I recently read a touching article about supermodel Waris Dirie and her efforts to save not only many girls, but one little girl in particular from the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is the practice of deliberately cutting or surgically altering a girl’s genitals. Usually the idea is that this will prevent the girl from succumbing to sexual temptations before she is married. Of course, the trauma and damage that this practice inflicts on little girls is immense.
When a movie was made of Dirie’s experiences, Dirie required the parents of the little girl who portrayed her to sign a contract stating that they would not subject their daughter to FGM. As Westerners, we applaud this. We rejoice that even one child has been spared the horrors of FGM and hope that other families will see this follow suit. But progress continues to be slow.
Safa Idriss Nour’s family have been ostracized in their community. Their family, neighbors and friends have defended FGM and pressure began to mount to “circumcise” their daughter. Aside from ethical and moral considerations, most families consider the procedure something that is a necessity because the dowry for an uncut woman is significantly less than that of a cut woman- if any man will marry her at all. Others may worry that by allowing their daughter be uncut, that others will follow suit and a wave of promiscuity will ensue since FGM is influenced by the idea that a girl can not control her sexual desires unless her body is altered.
But if these families could approach the idea of foregoing FGM not with fear and suspicion and rigid traditionalism, they could find that women and by that token men and children could have greater happiness and health. Change like this is difficult when a practice is deeply entrenched in a culture and supported by years of tradition and authority. But if we can let go of our fears to really examine and investigate, we may find that we can receive something better.
The same is true of the vaccine choice and vaccine refusal. If you are afraid of us, the answer is not to shun, shame or demean us, but rather to open your mind and find out why we are doing what we are doing and if maybe there could some benefit for you as well.