Emily wakes up in a hospital bed, she is in pain. As she stands up, her hands search for the source of her discomfort. Although it’s not explicitly said, the bandages in her pelvis give us a clue.
The Woman Post | Andrea Gutiérrez
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“You won’t want what you can’t have”, are the words of Aunt Lydia when she entered the room. The camera closes up to Emily’s face, showing the suffering of realizing she has been genitally mutilated.
Emily is a character in The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s book by the same name, where a fictional totalitarian patriarchal theocracy overthrew United States democracy and rules over most of its territory under the name of Gilead. There, women are valued for their fertility, so those single ladies that are not married are forced to become “handmaids” and have babies for the high ranks couples, unable to conceive on their own.
In episode three of the first season, we see the story of Emily, a handmaid accused of “gender treachery” for being homosexual, and sentence to female genital mutilation, and as crazy as it may seem, her story is not that far from reality. According to UNICEF, it can be the story of more than 200 million girls and women that had been victims of Female Genital Mutilation. Even though this practice has been internationally recognized as a human rights violation, it stills a tradition in 31 countries of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and its also performed underground in countries like the United States and Australia.
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Now, imagine that Emily is a Muslim 15-year-old girl, and she is taken by her mother to the basement of a relative’s house, where other women pin her to the floor while her mom or grandma cut off her clitoris with a blade or a piece of glass. Imagine also that this girl is not living in Egypt or Ethiopia, she is from New York, and she will have to live in pain for the rest of her life, just because her mother learned that “traditional cutting” is the only way her daughter will find a husband.
As stated by several FGM survivors interviewed by ABC News, Vice News, and Global Citizen, there is no passage on the Holly Books that referred to genital cutting, nor any scientific proof that this has any health benefits for girls and women, it is just a violent practice to control female bodies and sexuality. By the time you finish reading this article, more than 10 girls will have been genitally mutilated, not in a hospital bed, but on the floor, not by a doctor, but by their families, not in the TV series or in Gilead, but in the real world, the one you live in.