BY ISHITA ROY
Between my thighs, rests my body’s temple. My vagina. I bleed every month. And I have the power to give life. But what I do not have between my thighs is Honor.
No. I do not have my honor in my vagina. I do not have my family’s honor in my vagina. I do not have my community’s honor in my vagina. Then who put it there?
Who put Honor in my Vagina?
I and many vagina owners like myself are constantly told to sit properly. To behave properly. To go for abstinence. Because our vaginas are the epitome of our blood line’s purity?
But when was it decided?
How was it decided?
Who decided that I will no longer have rights over my body?
Patriarchal society’s obsession with putting honor in vaginas had only suppressed women. Often through physical and mental violence. The only logical reason one can find behind this obsession is to suppress women’s sexuality. Because if women are sexually liberated, the stakeholder of patriarchy and their power will be threatened. They can no longer abuse their power. They can no longer put women’s bodies under surveillance.
The most common way of practicing this sexual suppression by imposing the idea of honor in the vagina is through the Virginity Tests. And Female Genitalia Mutilation.
A virginity test is a common practice that women of color go through. Countries like Indonesia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt, and even India still practice this regressive ritual.
The practice is relevant in the Kanjarbhat Community, India. In a settled marriage, a couple is already consummated before marriage. In order to avoid the virginity test, the couple pays a fine to the panchayat (the ruling body of the village) to legalize their marriage.
However, if the marriage is not settled. The bride has to undergo a Virginity Test. The virginity test not only proves her purity but is also a purity stamp for her family’s honor.
On the wedding night, the couple is sent to a lodge. A crowd awaits outside the lodge, along with the parents, in-laws, and the panchayat. The bride is asked to take off all her ornaments, or anything that could harm her. The married couple is then asked to consummate their marriage on a white sheet. After they are done, the white sheet is brought out, on display.
“Maal Khara Khara Khara” (goods are pure) is what the panchayat rules if there are bloodstains on the sheet. The bride passes the test. Saves her family honor. If not, then she is considered an “impure good.” As the panchayat rules “Maal Khota.” On failing the test, the bride is often beaten. The family is also asked to pay heavy fines.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Female Genitalia Mutilation or FGM is a process that alters female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
The reason being- to suppress women’s sexuality and ensure family’s honor is protected in her vagina. Girls and women between ages 15-49 are often subjected to FGM. At least 200million females have undergone FGM. And over 30million women are subjected to FGM each year.
It is a tradition that “prepares” women for marriage and purifies them for her husband.
This practice however is not associated with any religion but is mostly seen in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. It is prevalent in 31 countries. 98% of FGM cases are reported from Somalia. 97% from Guinea. 93% from Sierra Leone. 89% from Mali. And other countries like Egypt, Sudan, etc.
There are 4 types of FGM
(i) Clitoridectomy- removal of the clitoris
(ii) Excision- removal of clitoris and labia
(iii) Infibulation- narrowing of the vaginal opening by stitching (mainly done to protect women’s honor)
(iv) Other ways like Pricking, Stretching, Scraping, or mutilating parts by use of acid
FGM has zero health benefits. Rather it gives a like-long trauma to vagina owners. It leads to severe bleeding. Infections. Problems in urinating. Problems in consummating. Problems in childbirth. Problems in menstruating. And often death.
It is high time we stop putting family honor in vaginas. It has not helped anyone. Rather led to honor killings. Victim blaming in cases of rape. Suppression of female sexuality. And physical and mental violence.
Let us educate ourselves. Intervene culturally wherever possible. And put an end to this regressive practice.
Because honor does not lie in our vaginas!