We euphemistically call our vulvas and vaginas our “private parts”. I don’t like using euphemisms for our genitalia, but what this euphemism does get right is the idea that our sexual and reproductive organs are exclusively ours and should be shared only when we decide. Unfortunately, this is not always true.
In some cases, we have little say over what happens to our vulvas and vaginas. I am thinking of abuse, obstetric violence and the rights of trans people. I am also thinking of female genital mutilation (FGM).
This is on my mind because on 6 February, the world marks International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which aims to raise more awareness to this horrible practice.
FGM consists of cutting female genitalia for no medical reasons, often when the girls are young. There are different reasons for it: to control a woman’s sexuality, for wrong medical beliefs, and as a rite-of-passage. FGM leads to lifelong health complications, including at childbirth. The World Health Organization says that more than 200 million women worldwide have been cut.
When I first reported on FGM, it was 2017 and I was in the Gambia. I approached the subject with a feeling of despair. It hurt me simply to think about the practice. But the more I interviewed women, the more I realised that a lot is changing when it comes to FGM, and more and more women are speaking up and managin…