Women make up almost 50 per cent of world population. They are inferior to no one and should be treated decently and in a dignified manner in every sphere of life.
The English term ‘ladies first’ is very commonly used around the world but reality and experience prove otherwise.
Rampant violence on and the maltreatment of women is not something uncommon and new forms of violence are being reported too. Although, with the passage of time things are getting better there is still a long way to go to assure women of all the rights, respect and dignity they are due, not just in words but in practice.
One severe kind of violence against women is female circumcision, or female genital mutilation (FGM). This is culturally practised in some parts of Africa, Asia and South America even if FGM is widely condemned.
FGM comprises procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Some medical doctors and gynaecologists insist that there is absolutely no scientific evidence whatsoever supporting any medical benefit of this procedure.
On the contrary, this practice badly affects the health and psyche of a woman. Because it is a very painful and horrific experience, it continues to haunt a woman throughout her life.
The practice causes a lot of health problems for women and induces a lot of pain during intercourse as well as complications during childbirth. The procedure can also cause severe bleeding and problems urinating and can later also lead to cysts, infections and infertility.
I feel there is need of education and awareness that FGM is a very harmful practice and those who force women to undergo it, for any reason whatsoever, must be brought to justice. Also, in many parts of the world there needs to be specific legislation to prevent such cases from occurring.
In Malta, a lot of work has been done in this regard. A Private Member’s Bill to make FGM and forced marriages a criminal offence was presented in the House and was approved unanimously.
Although the International Zero Tolerance Day to FGM is celebrated on February 6, many remain unaware that this practice has affected millions of women. According to an estimate, about 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM and about three million girls undergo the procedure around the globe each year.
The procedure is carried out for various reasons but in many areas this is done to improve a girl’s marriage prospects and also to ensure that a woman remains chaste and guard her against promiscuity. Another reason is to weaken a woman’s sexual desires. In certain areas it is related to faith with those undergoing such a procedure being described as ‘clean and good girls’.
In my opinion it is more of a cultural practice than a religious duty. Unfortunately, this is also practised in some Muslim populated areas and some say that Islam encourages female circumcision. However, there is no basis of FGM in Islamic law - whether in the Holy Quran or in five of the six authentic books of Hadith (tradition) of the Prophet - supporting this harmful practice.
Nowhere does the Holy Quran say that girls must undergo this procedure. Indeed, once it is medically proven that it is an unnecessary and harmful practice, how can one expect a divine religion to demand a procedure that causes pain and misery to women?
Female circumcision is only mentioned in one authentic book of Hadith and most of the scholars of jurisprudence base their argument on these few references. But when one enters into these references academically many questions arise, mainly: if it this procedure were so important then why was it not commanded by God or practised by the Prophet?
There is need of education and awareness that female genital mutilation is a very harmful practice
Also, female circumcision was not generally practised in Arabia at all. When we study this in further depth, we discover that this was practised in ancient times in Egypt, from where it spread to the rest of the African continent. Normally, only slaves used to be subjected to female circumcision.
The practice eventually found its way into Arabia but it never became common.
Prophet Muhammad insisted that women should always be treated with kindness and consideration. He often used to say that if a man had daughters and he arranged to have them educated and took pains with their upbringing, God would save him from the torment of Hell.
The Prophet always taught that women should not be beaten or made to suffer any pain, whether physical or otherwise.
He said that “the best of you are those who behave best towards their wives”.
In his last sermon, he again highlighted the kind of treatment women should e given and declared: “Remember, you must always treat your wives well.”
I think the practice of FGM should never be encouraged, rather laws should be enacted for its prevention and, thus, save women from passing through a trauma and face misery.
Laiq Ahmed Atif is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.
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