the Strategy Group Policy on Female Genital Mutilation by Black Women's Health And Family Support. It expresses the pain and grief undergone by girls both during the operation and as a consequence of the operation. In essence this poem values and encapsulates the richness of the culture whilst managing to detach and maintain its opposition to female genital mutilation.
THE VOICE OF THE GIRLS OF THE HORN OF AFRICA
From the Pharaohs, has come to us a twisted custom;
Now rooted strongly in our culture, it ravishes innocent girls.
Pain struck me unexpectedly, like an arrow from ambush;
They conspired to set up a snare to trap me by surprise.
My body, which was smooth, is branded now with pain from top to toe;
Writhing in agony under their brutality, I lament, I cry out.
Last night at midnight, was I not too angry to sleep?
Did not an ailment that afflicts me, and me alone, prevent me from sleeping?
I tossed and turned.
Damn it, do you think I could sleep on either side?
Did not my head sag like the neck of Eles, the ostrich, as the poison gathered, and spread throughout my body?
This is the experience that returns to haunt me again and again.
You who inflicted this obvious injustice on me;
You who saw it, but have never admitted it was wrong,
Doesn't the way they butchered me ever trouble your mind?
If you do not know these things, let me make you understand;
They cut everything away.
When I was but a twig of a girl living happily in Golomis, not yet ten and they still plaited my hair for me,
My mother, the one I loved, tied my arms behind my back.
They put me in a dark house with a shrivelled, sunken-eye old hag
Whose whole body quivers, who has no mercy.
It is always so.
Having tied my upper arms behind me,
Having tied my hands, she mixed her medicine.
Having spread my legs, she cut the crucial place, she carved out the source of the feeling,
And from either side, she sliced away my flesh with her knife.
I was cut with a rusty dagger,
Others, like wood, with the blade of the axe.
The raw surfaces of my wounds she scored with long slices;
With dried myrrh she dusted them, then stitched me together with thorns around a small opening.
With ropes my legs were bound firmly together;
Long would people shudder at my hobbling.
Like one aged, I sought support from a stick.
The poles and mats of the wall shudder;
Is it my tears, my moans, or the blood I have shed?
Like bait for a jackal, they put my neck into a noose for Faahiyo Canjeex, the cutter.
When I reach the age of marriage, it blocks my periods and cripples my desire.
In this fair land, more girls have died of it than lived.
While they celebrate the wedding procession and feast with joy,
When you begin the foreplay of love,
Responding to the imperative principle of nature,
In the bed of relaxation,
This body lies without feeling, a small gazelle frozen in fear.
Have not all creatures, Muslims and non-Muslims, some feeling of compassion?
Of all the boys around me, I chose one for myself.
I burned with love for him; Alas, I thought that he loved me.
But he treats me like something he bought, his mare.
When darkness fell he attacked me, as if I had stolen from him.
I did not anticipate a struggle.
But he wrestled me and fought;
He handled me roughly, as if I were an enemy.
No one can enjoy hurt and pain.
Even gazelles of Daymo you can sense that they respond to each other as they go about.
If one partner is not aroused, the other misses what is beautiful.
When the time has come to give birth,
I bend over and weep in frustration and rage at my scarred and tearing flesh, stretched ever tighter.
Why did this injustice have to befall me alone?
You have marred what God created.
Why do you keep hurting my body?
It would be better to have died.
Sometimes an old culture is compelled to change its path.
Let the sun set on it;
Follow a path finding pioneer who leads in new directions.
Sewing up girls is a notion whose time has passed.
You have let yourselves be chained, by the fears of some jealous old man.
Surely, my fate is in the hands of unenlightened people who lack understanding.
Why do they circumcise me?
There were people who had not received the true religion who knew better than to do what you do.
They could bring themselves to mutilate their children, whose beauty does not leave them,
While you hamstring little girls and scar their bodies.
God never said to do that;
No such thing did he say in the Qur'an
The prophet, of fragrant memory, never spoke of such a thing in council.
Nor did Bukhari disseminate so much as an abridgement of it; it is not in the books.
Was not the offence for which the tyrant Nabrud was brought low, and the oppression of the Pharaoh's overthrown forever,
The crime of having time and time again destroyed virgin girls?
Have you then no fear of the wrath of god?
Do you think you can scrape the just retribution of the innocent?
Let me not prolong a charge that can be short.
"In the extremity of war", it is said, "even laughter is some support".
I now wait for help:
From the prescriptions of physicians
From the verses of poets
From the reasoning of grey-headed intellectuals
From the pens of writers
From the never-ending compassion of mothers, the virtuous ones who tire not.
Let time decide.