Female genital cutting is still a very big problem in Africa, with the United Nations estimating that some 30 million women and girls are cut.
But the true reason for the crime, the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner said in a speech this week, is far more sinister.
In the latest of several interviews with female genital mutilators, U.N. human rights advocate and former Gambian diplomat and BBC journalist Mariam Bouattia talks to Time about the true causes of the barbaric practice.
“Female genital cutting” is an extremely modern phenomenon, said Bouattie.
The practice of cutting off the clitoris of young girls and then cutting their testicles is nothing new.
It has been practiced in various cultures since the Middle Ages, and in the early 19th century, the practice was common in some parts of the world.
Today, however, it is illegal in many countries, with only a handful of exceptions.
Bouatti says the practice is not about sex, but rather about “trying to control the sexuality” of girls and women.
“This is a modern, modern, barbaric and patriarchal practice,” Bouattiere told Time.
“And this is why we have to stop it.”
The practice is also practiced by some Muslim and Christian groups, but Bouattiate says the true motivation is a more religious and cultural one.
“[It’s] about the idea that you can’t be sexually attracted to a woman and a man, that you have to choose between them,” she said.
“I think that’s what makes it such a big problem, because we have such a strong patriarchal culture.”
The “idea of a female being a woman” is what allows for this practice to be done, Bouattiesaid.
“The idea of a woman as a woman is part of the Quran,” she explained.
According to Bouattias testimony, the reason for female genital cutting in the Middle East is religious.
She says she saw a doctor at the time who explained that the practice “is not related to the Quran, and is part and parcel of Islamic tradition.”
“This is why the Islamic tradition says that a woman should have a veil, and a veil should not cover her genitals.
They have to cover their genitals.
If a woman has a veil and is covered, then she is a Muslim,” she added.
As part of a recent documentary by the BBC, Bouattenia said she was the only female member of Gambia’s national cabinet when she was appointed to the position in 2013.
The country has since had a series of attempts at female genital surgery, including in 2013, when Gambia was the first country in the world to ban female genital surgeries.
But Bouattiet said that after she was forced to leave office, the government tried to have the country reclassify as a “Western” country and allow female genital operations.
She said that this policy was only partially successful, as female genital cuttings continued to be performed.
“We were told we would have to be treated differently if we were women, and that we would not be allowed to practice medicine.
We were told that we were a threat to our society,” Bouatia said.
Despite the fact that Bouattiacs case was the reason why the Gambian government is now attempting to ban these procedures, Bouatie said she is still surprised that it took a case of female genital removal to bring such a massive crackdown.
Bouattia said the government has not done enough to bring the issue to the attention of the international community, but she does hope that more governments will take up the cause.
“It is a shame, because I hope this will lead to a change,” Bouatsaid.