By Agence France-Presse
Hakam Ibrahim was seven when, like most Sudanese girls, she became a victim of female genital mutilation — an age-old practice decried as horrific that the post-revolution government is now banning.
A mother-of-four in her 40s, Ibrahim vividly recalls the traumatic experience of what remains a widespread ritual in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia despite a concerted human rights campaign to end it.
The night before it happened, Ibrahim remembers, women from her neighbourhood in the capital Khartoum were singing and ululating as they drew ceremonial henna tattoos on her hands.
On the day itself, she was taken to a small room where a woman in a white robe performed the operation to remove Ibrahim’s external genitalia.
“I was put on a bed and felt excruciating pain jolting through my body,” she told AFP. “The pain lasted an entire week.”
The practice has long been viewed, especially in rural communities, as a “rite of passage” for girls and a way to preserve their chastity.
In Sudan nearly nine out of 10 girls fall victim to what is known as FGM or genital cutting, according to the United Nations.
In its most brutal form, it involves the removal of the labia and clitoris, often in unsanitary conditions and without anesthesia.
The wound is then sewn shut, often causing cysts and infections and leaving women to suffer severe pain during sex and childbirth complications later in life.
Rights groups have for years decried as barbaric the practice which can lead to myriad physical, psychological and sexual complications and, in the most tragic cases, death.