Thursday, June 23, 2011

Desert Flower- A review

Desert Flower (1998) is a book by Waris Dirie and Cathleen Miller now adapted into a excellent motion picture.

It tells the incredible story of a woman who journeyed the Somalian desert into the biggest catwalks of the world.
Well, I haven’t read the book though I would love to savor every bit of it but I watched the movie. The movie left me literarily shocked the entire night and so many thoughts crossed my mind making me hard to slumber off. 

Desert Flower follows the life of Waris, a nomad from Somalia (portrayed by Ethiopian model and actress Liya Kebede) who at the tender age of 3 suffers genital mutilation in her native country, escapes an arranged marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather at 13 and struggles poverty.

She is sent to London by her grandmother to work as a maidservant for a representative at the Somalian embassy. Later, when the Somalian regime is overthrown, Waris decides to live on the streets of London than to return to her family. Rest…u should watch it. It is too promising, trust me :)

It is a great movie, a truly heart rendering! But it left me highly disturbed by the act in the movie. The act of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Still from the movie, image via google
I have heard of male genital mutilation, perhaps circumcision is better a word to describe in the case of male, but FGM? I have never heard it before, so this came as a big shock to me. 

What is FGM? It is the partial or total cutting away of the external female genitalia forcibly, in preparation of young girls for womanhood and marriage. How the mere thought conveys raw pain its prepubescent victim suffers. It shudder my very thoughts and sends chills down my spines. 

"Often performed without anesthetic under septic conditions by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine, female circumcision can cause death or permanent health problems as well as severe pain costing the deaths of the child," reports a UNICEF health report on FGM.

This has been practiced for centuries in large swathes of Africa in particular, Asia, Europe, America and Australia. Despite these grave risks, its practitioners look on it as an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity, and some perceive it as a religious obligation. 

Apart from various socio-cultural reasons, the concept of family honor is also involved. A report (Somalia: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting) on FGM states that FGM is carried to ensure virginity. This procedure is done to keep the family’s honor. 
Women who have not undergone this procedure maybe thought as immoral and those who underwent will result in less bride wealth for her father and brothers. A recent UNICEF estimate places the percentage of the women in Somalia who have undergone this procedure at 90 per cent  which mean every other girl child in Somalia undergoes this procedure? How harrowing! 

The pain Waris endures in the movie is terribly sad and highly disturbing, the most traumatic rite of passage. Just the pictorial depiction of it gave me enough psychological traumas and physical pain; forget about having to endure it. 
Viewers will almost forget that Waris has such a glamorous life as an international supermodel at the end, as they are left wondering how countries still allow FGM to continue today. 
It seemed barbaric to me to have cut one’s external genitalia. Then I felt how fortunate I am to have been born in Bhutan where every girl child enjoys the equal privilege.

I may be generalizing here by saying every girl child, but this is the broader picture I am conveying and not at an individual level. So my lack of awareness is to be forgiven here. :)

A desert flower foundation has been established by Waris Dirie to stop FGM and support the victims of FGM for over 12 years. Her story touched millions of hearts, so it did mine that’s why this post here.


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