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Egypt's primary Forensic Medicine Department spokesperson, Dr. Hesham Abdel Hamid, recently revealed that 70 to 80 percent of all Egyptian women can not reach sexual orgasm due to female genital mutilation (FGM), local media reported on Sunday.
According to Abdel Hamid, medical reports confirm that the practice causes extreme delays in the female sexual response cycle and therefore leaves its victims unable to reach orgasm.
The forensic expert also described some worrisome physical side effects of the practice, which include severe physical pain, bleeding and risk of wound infection. He also highlighted its psychological effects, saying victims of the practice often develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
FGM, which is defined as a "partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons" by the World Health Organization (WHO), is extremely common in Egypt.
According to a 2014 survey, 92% of Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been circumcised.
"Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women."
Egypt's government fighting against the practice As part of the ongoing crackdown on FGM, Egypt's government has passed a law that increases the penalty for female genital mutilatio.
Perpetrators of the practice can now face between five and seven years in prison. If the mutilation leads to permanent disability or death, the perpetrator then faces up to 15 years.
Before the law took effect in 2016, the practice was classified as a misdemeanor and carried a penalty of three months to a maximum of three years in prison.
However, many in the country continue to practice FGM illegally and the government continues to campaign against it.
A universal problem
Even though FGM is "primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East," it is also practiced in some Asian and Latin American countries and is considered a universal problem according to WHO.
"It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated."
It is also estimated that 3 million girls are at risk of female genital mutilation every year, with the majority being under 15 years of age.
FGM has nothing to do with religion Even though people often erroneously link FGM to religion, the practice has nothing to do with any faith and predates both Christianity and Islam, according to Human Rights Watch.
The human rights organization stresses the important role religious leaders have when it comes to disassociating the practice from religion.
On their website, they also add that FGM has already been denounced by many religious authorities and its association to Islam in particular has been "refuted by many Muslim scholars and theologians who say that FGM is not prescribed in the Quran and is contradictory to the teachings of Islam."
Women in the region are still subject to regressive practices While FGM takes center stage as one of the most horrific practices that are enforced on women, the risk of other regressive customs imposed on them is still high.
Just last year, Elhamy Ageena, a member of Parliament in Egypt, asked universities to impose virginity tests on female university students.
In an interview with Youm7, he said that the Ministry of Higher Education should make these tests a prerequisite for enrollment.
"Any girl applying to university should be tested to prove that she is a 'Miss' – a virgin. Each and every female applicant should present forward an official document that confirms she is a virgin. This should be done in an effort to eradicate this spreading phenomena of urfi marriage in Egypt," Ageena said.
The MP's proposal and comments sparked outrage in the country.
According to CNN, NGOs, politicians and women's rights advocates all condemned his statements; "the National Council for Women, as well as the President of Cairo University, called for him to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity" too.
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women feel flattered when men fight each other and kill each other to prove that they are real men.
I just found out that the Hindi word for orgasm is ‘kaamonmaad’. It sounds so sanskaari that I feel I’ll smell agarbattis when I climax! Now, why was I looking for this information? Well, that’s because I recently found out that August 8 is celebrated as the International Day of the Female Orgasm! It is actually a holiday in Brazil.
But in the seven years that I have been sexually active, I’ve not had an orgasm seven out of 10 times. It’s almost as if my G-spot can only be found using GPS. But sometimes I wonder, is anyone even looking for it? Sometimes I wonder, given our culture, how many Indian women even experience an orgasm?
I mean a lot of us get into bed with a complete stranger because mommy and daddy told us that’s our duty. Our sanskaars teach us that women are expected to be givers in bed. That we are expected to lay their lumps and bumps bare to please their men, preferably those men who have the legal right to enter and exit their vaginas at will… consent be damned… I mean, marital rape is just a western / feminist conspiracy to deprive hard working men the right to a happy married life, isn’t it?
Look beyond islands of privilege like Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata. Drive down to any tier-II or tier-III city. You will find the entire neighbourhood decked up in near-regal finery to celebrate organised relationships where young virgin women, who have never had the benefit of any sex education, are suddenly expected to let a man they barely met twice violate their bodies for the rest of their lives. Layers of pan cake slathered on their faces (courtesy Pammi aunty from Lovely Beauty Parlour two doors down) cannot hide the fear in the eyes of these young brides.
With each passing day, sex becomes a chore for these women, a duty born out of a social obligation to provide the family with an heir. I wonder if these women have orgasms? Or are they just too busy justifying their existence by proving the productivity of their uterus?
Also, is it just a problem in semi-urban and rural areas? I personally know several modern, highly educated, urban women compelled to turn into glorified baby production machines. Some such women have suffered domestic abuse when they suggested that their husbands start using contraception. I have often asked these women if they have considered leaving such toxic family environments. Most have stayed on for the sake of the children. Some have made peace with their fate. Some even rationalise it.
“At least he lets me work,” says one. “He isn’t wrong. Contraception is against our religion. Besides motherhood is God’s greatest gift to women,” reasons another. I tried explaining Stockholm Syndrome to them. They shut me out of their lives for trying to break up their happy families. One even said I was jealous as I had been easy and “given myself to too many men” and that no “good” man would ever want to marry a “damaged” woman like me.
As a parting shot I asked if she had ever had an orgasm, she said she thought Minute Maid was too pulpy and preferred making fresh orange juice at home. It all ended with a face palm!
I’ve read about horror stories out of Africa where female genital mutilation is common. Apparently they cut out a part of the clitoris, so that the woman can never feel pleasure while having sex. Another reported practice in some marriages in a few Middle-Eastern communities involves stitching the vagina so that a woman cannot have sex. The stitches are removed only when her husband wants sex. If she conceives as a result of the sex, she is celebrated as a future mommy. If not, the vagina is stitched back again. It is almost as if a woman is punished for having a vagina!
So, before you dismiss my quest for an orgasm as a first world problem, I ask you this… why do you think a woman should not enjoy sex? Why must sex always be about procreation? Aren’t there 7 billion of us on this planet? Why is it sinful for a woman to seek sexual satisfaction? Whatever happened to recreational sex? And why is it too much to ask your sexual partner to make an effort to arouse you?
I’m yet to come across a man who refuses a blow job. But ask them to eat pussy and they come up with interesting excuses including, “Aaj Mangalwaar hai!” And then they have the nerve to complain when I start swearing. Never mind the “chinal”, “kutiya” and “randi” that comes my way with amazing regularity.
Why? Because I like being on top, because I like kissing, because I want pillow talk and cuddling? Because I want to be more than a night-time parking space for a penis. It is because I’m not ashamed of my body. It is because I love sex. It is because I want to enjoy sex.
We already have Right to Education and Right to Information. Perhaps we need the Right to Orgasm. But then again, we live in a country that still doesn’t understand the concept of consent. Ah, well… a girl can dream.
When Kakenya Ntaiya was 12 years old, her best friend of the same age got married. Kakenya knew that she — like most of the girls in her community in southwestern Kenya — faced the same future. She was already engaged to her neighbor's son, and it was planned that they would marry after Kakenya had finished undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM).
Kakenya is a member of the Maasai tribe, found in Kenya and Tanzania, where FGM is commonly practiced. FGM, which is also known as female circumcision and female genital cutting, is the removal of some or all of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons, sometimes with either a knife or a razor blade. Depending on the region, community, and custom, the procedure could consist of partial or total removal of the clitoris, or stitching up the opening of the vagina so that only a small hole remains for urine and menstrual blood and can only be opened through penetrative sex or surgery. It is very painful and can be dangerous, as every year a number of girls die from undergoing the procedure. Human rights organizations and even the United Nations have called for an end to the practice, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal advocacy organization, said that “the act itself is, at its essence, a basic violation of girls’ and women’s right to physical integrity and violates a number of recognized human rights. FGM is therefore increasingly being discussed and addressed in the context of girls’ and women’s rights, rather than as a strictly medical issue.” Health risks, according to the World Health Organization, can include infections (including tetanus), urinary problems, shock, increased risk of childbirth complications, and death.
The girls in Kakenya’s village were raised to expect FGM followed by early marriage for their future, with no continuation of their education. But Kakenya had a different idea, and she made a deal with her father: She would undergo FGM, but once she healed, instead of getting married, she would continue on with her education. Her father — expecting her to be ill for a long time after the procedure — agreed, and she underwent FGM. “You go through pain that you are not supposed to talk about,” she tells Teen Vogue. “But I thought, I need to talk about this and I wanted to talk about this.”
Though most girls take months to recover, her mother — who went to school for a few years when she was young — found a nurse who helped Kakenya recover from the pain and trauma more quickly. “My mom was smarter than many of the boys she went to school with [and] would say, ‘If I did not drop out of school, I would be a member of parliament, I would work in a bank,’” Kakenya says. “So we were not dropping out, we were not stopping. And she saw us as fulfilling her dream.”
Kakenya finished school and decided that she wanted to go to college in the U.S. It took some time for her to convince the local chief of her village that further education was a good idea, and that it would allow her to come back and help her community. No girl in her village had ever gone off to college before, let alone to the U.S., and she wanted her community’s support for both political and traditional reasons. If the chief and the elders had forbidden her to go, it would not only have been very hard for her to go but it also would have meant that she would be alienated from her community and even her family. Though she did receive a scholarship for her tuition and room and board at Randolph-Macon Women's College in Virginia (now the co-ed Randolph College), she still needed to pay for her travel there. Once she had the backing of the chief, members of her village rallied around her to raise money by selling items such as eggs and mangos. The support from her community was highly symbolic of their hopes and trust in Kakenya.
Shortly completing her bachelor’s degree at Randolph-Macon Women's College in 2004, Kakenya became a youth advisor for the United Nations Population Fund. She went on to earn a doctorate in education from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011.
Throughout her education and over the 17 years she has spent in the U.S., her promise to the chief — and her community — was always at the back of her mind. “Every year I would go home, girls were getting married and I was thinking, ‘why?’” Kakenya, now 38, says. “And over the years, people were talking about girls’ education and FGM but it was not changing the story in my village.” So in 2008, she set up a boarding school for upper primary and lower secondary years (the equivalent of fourth through eighth grade), but with one major requirement: In order to attend, the girls’ parents or guardians had to promise that they would not force them to go through FGM or force them to be married, and the girls would also learn to become advocates against these harmful practices.
Kakenya got land just outside her village of Enoosaen, about 250 miles from Nairobi, in 2008, and the Kakenya Center for Excellence (KCE) opened the following year. That first cohort of girls are now about to graduate from high school, with KCE paying their school fees and supporting the girls financially through college as well. So far, the over 300 current students and alumnae have a 100% graduation rate from KCE, with a 0% rate of FGM and early marriage.
“With an education, a girl is more likely to be able to get a job, stand up for herself, and take on new opportunities,” Lakshmi Sundaram, the executive director of Girls Not Brides — a global organization advocating against child marriage across the globe, of which KCE is a member — wrote in an email to Teen Vogue. “She is more likely to decide if, when, and whom to marry.”
KCE, says Lakshmi, is more than simply a school: “It also provides a safe space for girls and supports them to learn about their rights, to build upon their skills, and to dream about their futures.”
‘Those Are Kakenya’s Daughters’
Prior to each new school year, hundreds of parents come with their daughters to the school hoping they will get one of the coveted 40 spots for Class Four (fourth grade). Choosing which girls are admitted is a tough process, and includes looking at exam scores as well as an interview process. But priority is given not only to kids at the top of their class, but also to those whose parents have passed away, whose parents have conditions such as HIV/AIDS, or who come from single-parent homes, particularly those who do not have mothers. “It is so hard and people will often say to us ‘you left out my kid, they deserve a chance,’” Selina Naiyoma, the deputy school director, tells Teen Vogue. “So we told Dr. Kakenya, maybe we can come up with more schools to take in more children.”
So this year, a new dorm is being built to house more girls. Kakenya is also in the middle of fundraising for a second school a few kilometers away that will go from nursery school all the way through high school. But until that happens and in order to expand girls’ empowerment and health, KCE each year runs weekend and weeklong camps for girls — and boys — from over 50 other schools, with teaching assistance that includes KCE students and alums.
Johnstone Shaai, a local pastor who sits on the KCE board, says girls get information at the camps that they would not have access to elsewhere. “They become agents of change,” he tells Teen Vogue. According to Selina, KCE students also stand out from other girls: “They walk in town and people say, ‘those are Kakenya’s daughters.’ You can easily see they are coming from this school because they carry themselves with confidence and no fear.”
The Ripple Effect
Naomi Ololtuaa, 16, is one of those girls. Sitting on purple plastic chairs in the front room of their simple three-room mud house — decorated with colorful beaded Maasai necklaces hanging from the ceiling and blue tinsel strung up on the walls — she and her father, David, discussed the importance of education. Naomi says that after she graduates from Form 4 (the equivalent to 12th grade) in December, she plans to apply to pre-med programs at universities in both the U.S. and Australia, and once she becomes a doctor, she wants to come back and build a clinic in the area so that the Maasai could have good access to healthcare. “There is a ripple effect,” she tells Teen Vogue, “because with my education, it will help many more people down the road.”
The Maasai — traditionally pastoralists whose wealth is counted in the number of cattle they keep — are known throughout the world as fierce fighters and hunters. But they are also a patriarchal society where girls are often only valued for the dowry they can bring for their family upon marriage. According to Kenya’s 2014 Demographic Health Survey, 90% of Maasai girls are married off by the age of 15 and 78% of women and girls between the ages of 15 to 49 have gone through FGM.
But David, in a break from tradition, has become a fighter for education, making sure that his 12 children from two different wives (many Maasai are polygamists) finish school and go on to university. “It is important to educate girls,” he said, “because many of them will take that education and come back to help their community.”
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