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Pressure to conform

26 Jun 2006 / 0 Comments / in going off on one

Painting by Mohamed Buwe Osman
Throughout the western world, young women feel great pressure to look good and be ‘hot’, meaning sexy. Young women go to enormous lengths to be fashionable and spend hours tarting themselves up to conform to what is deemed to be appealing, and more and more are opting for cosmetic surgery.

Women in the west have all this pressure. But at least they get to keep their clitorises.

I almost wept when I read about 15-year-old Kenyan Pamela Kathambi. Pamela bled to death after trying to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on herself because she was being teased by her friends in her village for not being ‘circumcised’.

Pamela’s mum was enlightened enough not to have her daughter ritually mutilated. She said: “I realised that girls who are not circumcised have gone ahead with education and are doing well in life so I didn’t want her to be circumcised.” She thought she was doing the right thing. And to my mind, she was.

More than three million girls have their genitals mutilated every year in Africa and the Middle East. It results in appalling suffering and pain at the time of mutilation as well as during sexual activity and can lead to horrific complications in childbirth. It also denies sexual pleasure to millions of women.

FGM is traditional in Africa. But then here in the west at one time, so was witch burning, rape within marriage, the ducking stool, torture and hunting foxes. We learned that these are not acceptable. Education and information is the key to stamping out FGM. Pamela’s mum understood that. What a shame those that teased Pamela didn’t.

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