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A Rite of Passage
If you read the paper, peruse People magazine, or spend any time watching the
tabloid TV shows, you would have the strong impression that what Lorena Bobbitt did to
her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, in the wee hours of June 23 in Manassas, Virginia, was
the equivalent of the shot heard ‘round the world.
You might think that Lorena Bobbitt single-handedly avenged the sexual crimes
that have been perpetrated against all women from the beginning of time.
There is no denying the primal, gut-wrenching reaction to John Wayne Bobbitt’s
wound. It is an unheard of crime, too horrible for men to contemplate, fascinating and
appalling to women.
It is understandably a major news story. Yet, if I happen to mention that this kind
of thing happens all the time to women in certain parts of the world, would it send the
same kind of shivers down your spine?
The July 14, 1996, Los Angeles Times, states that more than 120 million women
across a broad swath of the African continent have been subjected to the brutal genital
mutilation that is often called female circumcision. Most are children between the ages of
4 and 10 when the ritual takes place.
Although Westerners condemn it as torture, child abuse and a violation of human
rights, it remains a revered rite of passage in parts of Africa, the Middle East and
Southeast Asia. According to the World Health Organization, circumcision dates back
almost 4,000 years. No one knows exactly how the practice began, though scholars
speculate its origins lay somewhere along the Nile Valley.
The procedure can simply be a small but painful nick across the hood of the
clitoris, but is typically more severe. The most severe type of circumcision is called
infibulation. The clitoris, inner labia and most of the soft flesh of the labia majora are
scraped or cut away. Often with a double edged blade, scissors or even a shard of glass,
performed by a close relative, mid-wife or barber.
The July 14, 1996, Los Angeles Times, states:
“The child is then bound from waist to toes, and she will remain tied for weeks until scar tissue
nearly seals the vagina. She is left with just a pencil-thin hole close to the anus for urination and
menstruation. It can take the child a quarter of an hour to urinate, drop by drop. She could
develop a kidney or bladder infection. When her menstrual periods start, they will last 10 days
and she will be incapacitated by cramps nearly half the month caused by the near impos...
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