Following are excerpts from a TV debate on the subject of female circumcision in Mauritania, which aired on MBC TV on October 18, 2012.
TV host: The custom of burying girls alive continues, in various forms, but the most abominable form of this custom is the circumcision of girls, which is practiced in 28 countries, mainly in Africa and in some Middle Eastern countries.
Mauritanian women are the ones who suffer most from this barbaric custom, which is carried out in the name of religion even though this practice predated the monotheistic religions by thousands of years. It predated Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by thousands of years, yet this barbarism is still practiced on women in the name of religion. Let's watch the report, and then we will discuss it.
News report on the subject:
Narrator: In this place, which lacks suitable sanitary conditions and the necessary medical care, female circumcision is performed in secret on young Mauritanian girls.
Circumcisor: The circumcision does not require any anesthetic, and it is carried out just fine. We do not use anesthetics. Two women do the work – one holds the girl down, and the other performs the circumcision.
Narrator: Even though many Mauritanian clerics have issued fatwas prohibiting this, every day, dozens of mothers still bring their girls to be circumcised under the pretext that this will protect them from sexual urges in the future, despite the heath and psychological risks to the circumcised girls.
Another circumcisor: Everyone undergoes this procedure, and there is no hemorrhage. No harm is done. The person who carries out the circumcision is just like a professional doctor.
We do this procedure on girls in order to maintain their purity and chastity, so that they will not desire men. It's better for them to feel pain now than in the future. Female circumcision is compulsory because it is part of our tradition and tradition does not change.
Narrator: Even though Mauritanian law is against female circumcision, 74% of all women in the cities are circumcised and 88% in remote areas. Statistics show that one in ten Mauritanian girls die as a result of circumcision.
Mauritanian human and women's rights activist Makfoula Bin Ahmida: This procedure is connected to sex. Society believes that a woman should not be left to deal with her sexual urges, so they begin by removing the tip of her clitoris at a young age. I underwent this at a young age and I did not understand all this. All the girls of my generation, born in the 1970s and 1980s, were subjected to this. The rate of circumcision among women in the rural areas of Mauritania is 88%, and in the cities it is 65%. This is still a widespread custom. Many people in Mauritania link this to Islam and seek all kinds of religions justifications.
The government must be forced to legislate a law banning this custom. Today, the government has a draft bill on this matter, but it is still stuck between the Ministry for Women's Affairs and the Justice Ministry. It is still a draft bill and not a law.
Girls between the age of 40 days and 4 to 6 years are taking to the traditional circumcisor, a woman from the neighborhood. She does not have any sterilization equipment, any special needles, or sanitary gloves to prevent infection by microbes or anything. This woman takes a needle – the kind used for sewing cloth – and uses it to lift the tip of the clitoris. Because it is so small, you cannot hold it with your hand. She lifts up the clitoris with the needle, and cuts it with a razor blade.
Panel member: Dear God!
Makfoula Bin Ahmida: What do they do after that? They prepare in advance sheep and camel dung, which they grind...
Another panel member: Dung?! They put it on the wound?!
Makfoula Bin Ahmida: They grind it to a powder, like flour, and they place it on the spot. They mix it with ashes and spread it on the spot.
Panel member: How can a mother watch her daughter go through something like that, and perhaps even die?
Makfoula Bin Ahmida: Women in Mauritania and in the Arab world have been brought to a state of mindlessness. This is an illiterate Bedouin society, and we are still in the early stages [of awareness]. It will take years for us to reach the necessary level of awareness. The woman does this out of compliance with religion, tradition, and society.