Female Genital Mutilation

UNDERSTANDING AND EXPANDING THE ISSUE OF FGM BY PLACING IT IN BROADER CONTEXT THROUGH THE APPLICATION OF FUTURE TRENDS IN HCI; POST COLONIAL COMPUTING AND SPECULATIVE DESIGN APPROACH
Group project of 2 members, February 2017, Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have their female genitals cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. Which means 200 million girls and women are curbed from their right of sexual pleasure out of the billions of girls and women in these countries. The natural identity of this section of the population is lost for religious reasons.

APPLYING SPECULATIVE DESIGN APPROACH

Our secondary research led to insights such as that the members of some communities in India believe that only a cut girl is a good girl. Cutting of the clitoris was also a requisite of being part of the community. Members of these communities believe and preach that clitoris is just an extra piece of flesh that has absolutely no use. They assume that women with clitoris will indulge in pre-marital sex or masturbation to attain sexual pleasure and that both of these is a sin according to religion. So in order to lead a sinless life the girls clitoris are cut off.

To critique this ridiculous mentality of such communities, we came up with an idea of a speculative future where there are public pleasure booths for women to enter to have pleasure at anytime, anywhere. This was an attempt to ridicule the stigma that women in some regions of India are forbidden to experience pleasure in closed rooms. Leave alone public.

or railway station. So why not a future where women can do the same? Maybe not in a public bus, bus stop or railway station but in public pleasure booths!

POST-COLONIAL COMPUTING APPROACH

Though the issue of FGM is very traumatizing, we found ourselves having to fight against a deep-rooted mentality, which seemed to be its sole reason and will therefore take time to change. On researching we came across people speaking out to bring FGM into light and a lot of questions and proposed solutions were out there to end FGM. However nothing seemed to have helped change the present scenario.

We decided to take up post-colonial computing to approach FGM in India. Postcolonial computing enables to expand answers to questions already posed; it can generate different questions and different ways of looking at the issue. Issue of FGM requires a long-term process to be effective. Ending FGM overnight is just a dream.

ENGAGEMENT

After having discussions with Lila(name has been changed), a member of the Bohra community in Mumbai and her family we got a deeper understanding. “We undergo FGM to be a part of the religion” drove our attention to the fact as to how certain things enable us to be a part of something.

Here, FGM allows them to be a part of their community/religion. No religion nowhere states that something like FGM has to be performed to be a part of that religion. These norms are evolved over time and continue to evolve due to negligence or lack of awareness. Engaging with this family always brought to light that sometimes education, awareness etc. is not enough to change the minds of a group of people. There are deep-rooted factors that caused this educated family to also undergo FGM.

ARTICULATION

In the articulation phase, we engaged with Lila to answer questions such as how, why etc. as well as pose new questions. When one deals with sensitive issues, in a PCC approach it requires designers and researchers to engage with the affected people for a continued period of time. Its first important to gain trust among a group of people before even trying to get into the issue. Since in our class project we didn’t have the ample time, we came up with a timeline of activities for a hypothetical design exercise.

FURTHER SCOPE

Here we only considered and engaged with one small sub-community (as we only got insiders from that sub-community) rather then engaging with the entire community. Our main focus was on education, awareness and imposing laws. We didn’t realize that their community being the minority, this would affect them and might result in some sort of violence. Then we shifted our focus to plan where we would engage with the entire community and knowing their point of view on this. Our plan includes engaging with women, men, higher authorities (priest etc), children, mid-wives, medical practitioners and victims. These groups can be further divided into more sub-groups depending on the variation of that particular group.

We cannot define any definite time span for this process as the process of engagement with the community, especially on this topic will be difficult and will take time. It all depends on the response of the community people. Initially, we may not get any positive response. It can take few weeks, months or years also for being an ‘insider’.