Growing Pains

My name is unimportant. I am twelve years of age. Today, I am to become a woman.

I must submit to tradition; endure humiliation and pain at the hands of those I love.

I am told that I am to be cut, but this is not Africa or Egypt, or India. This is England, and I do not live in ignorance. I know.

Today, I shall have my arms tightly clasped behind me, be pinned down on a stool, naked and afraid, my legs prized apart and held by those I have trusted.

It is no use screaming. Neighbours and passers-by will not hear me above the hi-fi and TV. I cannot ask for help in a world full of strangers.

A woman I do not know will kneel before me, light reflecting off the blade in her hand. I shall feel excruciating pain, feel the warmth and smell the blood, whilst I am held, hacked and mutilated.

If I struggle, I put my life at risk. A severed artery is all it takes.

I’m told I should be proud. I’m told I must be thankful my parents see fit to follow tradition.

I do not understand why I should be glad.
I know only that I risk infection and impairment to my walking.
I know to expect painful periods and incontinence as I grow older.

When I marry, I must be cut again to allow my husband penetration.

When I give birth, again I must be opened and risk painful tearing. Perhaps my husband will insist I be re-stitched between children.

I shall be deprived of my sexuality.

I am afraid.
I do not want to become this woman, this adult.
I do not want to feel the searing pain down there. Not now, not ever.

I want to run, to hide but there is nowhere to go, nowhere where they will not find me.
Who can I tell?
How can I turn against my mother, my family, my culture?
How can I betray them? I cannot.

Where is the reason?
Where is my consolation?
Where is justice?
They are not here.

Today, I am to become a woman.


Photo Credit: Rod Waddington Flickr via Compfight cc


  1. Thank you so much for editing out ‘Malaysia’ for me. I’ve only just noticed. Oh, and by the way, I do know how to spell ‘article’. The above was a typing error. Blessings!

  2. Thank you for pointing this out, Alison. I wrote this back in the early 90s, after reading an in-depth aticle on the subject (horrifically illustrated) in a glossy magazine. Of course, in-depth doesn’t always equate with accurate. I shall certainly edit out ‘Malaysia’ from any future publication of it. I don’t believe I’ll be able to here but, hopefully, people will read your comment. Bright blessings!

  3. Lovely and poignant.
    However, I’d like to point out that including Malaysia in the list gives the wrong impression that such a barbaric practice exists here, where I live. It does not. Please consider editing this to reflect the truth. Thank you.

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