Monday, 30 May 2011

The girl who wasn't

Back when I was an intern, and was posted in Surgery, I was shown a kid in the paediatric surgery ward with a rather unusual problem.

The child was, if I recall, something like three years old (this was a long while ago; I’m talking of 1994, and my memory of the little details is hazy at this distance in time). Her problem was a hypertrophied clitoris; and I mean hypertrophied. The organ was literally much larger than the average penis at that age.

Obviously, sexual fantasies aside, this was not a good thing.

The only treatment possible for this condition was clitoridectomy: surgically reducing the clitoris to something approaching normal size; and this was what the surgeons proposed doing. So far so good, and if that had been all to it I’d not even have bothered to remember this.

The point was that the kid’s parents hadn’t brought her in because she had an enlarged clitoris. They hadn’t even realised that it was an enlarged clitoris. They’d brought her in because she had a cleft below her “penis” instead of other words, they weren’t even aware that she was, in fact, a she.

I still remember the ruckus they raised when they discovered that the surgeons, instead of closing the cleft and rendering their precious “son” fully male, intended instead to turn “him” into a girl. They were screaming about how the college was conspiring to rob them of their son.

I still have no idea what finally happened to the kid; it’s more likely than not that they took her away and disappeared when nobody was looking, and decided to bring her up as a male until her breasts began sprouting and her menstrual blood began to flow. If she was lucky, they wouldn’t have taken her to some village quack who’d have stitched her vagina shut. If she was lucky.

All these years later, I still wonder what happened to her, and where she is now.

Now go ahead and tell me how women are oppressed in Afghanistan.


  1. I recently read an article on the net entitled something along the lines of "Where are the missing girls of India" The article outlined how families will dispose of female babies before birth; and after birth if necessary, because male babies are desirable over female babies.

    While I am not sure of current trends, at one time in China the same was in place; male babies over female babies. The practice in China was to ship the female babies off to the USA and there was a substantial adoption of Chinese girls to US families since adoption is often difficult for couples in the US. Since then the US has clamped own on foreign adoptions making it harder for couples to go outside of the country to adopt a child.

  2. The world is a fucked-up place, Bill.

    Here in America, the Fundies scream and wail about abortion - I've pointed out that in other parts of the world, human life is really, really, really cheap - as this story confirms - but it usually does less than no good.

    America is, after all, an isolated, provincial country.

    The rest of the world, as I mentioned earlier, a fucked-up place.

    Life goes on....


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