By Stop FGM Mideast
Salalah 4.12.2013. The women at the Women’s Association call her Doctor Marzouka. With her sun glasses and gold rings on her fingers the 50 something year old lady has a modern air around her. Playing with her car keys she shows that she is an emancipated woman – women driving is not at all for granted in this conservative part of Oman. Doctor Mazouka works as a doctor’s help in a state hospital, at the side she cuts the clitoris of newborn girls.
“She is very smart. When she worked with the doctor in the surgery she watched closely what he does. This is how she learned,” explains Saida, who works since 15 years for the Salalah branch of the Women’s Association, the semi-official organization for women in Oman. The Association has arranged the meeting with the cutter.
Marzouka is proud of her skills. She stresses that she is trained and not a traditional cutter. “My mother did not do this. I trained myself in the hospital.”
Openly, she describes her job: “I use a clamp and then a knife.” She carries rubber gloves and two sprays, one anaestatic one disinfectant, in her bag. Her business runs well. She cuts two to seven girls a day, she says, making 15 riyals (30 Euros) each. Most costumers she meets in the hospital in the delivery ward. In Dhofar, the Southern province of Oman, girls are traditionally mutilated in the first two days of their lives. Marzouka also advertises her services on the internet and besides, everybody knows her in town – as the women of the association confirm.
Three or four other circumcisers work in the provincial capital counting almost 200.000 inhabitants. Some of them do it “the old way”. Marzouka gets angry when talking about “the old way”. “They cut too much. It’s very bad for marital relations. If you cut everything, the woman won’t feel anything with her husband, only for 5 minutes maybe. She will not want to have sex,“ Marzouka rants on. The women from the Association giggle. It’s not a subject she ever talked or thought about, Saida explains.
Marzouka says she recommends to only cut a small piece of the clitoris when consulting with parents. She holds up a key pointing with her nail how much is o.k., in her opinion – about 2 mm. “This is too much”, she says, moving her finger about 4 mm from the end of the key. “And this”, she says, showing one centimeter, “She will never feel a thing when with her husband.”
Yet, Marzouka doesn’t always do as she likes. The people from the mountains are often stubborn, she explains. They want it the old way, even after she has explained about complications. Therefore, she also carries needles and thread. “Too much bleeding when you cut the old way. I have to do two stitches to stop it,” she says.
If she wouldn’t do it, one of the other cutters would, she says. And some of them only do the old way and don’t even talk with the parents about alternatives. Alternative means a different cut – in Salalah, the idea to not mutilate a girl is unheard of. “Everybody does it,” says Saida, the employee at the Women’s Association. “Everybody does it,” also says an administration officer at the Sultan Qaboos hospital in Salalah, adding, “maybe with more education it will go away, but now all do it.” He can’t give his name, he says, and he is the only person who can talk to us. For an interview with a doctor an official permission is needed. He has read on the internet about health hazards but says at the hospital no record of complications is kept. “It’s private. The parents do it at their own risk. Only their doctor will know if there are complications.” No one at the hospital could do something about it. “It’s up to the women in the family. As a man, I might not even know when it is done to my daughters.”
He seems rather helpless, not knowing why it is done in the first place. “Maybe there is a benefit. They say so. But if you ask what the benefit is you won’t get an answer.”
Also Saida would like to know the benefit, she says, before we meet Marzouka. “I don’t know. I am very curious what she says.” Yet, Marzouka doesn’t have an answer. “I don’t know why. It’s old people. In Islam you should only take a little.”
Marzouka recounts cases when men intervened. “Men don’t want this, because they suffer from it. They don’t want a woman who doesn’t feel anything. The couple will not be happy. They don’t want this for their daughters.” Marzouka says she often gets calls from fathers of girls to be cut. “He tells me not to cut too much.” But in some cases she had to redo the surgery afterwards. “The next day, the mother and the grandmother came and attacked me: Why did you not do it right? I said: your husband told me not to cut too much. The woman said: You don’t listen to my husband.”
However, not even mother and grandmother of the child are in charge – also aunts and cousins insist on the mutilation. An FGM opponent from Salalah explains what it takes to face up to the tradition. When her sister had a daughter, cousins and aunts constantly tried to take the little girl away from her mother to “have it done” – against the will of mother and grandmother. “My mother and I took shifts for a week to protect the little girl when my sister was sleeping.”