Seven Things Not to Ask A Khatna* Survivor

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Recently, the BBC produced a beautiful video called “Things Not To Say To FGM Survivors and Campaigners“.

It got me thinking about all the awkward questions I’ve been asked by well-meaning folks. So, here’s my (40 second read) khatna* version.

#1 You don’t have a clitoris??!!   Khatna involves a cut to the clitoral hood, but there’s no standardization, so outcomes vary. The clitoral hood is very thin, so it’s possible for the clitoris to be damaged. Some survivors have no obvious scarring while others have visible damage.                                                              

#2 Isn’t khatna too minor to be female genital cutting/mutilation?  Khatna is categorized Type 1 or Type 4 FGM by the World Health Organization. It’s a medically unnecessary procedure done to unconsenting children, and therefore is a human rights violation. It can cause emotional physical and sexual trauma.

#3 I’m a doctor/your lover and I can’t see any damage, so maybe it didn’t happen?   See #1. 

#4 Does that mean you can’t have orgasms?  Every survivor is unique. Some report sexual difficulties while others do not. 

#5 But I thought your parents were progressive?   Some parents face social/family/religious pressures to conform to this traditional cultural norm. Some believe false arguments that khatna is harmless. Sometimes parents aren’t aware that it happened because other family members snuck their kids off secretly to have it done. 

#6 But why didn’t you say something before?   Children are often told by adults to maintain secrecy or experience such immense shame and confusion that they keep quiet. 

Khatna, while widespread, remains a taboo subject.

Some survivors dissociate and don’t remember anything or very little. Some remember more later in life when memories are triggered. Some never do.

#7 If you don’t remember it clearly, maybe it didn’t happen? Maybe you are imagining it?   See #6.

Want to learn more? Check out www.WeSpeakOut.org 

*also called khafz, female genital cutting/mutilation or circumcision, khatna is practiced by Bohras.

Farzana Doctor is an #EndFGM activist, psychotherapist and author. Her 4th novel, SEVEN, will be available August 2020.

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