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.


  1. Honestly, I didn't know until now that there is something called FGM too. What the hell do they do? It's just too disgusting! How can we imagine cutting a female genital when nothing is projecting out like men's. Though it's painful and very bad, in male's case, it is somewhat acceptable compared to female. Thank you for making me aware of that fact. I am disturbed. I just can't think I can watch the movie or read that book. The idea alone is really frightening. Keeep posting Rekkha!

  2. Yes Langa, its really frigtening even to read or to have watched. As i mentioned, it left me highly disturbed. Thank you for going through my post,i also didnt know what FGM was and I wanted to let others know as i learnt about it for the first time..

    Thousands of female childs die after this procedure either from psychological traumas and physical pain. You must watch the movie, You will understand it more :D

    Thank you again for visiting,:) Gud day ahead!!

  3. a friend of mine told me, for these girls their urge to sleep with a man gets highly reduced and in some cases even burst out crying at the sight of their man. thus, one reason for FGM is to ensure the faithfulless of a woman to her partner. Well i dont know how far this is true..its just a story heard but he is from one of these countries where FGM is still highly practised and married to one such girl. but i was glad to know that this friend of mine is strongly against such acts. no one should be deprived of their rights and gifts of life. this is so pathetic and sad

  4. Yes apart from being a good price for the fathers and brothers, girls who have been through FGM are considered of extra pleasure for the men (their partner).Its even like that the husband with a blade cuts the genetalia again to open it,when the pleasure for the husband increases, what pain will the woman go through..:( Oh just the thought makes me sick.
    Faithfulness is not a question to be asked when they go through this.

    Further,its like as soon as the girl is some three or even as young as 18 months the mother takes the child to the place where a unknown local woman does the procedure for the child. The trust of the child on her mother?? How it drifts apart.....Oh its so unthinkable...the more i read about it the more pain it inflicts me...:(

  5. i am still shuddering on the thought. cannot imagine the one whose gone through it.enlightening post sweets.

  6. Apparently, the reason why FGM is carried out still in the African continent is because the people there believe that it enhances fertility! Sick & horrid reasoning!
    But now, it's on a decrease, as per a gender specialist who spoke to us a few months back. Since many african countries are a CEDAW signatory, it's considered a crime.
    But then again, old habits die hard & there'll always be nooks & corners of the world, where young girls face this brutal act.


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