Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unspeakably awful

"This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates." — Nicholas D. Kristof

IF YOU'VE READ this blog more than a few times, you know that I'm a huge fan of New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof. I'm attaching an excerpt from a column he wrote May 11. I've saved it since then, but I sort of had to work up to sharing it. It's about genital mutilation. The practice is so unspeakably awful that words fail. Here's Nicholas to do the heavy lifting.

A Rite of Torture for Girls
By 
Published: May 11, 2011


People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.


It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.


“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”


Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.


The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.


When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.


Click here to read the whole article.


Nicholas Kristof

Here's his official NYT bio.


Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who writes op-ed columns that appear twice a week.


Mr. Kristof grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Oregon. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then studied law at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, graduating with first class honors. He later studied Arabic in Cairo and Chinese in Taipei. While working in France after high school, he caught the travel bug and began backpacking around Africa and Asia during his student years, writing articles to cover his expenses. Mr. Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 150 countries, plus all 50 states, every Chinese province and every main Japanese island. He jokes that he's one of the very few Americans to be at least a two-time visitor to every member of the so-called Axis of Evil. 
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