By Waris Dirie (Contributed by Cathleen Miller)
Published 1998 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Waris Dirie was born in the desert of Somalia—her family was part of a nomad tribe. Throughout her childhood, education was never considered as a possibility, and she lived within the confines of the tradition that so many others before her had adhered to. Among those traditions was a practice that was deemed honorary and hence was a necessary rite of passage for young girls; it was also one of the most traumatic and painful experiences that young Waris Dirie had to endure. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The night before her forced child marriage she ran away from her family in search of a new life. Waris settled down in London, where she started her modeling career and went on to become a human rights ambassador of the United Nations in New York, acting as the voice of many girls who’d also been victims of FGM.
This book sheds light on one of the cruelest practices that female children are subjected to. Carried out in various countries in Africa, Middle East, and Asia, FGM was systematically designed to deny women's sexual freedom and pleasure, one of the many ways in which the female oppression reared its ugly head in a male-dominated society. Although the United Nations General Assembly recognized the practice as a human rights violation in 2012, legal implementation to ban FGM has been ineffective in most countries.
One question that we should be asking ourselves is how this book and Waris Dirie’s account of FGM affect the debate on universalism and cultural relativism. Without a doubt, FGM is a cruel practice, but it is a cruel practice that has its foundation upon years and years of tradition. Several anthropologists argue that the issue should be decided under the sovereign of local governments since, in theory, they are fit to make cultural decisions as such.
You Jin Cha (Intern)