My family was orthodox and since childhood I was taught to respect and obey my elders. Values and traditions were a big part growing up. Since a young age I had to balance my studies with kitchen work. Often I was too exhausted to play outside with my other friends. My mother and father disliked it when I mingled with other children. I was strictly not allowed to talk with boys and men who weren’t a part of the family. A girl should be modest, a girl should learn everything related to managing the household. Studies did not take a precedent in my life. Nothing mattered than upholding the family prestige. Growing up, I learned all the tasks and did all the work my parents asked me to do. Soon I hit puberty and the laws I had to follow became stringent.
I remember that day clearly. It was raining heavily. I was 12, soon to be 13. We were completely drenched till we reached a place where I had never gone before. My mother told me we were visiting her friend. I was to behave properly in front of her. We were greeted by a kind old lady at the door. Something about her was endearing. She talked so sweetly. Soon we met her daughter and granddaughter; she was about my age, but she seemed sad somehow.Being reminded that I was to behave I didn’t ask her reason for misery. Soon they brought fruit juices and sweets. My mother smiled at me and encouraged me to eat.
I didn’t realize when the old woman and her granddaughter went inside.
“Come, let’s go in”, the daughter said.
My mother took my hand and led me inside. Just past their kitchen was a room with closed doors. We were taken further inside the house and into a room almost to the back of the house.
The room itself was very small. It consisted of a small cot covered with a white linen sheet and a thin blanket. There was a side table with a jug of water on it and a chair near the bed.
“Come child, please rest on the bed”, came the voice of the old woman. I was confused, still I obliged. My mother and the old woman’s daughter stood near the headboard. The old woman was fiddling with something in her hand. She instructed me to spread my legs as wide as I could and to lift my skirt. I was starting to feel panicked, this wasn’t normal. I looked towards my mother. She looked on with determination and pity. Suddenly the old woman yanked my undergarment down. I was well and truly scared when I saw a blade in her hands. She grasped my legs tightly and after that all I remember is screaming, “Mother, it hurts” “please mother, it hurts”. I must have screamed very badly because suddenly someone had clamped my mouth shut and then I had passed out.
Pain, blinding pain used to pass through my legs whenever I tried to stand. I had lost a lot of blood. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sleep. I was blinded by the haze of pain. All my conscious moments were spent crying and screaming, the pain between my legs was constant for many many days. Eventually I had to stand, eventually I had to go home. My pain was so great that I couldn’t go to school. I dropped out. All my days were spent soothing my pain. Many months passed, the pain receded to a dull thud. Always present but I had to carry on with my duties. Never knowing what was done to me. All my mother said on the matter was, “Now you are pure.” Years passed and soon I dutifully married. My wedding night was a nightmare. It was horrifying, I soon realized all my pleasure was robbed, and denied. Something beautiful was taken away from me. I had to bear the pain day by day, I used to tremble at the thought of night. I could barely walk for many days at a stretch. I learnt that I couldn’t give birth to a child due to the severity of the damage done to me. That day I came to know what was done to me. I was a victim of female genital mutilation. The cuts on my nether parts had left me ruined.
My purity had dealt me a heavy hand of pain and suffering.
All the beautiful experiences a normal woman should undergo were brutal or impossible to experience for me.
My lips were sealed shut. My purity was a curse to my body. Being a woman , indeed I had paid a hefty price.