An Exclusive will return in the month of August. Join us then, when we bring you another fascinating person.
The following story was written by Terresa Monroe-Hamilton and first published in the Right Wing News on June 24, 2016. The photo used here in this article is by ABC News.
An American woman who underwent female genital mutilation when she was just seven years old has spoken out about undergoing the painful and terrifying procedure while she was on a family vacation in India.
Mariya Taher, now 33, said she remembers being taken to a run-down apartment while on holiday in Mumbai, being made to lay down on the floor, before she had her dress lifted up and felt ‘something sharp cut me’.
The campaigner, who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has previously spoken out about her experiences before – but used a pseudonym whenever she appeared on camera so as not to put her family in any danger of reprisals, she told ABC News.
Mariya Taher: ‘I remember being taken to an old-looking building and going up a flight of stairs and going into the apartment building,’ she said. ‘I remember being put on the ground and my dress was pulled up, and I remember something sharp cut me.’ She first told her story last year under the name Sarah, with her face obscured because she was worried about people’s reactions and the impact it might have on her family. Her sister was cut in the US. She said at the time: ‘I remember feeling pain. I was crying… I was scared during it because it hurt.’ I bet. I can’t imagine that pain or the demon who performed the procedure. Mariya started Sahiyo, an organization working to stop cutting through community engagement and education, and she is on the Massachusetts Female Genital Cutting Task Force trying to get state legislation to ban FGM. She is one brave woman.
Most females are cut to prepare them for marriage at a young age and more than three million girls are estimated to be at risk ever year. Many are cut to restore a sense of virginity. It is most common in western, eastern and north-eastern Africa, parts of the Middle East and Asia, but also other parts of the world. It is illegal to carry out FGM in the US and in 2013 a federal law banned people from sending their children to other countries to have it done. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 500,000 women and girls in the US could be at risk of FGM at some point during their lives. The World Health Organization identifies four different types of FGM which vary in severity. Type one is a clitoridectomy, ‘the partial or total removal of the clitoris’ or skin around the clitoris, and type two is often described as excision, when the clitoris and the labia minora are partially or fully removed. The third type is infibulation – ‘the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal’ – and type four is used to describe all other harmful mutilation of the female genitalia for non-medically-related reasons such as pricking and piercing. Potential side effects of FGM include bleeding, infections, problems during childbirth and the risk of fatality.