Reclaiming our Bodies

A couple of weeks ago, I was sent by work to a workshop on Female Genital Mutilation, and more precisely on the necessary involvment of men in the eradication of FGM. Even though the whole conference was more focused on Africa, It lead me to think about sexual and reproductive health and rights of Middle Eastern Women, and more precisely, on how a body is never really a woman’s own in our region. If you come from a very religious background, then your body is considered to be God’s property. It can also be your family’s, with you ending being the honour-bearer of the whole clan. Whoever it might be, it is often considered prespoterous to claim it as your own, with everything that it implies, i.e, having the right to monitor and control it as you please. I was also strongly reminded of an article I read in a higly scientific magasine (I think it might have been Prestige or something) that featured a whole piece on the vaccine against cervical cancer (that can stem from the HPV, papillomavirus, a highly common sexually transmitted virus). Some mothers were against their daughters being vaccinated: It might encourage our daughters to start having sex, they claimed.
As a reminder, a woman dies of cervical cancer approximately every 2 minutes worldwide. 
Makes you put the whole daughter-having-sex into perspective eh?
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) cover very important areas of a woman’s life, and are defined as follows :

-Sexual health: Includes healthy sexual development, equitable and responsible relationships and sexual fulfilment, freedom from illness, disease, disability, violence and other harmful practices related to sexuality.
-Sexual rights: the rights of all people to decide freely and responsibly on all aspects of their sexuality, including protecting and promoting their sexual health, be free from discrimination, coercion or violence in their sexual lives and in all sexual decisions, expect and demand equality, full consent, mutual respect and shared responsibility in sexual relationships. We also have the right to say ‘no’ to sex if we do not want it.
Reproductive health: The complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters related to the reproductive system including a satisfying and safe sex life, capacity to have children and, freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.
Reproductive rights: The rights of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, to have the information, education and means to do so, attain the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health and, make decisions about reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.

In our region, sexual and reproductive rights are often not respected (to say the least). As women, we do not often have the right to say “no” to sex to our husband, because the man’s will and pleasure are non negotiable and because we’re bound to honour our marital commitments. Young girls in Egypt and Yemen are ferried off to marry older men without anyone asking them their opinion. Female Genital Mutilation still happen in some parts of the Middle East, as honour killings against women who are believed to have had what is considered to be unlawful sexual relationships. Few couples have access to the necessary information needed to plan a family as they please, women do not often dare to go on the pill for fear of stigma. Sexual minorities can’t enjoy a satisfying and safe sex life for fear of being discriminated against, when it’s not for fear of being put in prison and beaten up, or even killed in countries where homosexuality is still considered as a crime (which would amount to the majority of the Arab countries).
And we still could go on and on.
One of the many reasons as to why these issues are not addressed and tackled as they should be is the extreme sensitivity surrounding them. Sex is still very taboo in our societies, and it is not because half naked women are spilled unto many Beirut billboards that sex has become an open issue that people can freely talk about. Mentalities remain the main barrier to the full respect of sexual and reproductive health and rights: not only can’t young women talk about these issues without being considered as “sluts”, but they can’t have free access to education and health care for fear of being recognised by someone, for fear of stigma or even out of shame. As young Arab women, could you imagine going to your next door chemist’s and ask for the pill? Walaw! But the people at the chemist’s know your cousin (when they’re not your cousins themselves), they might start blabbing away, it might reach your father’s ears!
Nightmare alert.
The Arab obsession with a woman’s virginity, the obsession with a woman’s, and hence a family’s honour, lead to cruel practices such as female genital mutilation or early marriages. Most of the times, families do really think they are acting out of love for their daughters, for if they are not circumcised or married early, people in the community will start talking about them and questioning their virginity. The young woman will thus run the risk of never finding a husband, which is still seen in many communities in the Middle East as one of the worst thing that could happen to a woman. However, it doesn’t take extreme measures such as FGM or early marriage to demonstrate the “virginity obsession” that prevails in the MENA region: a close friend of mine told me how her gynaecologist (a woman) had sneered at her bellybutton piercing and asked my flabbergasted friend if she wanted a “virginity certificate”. No more needs to be said I think. Another reason impeding the full enjoyment of SRHR is the lack of education and information given to young girls. As they grow older, they start engaging in hushed, hidden sexual relationships, not knowing key elements to their own health, leading to risky behaviours like unprotected sex. This situation renders them more vulnerable to HIV and other STDs infection and unwanted pregnancies.
Governmental policies are not helping either. Indeed, for example, emergency contraception is available in Algeria and Lebanon upon prescription, and in Tunisia and Turkey without prescription, and not recognised or forbidden in other countries. 80% of Middle Eastern women live in countries where laws restrict abortion, meaning that an abortion will only be performed if the pregnancy affects the life of the mother and/or the child, leaving pregnant women who do not fall into this category to endury risky and health threatening procedures.
The much-needed improvement of the situation needs to be done in a smart and sensivitive way : there is no point in alienating societies after the first couple of words uttered, for no one will ever listen to us again. So the outloud readings of the Vagina Monologues might have to wait a bit then. In order to address the issue in the best way possible, a rights-based approach might be the most comprehensive method. The temptation to regard SRHR as a purely medical topic might leave out huge proportions of the population for whom the terms might not be accessible, and might miss out the point that SRHR are human rights. Indeed, they cover core human rights such as the right to privacy, the right to health, the right not to be discriminated against, the right not to go through inhuman and degrading treatments etc…
The language of the awareness raising campaigns needs to be non threatening and culturally sensitive, while getting the message across. All media would need to be used, especially popular ones such as TV and the radio.
The educative part of the programmes should reach each component of the societies, men and women, young girls and boys, to give them the keys to their own health and thus be able to make informed choices regarding family planning and sexual life.
Anti stigma and discrimination campaigns should also take place within societies, with a special emphasis given on training medical and para medical staff, so young people know they have a safe space to turn to.
In the MENA region, given the weak state of democracy, it would be important that change is initiated both from the people and then to the government, but also from Ministries to reach out to communities afterwards. Partnerships between NGOs and civil society and health governments officials might be just the right combination.

People need to understand that giving education and raising awareness on sexual and reproductive health and rights is simply not going to change the core values of the society they cherish, nor it is going to encourage young people to engage in early sexual activities. It is only going to guarantee that women and men make informed choices, stay healthy, and give a sense of control to women on what is rightly theirs: their very own body. 
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Comments
19 Responses to “Reclaiming our Bodies”
  1. Another well-researched and excellent article on am unfortunately still taboo topic; taboo due to ignorance and stereotypes. As you said here and in so many other articles you've written before; the key is EDUCATION. As a woman and possibly mother one day; I fear for young women around me, I fear for myself sometimes and I cannot but fear for my yet to be born daughters. Society shows no mercy, and cruelty stemming from ignorance can be the worst!Thank you for sharing the data & bringing these valuable information to light.Cheers!

  2. Na! says:

    Excellent, thank you for that 🙂

  3. Thank you for your support, really it means so much to us!

  4. Dionysos says:

    Too many generalizations, misconceptions, prejudices, biases, and outright fallacies for my taste. One must keep in mind that this whole idea of universal rights (rights of children, women, minorities, blablabla) is a fairly recent development in human history. What you have is a conglomeration of different cultures around the world with different conceptions of right and wrong. Thinking about it, there are no universals. An ideal is upheld as long as the forces that be supporting such an ideal are strong enough to enforce it. Soon after, the ideal – or value if you wish – will be replaced by another. And so the process continues. Societies don't evolve towards a certain ideal society but change form; to the better or worse not in an absolute sense but relative to whatever values you hold at the time of casting your judgment. It was inconceivable for women to have a say by voting in the early 20th century as it is inconceivable that women do not have a say by not voting in the early 21st century. The consensus on this topic will surely change sometime in the future. The same goes for any and all social values.

  5. Paola says:

    Thank you for your comment. First of all, let me clarify one thing: all my sources are checked and rechecked. We both treat our articles as if we we to submit them at university. Secondly, as a Human Rights Law jurist, I have to disagree with your cultural relativism of Human Rights. This argument of cultural relativity, with cultures having different sets of values, has been used times and times over by dictatorships and oppressive regimes to carry on violating civil and political rights. To me, there is such a thing as universality: the rights of women are and should be everywhere the same, for women's needs are the same everywhere. Do not think that the woman giving birth in he rvillage in Africa would not have liked to benefit for adequat healthcare, just like her counterpart in the developed world. We're not here talking about values, but about rights, health rights, which are not the same thingsA change of mentalities will no doubt take time, and yes, we do not all have the same cultures. This doesn't mean that we should ignore the plight of million of women, under the pretext that "all will eveolve in time"

  6. Dionysos says:

    I am a moral relativist at heart, you're right about that. I am not doubting the exactitude of your claims but the basis on which they are built. The fact that the argument of cultural relativism has been used by dictatorships and what not does not discredit it. You talk about the rights of women, and I ask, what are the rights of women? What is their source? Where have they been derived from? How are you concluding universality? What were these rights 20 years ago? What about 35 years ago? 75 years ago? 100 years ago? The moral relativism case is pretty much compelling. There is no basis for arguing against it. You want to claim universality, you have to prove it first.

  7. Paola says:

    Women's rights are human rights, it is as simple as that. Just like all the human rights, they exist since time immemorial, and I do apologize but I do not have the space here to recollect all the human rights and humanitarian lae treaties signed since antiquity. It just took the world a long time to understand that women were human being deserving the same treatment as men. As human beings, we do have rights that need to be respected and implemented by our governments. Just a question, have you seen what is female genital mutilation exactly? Basically, an elder woman of the village takes the little girls apart, and cuts her clitoris and upper labia up, sewing her afterwards so her vagina is almost closed. She can't urinate properly after that, sexual relationships and childbirth are living hell, and that's if she survives the procedure in itself. Of course, no one thinks to do the same to the precious male genitalia. This is an example of a clear violation of human rights: the right not to be dicriminated against, and the right not to endure inhuman and degrading treatments. The value behind it is the woman's virginity being precious: well, this value doesn't have to change right away, but the torture needs to. Yes changing mentalities takes time, but mentalities do not change with people happy to let time make the difference. It took committed people willing to respect the dignity of other human beings to make things happen.

  8. Paola says:

    One more thing: "proving"universality is simply made on the oh so shocking assumption that all human beings are equal in front of international law. If they're all equal, then their human rights apply to all human beings, no matter their origins.

  9. Dionysos says:

    Universal Human Rights do not exist since time immemorial and the whole conception of universality is a recent phenomenon that sprung in the late 19th century early 20th century and culminated in the mid 1900s. There is no consensus still on many if not all of the instruments and conventions dealing with human rights issues. This is clearly expressed by the many reservations and conditionality ratifiers of such conventions express prior to signing/ratifying. You talk about genital mutilation – btw male circumcision, although leaving no long term damage is a form of genital mutilation as well – and I do agree with you that it is both inhumane, cruel, and degrading.This position stems from the values you and I both hold at this moment in time; values that are by no means static nor universal. The same applies to other contentious issues such as capital punishment, abortion, stem cell research, same sex marriages, child labor, terrorism, economic social rights, religious rights, political rights, etc… Your proof of universality is no proof at all. International law is a set of principles and rules, customary or conventional, that has its roots in western legal/political thought. It has evolved in line with Western values and mostly as a consequence of western follies. But what makes international law universal? What makes Human Rights universal? Nothing but the fallacious claim of their proponents. The same pattern can be discerned in religious claims of universality and other forms of absolute truths. At the end of the day, values owe their ascension/dominance over others to power and power alone. Their being held up above other values does not reveal anything about their truthfulness, righteousness, or absoluteness. It's just a factor of the power they and their proponents wield in a certain space at a certain time.

  10. "There is no consensus still on many if not all of the instruments and conventions dealing with human rights issues. This is clearly expressed by the many reservations and conditionality ratifiers of such conventions express prior to signing/ratifying". The right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be subjugated to inhuman an degrading treatments and a set of core human rights are international common law, meaning they're applicable universally, no matter if a state has ratified or not a HR treaty or provided reservations. This is recognised by all the states of the international community. What I mind about what you're saying is that it provides an excuse not to do anything to enhance the situation of women throughout the world. We can explain everything by cultural and moral relativism: the danger of it would be to stop all the efforts to make some practices stop. I don't want to change the middle eastern mentality, that I share and value. I simply want to try and give middle eastern women the choice to own their body, which is a human right. Throughout the trainings I've attended, I've seen young women wanting to talk about theses issues, eager to know more, requiring trainings on contraception and female condoms. This was true in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, in gathering I've personnally attended. Just telling these women that their situation stems from their culture because their values are differeng would simply be a let down for them.

  11. Dionysos says:

    Though by no means an expert, I am very much familiar with Self-binding principles of International Law or Jus Cogens norms. However, and contrary to what you claim, the "right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be subjugated to inhuman and degrading treatment" are not considered peremptory norms of International Law. Actually, the area is very grayish when it comes to jus cogens norms and their universality; but of course less grayish than Human Rights. I think 7 or 8 topics are considered jus cogens norms: Slavery, Genocide, Torture, Piracy, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and wars of aggression. Okay, these are only 7, there might be an 8th. Anyway, Human Rights are by no means peremptory norms; especially not women rights, rights of child, economic and social rights, etc… They are conventional laws that have been developed/codified after the creation of the UN and towards which there is no universal consensus. Hell, not even the 1948 treaty against Genocide – despite it being considered a jus cogens – has consensus around it; just check the innumerable reservations by states to every single one of its articles.In any case, your argument now is a bit different although no more compelling to someone like me. I do not care about making this world a better world because I do not ascribe to the notion that a "better" world can be made; it can be made different but not better. You're right, my argument is non-conducive to change but more to apathy. True. I enjoy the world as it is with all its beauty and ugliness, all its joys and sorrows, all its fairness and injustices, and I feel no compulsion to change it as I know beforehand that the outcome might be somewhat different but in no way any better. Shaw said it best: "Revolutions never alleviate the burden of suffering, they just shift it to others' shoulders."

  12. Paola says:

    Just a quick clarification: Jus Cogens and international customary law are two different things. Jus cogens renders to imperatives norms of international law (in french: normes de dt international absolument indérogeables) and of course are customary. Customary law is not necessarily jus cogens, and can be either universal and/or regional. The non discrimination principle and the right to be tortured or subjugated to degrading and inhuman treatment are customary law. They're applicable to all the countries without the need of a treaty and are legally binding. There are of course many controversies and debates around these issues, as testifies by the diverses opinions of the ICJ judges. I really don't have anything more to say as my aim is not to convince people, but just to express my own views. We just have to very different takes on this world.

  13. to dyonisos:forgive me but i am totally blown away by your comments. mate, first, i would propose you take it easy with the bombastic language. it's undermining your own effort at trying to make a valid point. some courtesy and consideration of other people's points of view would not do any harm; it would help us all understand your opinion better. just because you feel strongly about something doesn't mean that it's right.secondly, (and although i DO agree with the point you're trying to make as i already stated on your blog), in the case of this article, and having read and re-read paola’s text, i just think that you're barking at the wrong tree pal. take a minute to read her text again, you will find that you had totally missed her point on two fronts, and made an utter mess of the possibility of a fantastic debate on a pressing issue:-1- paola's article is a structured text, covering the aspects of a specific subject: FGM and physical abuse of women in the middle east today. she talks of sexual and reproductive rights of women, and of physical mutilation, in today's age. she compares these practices to today's principles, and her conclusions are in line with the context of the middle east and its society's values. she speaks of the physical, social and institutional aspects of this social problem. she is putting forward the case for a humane and equitable social order, which she is legitimately justifying. given all the above, where on earth did you find in her text "generalizations, misconceptions, prejudices, biases, and outright fallacies"? i don't see your point at all. your own comment is “preposterously” hilarious and does not relate to her point or to common sense in any way. granted, circumcised men are also mutilated. granted, the western values are invading the rest of the world and erasing its identity, granted, you are angry at the international legal system, but how on earth does this relate with paola's point? 2- the other issue i found is that, in addition to having ignored the essence of her text, you have also wrongfully extrapolated, generalised, and distorted her argument, and finally accused her of preaching universality and absolutism of truths. how on earth did you reach this conclusion? nowhere in her text has she mentioned the word “universal” or “absolute”, neither has she spoken of universality of women's rights nor any universality of any right for that matter. her argument is simple, well grounded, pragmatic, established into today's reality, and, most importantly, and specific to the region where she comes from. all she is doing is create a public debate and a pressing matter.in summary, i think that unfounded attacks such as yours undermine colossal efforts being made on a daily basis by dedicated social activists as well as native, oppressed and struggling women in primitive societies, to address matters of life and death affecting them today, and everyday.

  14. Dionysos says:

    Jimmy. I have re-read Paola's post and you're right in that I was the one who brought up the issue of universality in my initial reply and we both went off on a tangent from there onwards. The reason I did bring it up is that although not explicitly stated, it is implicitly implied throughout the article and very much relevant to the approach taken to deal with the subject. Remember, the auther's conclusion is that a "Rights based approach" is the best approach to deal with the issue, citing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as "the most comprehensive method". I won't expound on the generalizations and misconceptions in the article as they are not really important to the argument being made and have probably been used to achieve an exaggerating effect. Let's just say that FGM is not as widespread – and women's reality in the region is not as grim – as the article purports to prove. The practices are well in line with the social norms of the day. No matter how horrific the reality of certain practices or beliefs seems to be from the author's perspective it is just perfectly normal and fully internalized if looked upon from the perspective of the individuals concerned. A common misconception is that the subjects "oppressed" would choose or prefer otherwise if left to their own volition. At the end of the day, I truly support activism by natives who set about to change their immediate realities. However, I do have certain allergies to non-natives/ex-natives internalizing values of the societies they live in and attempting to shove them down the throats of others. By the way, I have the same problem with Islam and its drive to force its values upon others with an arrogance and self-righteousness that would put to shame the staunchest of western feminists; so the issue is not really unique to Western Values.

  15. Paola says:

    "However, I do have certain allergies to non natives/ex-natives internalizing values of the societies blha blha blha"DIONYSOS: you do not agree with me on my article and you're absolutely entitled to do so, this is your most outstanding right and I do not pretend to hold the absokute truth to anything. BUT DON't YOU DARE make assumptions on who I am and where I come from or whose values I share. You do not know my background you do not know anything about me, so don't you dare go and make assumptions that i m trying to shoves western values doan people's throat or that i m an ex or non native. Who the hell do you think you are? I'm all for constructive debate, but I won't allow you to start talking about my own identity when you don't know he first thing about it.

  16. Joe says:

    Dear Dyonisos,Thank you very much for your interest and your comments in relation to this article. We appreciate very much when people intervene because it brings up fruitful debate, which we believe to be very important.I have nevertheless some few comments about your way of augmenting and your comments. Firstly when you consider an article, and in our case nearly a scientific article, based on “generalizations and misconceptions” you should prove your affirmation by serious and well researched sources. Your claim is not sufficient if you have nothing to support it, which was the case in your article. What are your sources to claim that “FGM is not as widespread – and women's reality in the region is not as grim – as the article purports to prove. The practices are well in line with the social norms of the day. No matter how horrific the reality of certain practices or beliefs seems to be from the author's perspective it is just perfectly normal and fully internalized if looked upon from the perspective of the individuals concerned. A common misconception is that the subjects "oppressed" would choose or prefer otherwise if left to their own volition”. Can you justify what you are telling us? Is it based on research or reliable sources? Or is it just your personal conviction? Please would you be kind enough to justify your claims when writing about it, because at least even though you do not agree with Paola, her article is based on her work, NGOs related to her organization including social activists and on field research made with people directly involved with these problems. Secondly, the universality of Human Rights is not made to impose western values on people from different cultures; it is made to protect any Human being from any repression. Cultures and social norms are by the way not fixed elements, they change and transform through ages. Change is at the basis of any society, if change is stopped there is a problem. I will give you an example of universality, in Lebanon at the beginning of the French mandate; the maronite church opposed the right for women to vote, also on cultural specificity! Today it is widely accepted in Lebanon that women should vote and they do, did we for all that change Lebanese culture, is it western values that would women should vote?Finally, in debate personal attacks such as the following kind “I do have certain allergies to non-natives/ex-natives internalizing values of the societies they live in and attempting to shove them down the throats of others” usually show the lack of arguments in someone’s defense. As rightly pointed out by Paola, you do not know her background or who she is, and in addition to this who cares about what is her background? You should base your comments on what is written in your article.A last word, to end this discussion, the arguments you have made through your comments, such as your opposition to Universal Human Rights or that the writer is basically a foreigner who wants to enforce her way of living on others, are typically made by conservatives and/ or authoritarians governments and personalities to defend the injustice, the repression and the misery of their regime. Those regimes use their “specific culture” to defend their despotic regime, but in relation to business and capitalism their specific culture suit perfectly to make money, how lucky isn’t it?In conclusion, Dyonisos, I would like to thank you again for your comments, but please you should back them with strong facts or sources to give them some power and no personal attacks are needed to fuel the debate. Hope to see you soon on CaféThawra. Joe

  17. dear joe, paola,allow me to add an opinion on dionysos's latest comment: although i obviously do not agree with his attempt at lessening the gravity of the FGM problem, i don't think that he was addressing paola personally when he stated that he has "certain allergies to non natives/ex-natives internalizing values of the societies…". if he did, it would obviously be a naive statement given that he does not know paola or her background. i think he is speaking about the general syndrome of modern western civilisation imposing its values on traditional societies.his comment is therefore another one of his extrapolations which dilutes the debate and steers it away from FGM into a general assumption about eastern vs. western values.however, i must say that if we consider dionysos's point OUTSIDE of the FGM debate, you might find that he is raising a valid point: joe, you mention that the argument for relativism is "typically made by conservatives and/or authoritarian governments and personalities to defend the injustice, the repression and the misery of their regimes". i disagree with you. there are other grounds for a “cautious” relativist approach. as you and paola no doubt know, there is a legitimate debate today, triggered by economists, social researchers and sustainable development theorists (happy to provide references if you wish) on how, over the past 300 years, standardised, blueprint "modern" approaches in development are being imposed on developing countries and how these are erasing centuries-old, sustainable traditions, practices and beliefs that were invented and developped by local cultures. the problem is that these native beliefs are being replaced with ready-made "Northern" solutions. these imposed principles often turn out to be inappropriate in the South, and often leave the traditional societies weaker and more vulnerable to shocks and disasters. this is the case of the loss of preventative medical and sanitary practices that had been developed by natives of certain regions over generations. also this relates to effective traditional agricultural practices being lost, and many other forms of local knowledge and know-how being substituted by inappropriate, polluting, energy consuming and natural resource depleting solutions that often end up disrupting and damaging the physical and social textures of rural livelihoods.obviously, this debate belongs to another post and another forum altogether, but i just wanted to shed the light on the flip side of the coin.in any case, and as i stated in my earlier comment to dionysos, I think that his generalised observation (which i share and agree with) does not apply to the case of paola's text. without falling in the relativist fallacy trap, i think FGM is a dangerous practice that endangers newborns’ lives and inflicts irreversible and irreparable physical damage to women's bodies in the middle east, and i personally wish to see this practice abolished as soon as possible, as long as the drive for such abolition is driven from within society.as I mentioned before, slipping into a generalisation about this subject is always dangerous because it might undermine genuine efforts and mutes genuine calls for help from within a society. as i told dionysos: when it comes to denial of such rights and values, i prefer to proceed on a case by case basis 🙂

  18. Dionysos says:

    HuHa… Chill out Paola, that statement you quoted was a general statement and in no way directed at you. Joe, Thank you for the welcome note. To address your points:1. I am not an academic and this is definitely not a topic that falls within my area of expertise or interest – and I never claimed otherwise. I am merely commenting based on my own observations, experiences, and general knowledge having lived in a few countries the article is dealing with. My statement is a general statement in response to an equally general presumption laid out in the article. Let's be clear. FGM is endemic of Africa; specifically Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa. In the middle east – places like lebanon, jordan, iraq, saudi, uae, qatar, bahrain, syria, turkey, oman – FGM is not a widespread practice. I am too lazy to do any research; but I'm sure you'll find tons of literature that will confirm my above statement.2. I have made my opinions clear on the issue of universality and Human Rights. Repeating it would be a waste of bandwidth. 3. General remarks based on personal preference; or lack thereof. If my aim was to snipe at the author I could have easily done so on a number of different grounds. 4. I share your opinion about despotic regimes and but fail to see its relevance to the topic. One final point. The argument about the physical damages and medical complications that arise from FGM is much more compelling than any rights argument. It is based on demonstrable facts and caters to the individual's rational faculties rather than attacks his/her moral/social beliefs.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your articleI would like to contribute with a real life story that sums up many of your concernsI live in a country in the ME and got pregnant by mistake; I am strongly against abortion, but ended up having one against my will. The real decision makers here are the society, in other tolerant countries I would have been able to give birth to the child with the blessings and love of my family and friendsbut as unmarried professional in the Middle East, I could even lose my job!I have no words to describe the clinic experience, the clinic is in Damascus suburbs, I was told by the doctor there to take wrong medicine on the night before doing the procedure , which caused complications. There is absolutly no psycological preparation, there are disgusting details that I prefer not to mention here I do not wish for this scneario to happen to any woman although I'm sure there are plenty in the Middle East experienceing the sameunfortunately we are very far from SRHR in the MEI agree with ~♪ bl✮g ♫~ I fear to raise my daughters one day in this sick society.

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