'The worst pain came when trying to pee'

May 29, 1998

An ancient ritual due for sacrifice

Mina's (not her real name) story is not untypical of the suffering that British girls go through every year. She is a 30-year-old arts graduate born and raised in the United Kingdom who was taken to the family's native Somalia "on holiday" at the age of eight by her mother. The practice is illegal there.

"My father was against it but my mother went ahead. She took my older sister and me - at the time I would say that all the girls from our community in Britain were taken back. Teachers and so on knew about it - but no one would do anything to stop it at the time. It was an accepted practice.

"In Somalia, we were taken to my grandmother's house. My sister went in first and I heard her screams. I was then taken in and held down by 20 women. There was no anaesthetic. The pain was indescribable. It took us two months just to recover physically and learn to walk properly again. The worst pain came when trying to pee through the wound - it was excruciating. I have asked my mother many times since then 'why did you do this to us?'. She has no real answer."

But Mina's questioning did prevent her mother from taking her youngest daughters back to Somalia to suffer a similar fate. The practice strengthened Mina's desire to understand her community's religion, Islam.

"Islam has helped a great deal in putting an end to the practice in our community. After the operation I went to my Imam and asked him about what had happened and he said that he could find no reference to it anywhere in the Koran. We have used this information to argue against the practice."

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