Sunday 15 May 2011

Waltzing on air.

(Cause they'll catch you wherever you're hid.)
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

How to get to sleep without sheep.A multi-dimensional cartoon from Ysope, which I think may be subtler than he intended.

It might not have been obvious enough last week that the infinitesimally small transcendent forces might include gravity and candles in the dark ... speaking of which:

Out listening to the leaders of k-k-Canada's protestant churches: The Most Reverend Colin Johnson, Anglican Archbishop of Toronto; Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada; and, The Reverend Doctor Herb Gale, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada; at a 'retreat' organized by Mishka Lysack of Oikos. Why does he call these things retreats I wonder? How can these people even pronounce their astounding titles without choking (I also wonder)?

Mardi Tindal is the best of a bad lot - here she is in 2010: Stephen Harper fails the tests of truth and accountability.

Surprisingly, they do seem to be intersted in Ivan Illich's Good Samaritan vision. Lame then, but not committed to being so. (Como diria a chatonilda: Há duas espécies de chatos: os chatos propriamente ditos e os amigos, que são os nossos chatos prediletos.)

It was all a mistake you see, that I was even there; a misunderstanding on my part, an accident. I got the news of the retreat during the first week of April - just exactly when I was seriously wondering why no one: certainly not the Conservatives, less surprisingly the NDP, but also the Green Party; why no one at all was talking about the environment nevermind climate change. And I thought, "My goodness! The churches of k-k-Canada are going to pick up the slack!" So I set out on the evening of April 11, arrived at the meeting place and found no one there. Well after that, there was obviously nothing for it but to show up on May 11 as well, was there?

The Brand New Tennessee Waltz, Jesse Winchester way back in 1970. Here's the lyrics and himself singin' it a bit later on in 2008 & 2009, and a version by Joan Baez back in the day, 1971, and the Everly Brothers in 1972.
Who's feelin' like leavin' another town,
But with no place to go if he did;
Cause they'll catch you wherever you're hid.
I really wasn't going to post anything this week; musing on Jean Luc Godard and revisiting Pierrot le fou, l'art et la mort and then that song came to me ... so.

Ou vai ou racha - Pintura Indigena.Opacity ... maybe it is some quality of cultural space that when people don't take the time to understand one another they eventually become mutually invisible. Is that it?

How about a regular-old literal moral universe then? And a regular-old literal hell to go with it? "If you act like this you are going to wind up in hell ..." and presto-whiffo here we are!

Or the quality of experience; sure you see something, but is there a regular-old literal way of seeing which is also ... sublime?

Sorry to be cynical but this is not news: Libyan migrants' boat deaths to be investigated by Council of Europe ... it was the same thing back in 2009 (and long before 2009 as well).

Mende NazerMende NazerMende NazerMende NazerDoes it get much worse than infibulation?

"So pardon the bluntness," says our Nicholas Kristof in the NYT this week; or try reading this excerpt, The Cutting Time, a chapter from Slave: my true story by Mende Nazer & Damien Lewis.

It seems de rigueur in these stories to repeat that the mother loves her daughters; or that the parents really, truly, believe they are doing the best for their daughters. Makes me wonder what the worst could be then? I am still waiting for Jomo Kenyatta's Facing Mount Kenya where he devotes a chapter to the subject as I remember ... when I get it I will post that chapter as well.

(Just for my ailing memory: see previously here & here.)

Two films: A 2010 film version of Mende Nazer's story: I Am Slave (at IsoHunt); and, in 2009, Desert Flower, the story of Waris Dirie (also at IsoHunt).

And yes, it probably gets worse than infibulation; operating as sex does on so many axes ... I am thinking of Carson McCullers' Reflections in a Golden Eye where she cuts her tits off with garden shears; of Bergman's Cries and Whispers where she uses broken glass in some imitation of masturbation; of women I have known, fully equipped with clitorises, who could not 'achieve' orgasm, no way, never; or who came in colours but could not accept any degree of intimacy; of Frank Zappa's Dinah-Moe Humm;

... and ... of several elderly couples I knew in whixh the partners were true to one another for fifty years and more and who Playing at Wind and Cloud I suppose. :-) could sometimes be overheard giggling in their bedrooms ... What could they have been doing in there I wonder?

Everything. Is. Just. FINE!I found this cartoon at PolitiComix but I couldn't figgure out who Ken Tanaka is? So I changed it a bit from the original.

Naoto Kan.Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister is waffling: one day the headline reads, "Japan committed to nuclear energy," and the next it's "no more nuclear in Japan," so who knows?

Germany is making motions too. But trying to find optimism in this kind of news makes me think of soothsayers and tea-leaves and 'reading entrails' and the like.

Stephen Harper & Naoto Kan.The politicians are all just leaves blowing around in the wind. A-and looking over their shoulders and stocking up their personal granaries.

I think we need a straightforward decision matrix listing the energy options and their development, operational, and decommissioning/cleanup costs per kW. One side of one 8½ by 11 piece of paper. Not rocket science, but nowhere have I been able to find such a simple table and I don't have the numbers to cook one up. Hell, I can't even get any of these pundits to help me convert GHG emission targets from one baseline to another!

How can you possibly think about these issues properly without such basic tools?

I asked Danny Harvey about it at the retreat the other evening and he dismissed me with a "none of these targets can be achieved anyway" sort of thing. I do not know where to turn?

It has been foggy in Toronto the last few mornings. I remember the sudden chill when you run the boat into a fog bank and how quickly the day changes; and of getting lost in it, bungling the compass and heading off towards Boston from Marticot instead of home ... I've always loved the fog.

I had a rare telephone call from Rio this morning too. No idea where she got the phone card but for once there was no time pressure.It doesn't take much. :-) Not enough to make me believe in miracles, but tending ...

Be well.



1. Stephen Harper fails the tests of truth and accountability, Mardi Tindal, December 14, 2010.

2. Libyan migrants' boat deaths to be investigated by Council of Europe, Jack Shenker, May 9 2011.

3. A Rite of Torture for Girls, Nicholas Kristof, May 11 2011.

4. The Cutting Time excerpt from Slave, Mende Nazer & Damien Lewis, 2003.

Stephen Harper fails the tests of truth and accountability, Mardi Tindal, December 14, 2010. (The source link to the Ottawa Citizen no longer works.)

Last week, Canada was ranked the fourth worst out of 57 countries evaluated for their climate change performance by environmentalists. It’s a shameful ranking for a country that could do so much better.

As the elected leader of Canada’s largest Protestant church, I have some sympathy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Every day people appear with countless expectations — many of which are contradictory.

The challenge of leadership is to meet such contradictions with integrity. I believe our integrity as elected leaders is rooted in accountability: accountability to truth, which requires a clear-sighted view of the present; accountability to democracy, which requires that we honour our communities; and accountability to our children, which calls us to envision the future we are creating.

When the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) was defeated in the Senate after three times being supported by the House of Commons, Prime Minister Harper called the bill “irresponsible” and argued that its targets would throw “possibly millions of people out of work.”

This was a failure of leadership on at least three counts. Harper was not the first prime minister to fail this test. But his response is instructive for anyone wishing to understand the demands of leadership in this emerging crisis.

First, the prime minister fails the test of truth. The science of climate change is based on scientific concensus. The accuracy of various future scenarios can be disputed, but there is no longer any serious question that significant change is accelerating.

Nor is there any doubt that ignoring climate change has serious economic consequences. The major conclusions of economist Sir Nicholas Stern’s 2006 Review on the Economics of Climate Change are widely accepted: that the financial benefits of early action on climate change outweigh the costs — and that costs will increase rapidly if we fail to act.

This understanding is also shared by senior business leaders. On Nov. 8, for example, the week before the Senate killed Bill C-311, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives called for “a comprehensive national policy on carbon pricing that recognizes the imperative of addressing climate change.”

Yet the prime minister takes precisely the opposite position, without even acknowledging this broad consensus. Hardly a clear-sighted view.

Second, leaders must be accountable to the community.

I’ve just returned from visiting communities in Western Canada, hearing troubling stories about the effects of global warming. It was, in fact, in Alberta where people of every economic sector — the oil industry included — shared with me their deep concern about our economic future if we don’t understand the need to limit emissions. These concerns were given expression, however imperfectly, in the Climate Change Accountability Act.

The United Church of Canada’s national governing body, like the House of Commons, is composed of elected representatives from across the country. As the elected leader and presiding officer, I am accountable to my community for respecting the decisions of this body.

It would be irresponsible of me to ignore the deliberations of duly elected representatives in favour of others with whom I might agree more. I believe it is equally irresponsible of the prime minister to disregard the will of a majority of the elected members of the House of Commons.

Third, leaders must be accountable to the future. The climate change impacts that we have seen are modest compared to what our children and grandchildren will experience if we don’t act. The next few generations will need to cope with increasing food shortages due to drought, dislocation of coastal populations, and a multitude of impacts on health. Tomorrow’s children may judge far more harshly than today’s polls.

Ultimately, in a democracy, all of us are called to exercise leadership. For the sake of our own integrity, we too must be accountable to truth, to our communities and to our children. Each of us must search our own conscience on this issue. How are we meeting the test of leadership? How are we failing? How can we be more effective leaders?

That said, a prime minister has a unique position of leadership, and there are some actions which only government can take.

It’s time for the prime minister to exercise accountable leadership on climate change. Now is the moment to introduce urgently needed legislation to follow the failure of the Climate Change Accountability Act. I believe he would find wide support if he did.

Libyan migrants' boat deaths to be investigated by Council of Europe, Jack Shenker, May 9 2011.

Human rights body demands inquiry into failure of European military units to save 61 migrants on boat fleeing Libya.

Lampedusa - Europe's paramount human rights body, the Council of Europe, has called for an inquiry into the deaths of 61 migrants in the Mediterranean, claiming an apparent failure of military units to rescue them marked a "dark day" for the continent.

Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the council's parliamentary assembly, demanded an "immediate and comprehensive inquiry" into the fate of the migrants' boat which ran into trouble in late March en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the boat encountered a number of European military units including a helicopter and an aircraft carrier after losing fuel and drifting, but no rescue attempt was made and most of the 72 people on board eventually died of thirst and hunger.

"If this grave accusation is true – that, despite the alarm being raised, and despite the fact that this boat, fleeing Libya, had been located by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean, no attempt was made to rescue the 72 passengers aboard, then it is a dark day for Europe as a whole," Çavusoglu declared. "I call for an immediate and comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths of the 61 people who perished, including babies, children and women who – one by one – died of starvation and thirst while Europe looked on," he added.

Çavusoglu's intervention came as news emerged of another migrant boat which sank last Friday, according to the UN's refugee agency. Up to 600 were on board the overcrowded vessel as it fled the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Witnesses who left on another boat shortly afterwards reported seeing remnants of the ship and the bodies of passengers in the sea. The International Organisation for Migration, which has staff on Lampedusa, said it had spoken to a Somali woman who lost her four-month-old baby in the tragedy, and said that it was unclear how many passengers had managed to swim to safety.

According to testimony collected by UNHCR workers in Lampedusa, migrants on the second boat setting sail from Tripoli attempted to disembark when they saw the first boat sink, but were prevented from doing so by armed men.

The UNHCR has insisted that more communication is needed between coastguards, military and commercial ships to minimise migrant deaths at sea.

"We need to take heed of a situation that is very much evolving. We have to cooperate much more closely," said a spokesperson, Laura Boldrini, adding that ships should not wait for a problem to arise before attempting to help migrant boats. "Rescue should be automatic, without waiting for the boat to break apart or the engine to stop running," she said.

Following the Guardian report into the plight of the migrant boat left to drift in the Mediterranean after suffering mechanical problems, Nato rejected suggestions that any of its units were involved in apparently ignoring the vessel. Officials pointed out that the Charles De Gaulle, a French aircraft carrier identified as having possibly encountered the boat, was not under direct Nato command at the time – although it was involved in the Nato-led operations in Libya.

"Nato vessels are fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to international maritime law regarding safety of life at sea," said a spokesman.

French defence officials denied that any of their ships were involved. "The [Charles De Gaulle] was never less than 200km (160 miles) from the Libyan coast," read a statement. "It is therefore not possible that it could have crossed the path of this drifting vessel which came from the Misrata region. If this was the case, it would have obviously come to the rescue of these people, in some way or another."

In 2010, the statement added, French naval vessels intercepted around 40 refugee boats and came to the assistance of more than 800 people.

Campaigners believe that calls for European ships to be more active in assisting migrants are now becoming more urgent. "All of these migrant boats are incredibly overcrowded and these are desperate people," said Professor Niels Frenzen, a refugee law specialist at the University of Southern California. "Given the hundreds of deaths we know about – and many more we probably aren't aware of – any migrant boat that's being observed right now is by definition a vessel that is in distress, and one which needs rescue."

Frenzen added that with Nato, the EU border agency Frontex, national coastguards and other unilateral forces all operating simultaneously in the Mediterranean, there was an "incredible mess of overlapping missions and jurisdictional confusion over the boundaries of different search and rescue regions".

"We've got this incredible concentration of ships and aircraft in that sea, many of which are there under security council resolution 1973 [which authorises military operations in Libya], the primary purpose of which is to protect civilian life," he said.

The UN refugee agency issued a warning for all vessels to keep an eye out for unseaworthy migrant boats in the Mediterranean.

A Rite of Torture for Girls, Nicholas Kristof, May 11 2011.

HARGEISA, Somaliland - People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.

It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.

“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”

Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.

The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.

When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.

All this is, of course, excruciating. It also leads to infections and urinary difficulties, and scar tissue can make childbirth more dangerous, increasing maternal mortality and injuries such as fistulas.

This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates. A hospital here in Somaliland found that 96 percent of women it surveyed had undergone infibulation. The challenge is that this is a form of oppression that women themselves embrace and perpetuate.

“A young girl herself will want to be cut,” Ms. Ibrahim told me, vigorously defending the practice. “If a girl is not cut, it would be hard for her to live in the community. She would be stigmatized.”

Kalthoun Hassan, a young mother in an Ethiopian village near Somaliland, told me that she would insist on her daughters being cut and her sons marrying only girls who had been. She added: “It is God’s will for girls to be circumcised.”

For four decades, Westerners have campaigned against genital cutting, without much effect. Indeed, the Western term “female genital mutilation” has antagonized some African women because it assumes that they have been “mutilated.” Aid groups are now moving to add the more neutral term “female genital cutting” to their lexicon.

Is it cultural imperialism for Westerners to oppose genital mutilation? Yes, perhaps, but it’s also justified. Some cultural practices such as genital mutilation — or foot-binding or bride-burning — are too brutish to defer to.

But it is clear that the most effective efforts against genital mutilation are grass-roots initiatives by local women working for change from within a culture. In Senegal, Ghana, Egypt and other countries, such efforts have made headway.

Here among Somalis, reformers are trying a new tack: Instead of telling women to stop cutting their daughters altogether, they encourage them to turn to a milder form of genital mutilation (often involving just excision of part or all of the clitoris). They say that that would be a step forward and is much easier to achieve.

Although some Christians cut their daughters, it is more common among Muslims, who often assume that the tradition is Islamic. So a crucial step has been to get a growing number of Muslim leaders to denounce the practice as contrary to Islam, for their voices carry particular weight.

At one mosque in the remote town of Baligubadle, I met an imam named Abdelahi Adan, who bluntly denounces infibulation: “From a religious point of view, it is forbidden. It is against Islam.”

Maybe the tide is beginning to turn, ever so slowly, against infibulation, and at least we’re seeing some embarrassment about the practice. In Baligubadle, a traditional cutter named Mariam Ahmed told me that she had stopped cutting girls — apparently because she knows that foreigners disapprove. Then a nurse in the local health clinic told me that she had treated Ms. Ahmed’s own daughter recently for a horrific pelvic infection and urinary blockage after the girl was infibulated by her mother.

I confronted Ms. Ahmed. She grudgingly acknowledged cutting her daughter but quickly added that she had intended only a milder form of circumcision. She added quickly: “It was an accident.”

The Cutting Time excerpt from Slave, Mende Nazer & Damien Lewis, 2003.

p 78ff

It wasn't until I was about eleven years old that I finally learned what the blood on Kunyant's wedding sheet had really meant. One day, my mother told me that I was to be circumcised. In our tradition, circumcision marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. Boys are circumcised when they are around twelve years old or so and the girls even earlier.

I asked my mother to explain to me what circumcision was. She took me into the hut and shut the door. She sat me down on the bed and asked me to open my legs. Then she showed me where they would cut my genitals and sew me up again, leaving only a tiny hole. I was terrified. It sounded so horrible and so painful. I told my mother that I didn't want it done. All that month, whenever she tried to talk about it, I started crying. When my father found out how upset I was, he took me on his lap and stroked my hair and my eyebrows gently.

"Don't cry, Mende. All the girls in the village your age will have it done, so you're not alone."

My mother sat down next to us and held my hand. "Ba is right, Mende. It's healthy for you too. And if you don't do it, then you can't be married."
Eventually, I was convinced that it was the best thing to do. I trusted my parents and so I decided to try to get it over with as quickly as possible. The woman who does the circumcision in our village is also the midwife. But she spends most of her time working in her fields. My mother went to see her and arranged for me to be cut in three days' time. Meanwhile, some of my friends, the older ones who had already been circumcised, told me that it was terrible, that I shouldn't have it done. I went back home in tears. My mother asked me what was wrong.

"I don't want to have this done," I sobbed. "Do I have to?The other girls said it's horrible. Please, don't make me do it."

"Don't believe what they said," my mother told me. "Don't worry. I'll make sure the woman does it especially gently for you."

Three days later, just before dawn, the circumcision woman arrived at our house. Kunyant and Shokan came over too. My father went to the men's house, because it was my cutting time. The circumcision woman sat me down on a small wooden stool, and pushed my legs apart as far as they would go. She scooped out a hole in the bare earth beneath me. I was numb with terror as she got out an old razor blade and washed it in some water. Then, without a word, she crouched down between my legs.

I could feel her take hold of me. I let out a bloodcurdling scream: with a swift downward cut of the blade she had sliced into my flesh. I was crying and kicking and trying to fight free. The pain was worse than anything I could ever have imagined.

"No! No! Umi! Umi! Make her stop!" I screamed. But my sisters and my mother held me down and forced my legs apart, so the woman could continue cutting away. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," my mother mouthed at me silently, with tears in her eyes.

I felt blood gushing down my thighs onto the ground. I felt the woman taking hold of my flesh, slicing it off and dropping it into the hole in the ground that she had made. I felt as if I was dying. My father must have heard my screaming, as he broke all the rules of our tribe and came running into the hut. He sat down and held me tight and he kept repeating in my ear, "Please don't cry, Mende. I know it hurts. Please be brave and don't cry."

But the worst was far from over. The woman then reached down and I felt her grab hold of something and start sawing with the razor blade. The pain was even worse than before. I was screaming and bucking and trying to shake her off, but I was held down so tightly I couldn't escape. Finally, her arms covered in blood, she pulled something else out of me, and threw it down into the hole. I remember that she had a satisfied look on her face, as if everything was going very well.

"Put some water on the fire to boil," the circumcision woman said coldly, turning around to my mother.

As I lay there panting and sobbing and trembling, I saw that she had started threading some thick cotton through a needle. Then, she dunked the needle in the pan of boiling water. After a few seconds, she removed it and bent back down between my legs.

"No!" I started screaming, fighting to get free. "No! No! No!"

But again I was held down tightly, as she began to sew up the raw remains of my flesh. I cannot describe the pain I felt. Through a haze of shock and agony, I remember thinking vaguely, "My mother promised me that it wouldn't hurt. She lied to me. She lied to me. She lied to me."

When the woman had finished, I was delirious with pain. The circumcision woman filled in the hole in the ground with earth and trod it down with her foot. Where my vagina had been there was now only a tiny little opening, about the size of the end of my little finger. Everything else had gone. The whole, horrific process must have taken over an hour. After the cutting, the circumcision woman was paid half a sack full of sorghum by my parents.

Immediately after she left, my aunts came and did the "illil" for me. "Aye, Aye, Aye, Aye," they chanted, as they danced around me. Then, all our relatives came and there was a big feast to celebrate. My mother tried to get the children to sing and dance for me, to make me forget my pain and my loss. But I was barely aware of their presence. For three days, I lay in a kind of half-coma. I couldn't sleep because of the pain, but I couldn't come to my senses properly either. My parents couldn't sleep cither, because I was in so much agony that I couldn't stop crying. I think they tried to comfort me and make up for the part they'd played in my butchery. But I can't remember much. Any movement was agony. I think I must have been suffering from an infection.

"Why did you do this to me?" I asked my mother, during a lucid moment. "You lied to me. You said it would be OK. That it wouldn't hurt. You lied to me."
"It will make you more healthy. It will make you clean. And it will keep you a virgin," my mother kept repeating. I could tell that she didn't really believe what she was saying.

The first thing I can remember clearly was trying to have a pee. I couldn't crouch down because of the pain, so my mother had to support me standing up. But as soon as the first drops started coming out, there was a stinging, burning sensation down between my legs. I was crying and shaking and holding onto my mother.

"I can't pee-pee," I whimpered. "It hurts too much." My mother helped me back inside the hut. Then she bathed me in warm tea. As she trickled it over me, it made me want to pee, and I was just able to dribble some out.

As I lay recovering, I had lots of time to think about what had happened. There was little difference, from all that I had seen, between circumcision and marriage. With both, you bled and you were in agony and unable to get up from your bed. So I decided, there and then, that I didn't want to get married. I had been tricked into circumcision. I would not be tricked into marriage.

I was angry with my mother and my father and my sisters Kunyant and Shokan too. They had told me it was a good thing to get circumcised. They had promised me that it wouldn't hurt. When I had tried to make the woman stop, they had all held me down. But most of all, I was angry with the circumcision woman. She had butchered me without any attempt to be gentle, without even one word of kindness. After a week, she came back to our house. When she appeared, I refused to talk to her. She had come to remove the stitches, but I refused to let her near me.

"Don't you touch me!" I screamed at her. "Don't you dare touch me! Get away from me! Get away from me!"

She seemed a little shocked by my reaction. She tried to explain that she had come to remove my stitches and that she wouldn't hurt me.

"Just like you didn't hurt me last time," I shouted. "You're not touching me. My mother's going to take the stitches out, not you."

I could see my mother standing to one side, squirming with embarrassment. But I just didn't care. I didn't want that cruel woman anywhere near me. Finally, the circumcision woman realized that she'd need to get my sisters and my mother to hold me down again, just to get a look at me. My mother apologized to her for my behavior. "Don't worry. I'll take the stitches out myself. Leave it to me."

All that week, my mother soaked my stitches in warm tea and oil, to try to soften them. But each time she tried to start removing them, I had to tell her to stop. My mother was very gentle and caring. If it was too painful, she would soak the stitches some more. Then, after an hour or so, she'd try again. It was three weeks before we'd completely finished. Both my mother and my father looked very sad and guilty during this time.

Some of the girls in our tribe died after their circumcision because of infections. Still more died in childbirth, because after circumcision their vaginal opening was too narrow to allow them to give birth properly. But it was even more common for the baby to die in childbirth, for the same reason. That's probably why Kunyant's first baby died. It took me at least two months to forgive my parents for allowing me to be circumcised. I knew that they allowed it to be done to me because they feared that if I wasn't circumcised, I would never be married. No Nuba man will marry a Nuba girl unless she is "narrow," which proves she is a virgin. My parents really, truly believed they were doing the best for me.


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