Meeri Koutaniemi

Photographer
Taken
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Location: Helsinki
Nationality: Finnish
Biography: Meeri Koutaniemi, 27, a Finnish photographer and journalist, was born in Lapland and lives currently in Helsinki. \\Koutaniemi's work extends to over 40 countries where she has photographed and documented people with compelling stories of... MORE
Public Story
Taken
Copyright Meeri Koutaniemi 2022
Updated Mar 2014
Topics Children, Documentary, Human Rights, photojournalism, Violence, Women's Rights

TAKEN

 

Meeri Koutaniemi / Echo Photo Agency

 

 

Child's hand had a flashlight. It was the only source of light in the dark mud hut. The child showed the torch at her, lying naked and tied on the floor. The light beam hit in between of the girl's bare thighs. 

Women gathered in the cowshed. Animal's leather was applied to the floor and Nasirian came to lie down on top of it.

It all happened quickly.

The room was dark, and it was so full of smoke that it was difficult to breathe inside. Nasirian was tied from her arms and legs. The girl was strong and struggled. Six women were on all fours on the ground and tried to keep her down. She was not numb, and no pain relief was used on her. Except a bucket of cold water poured into her naked body.

One of the ladies revealed an ordinary razor blade in her hands for the mutilation. Nasirian cried and the floor was streaming from blood. The more she leaked, the more she screamed.

After few minutes her genitals were completely unrecognizable.

 

Nasirian and Isina are 14-year old stepsisters in a small Masai village, South-West Kenya. They have been advised not to cry during female circumcision. The genital cutting is said to be done to get them married in the future.

 The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 140 million mutilated women in the world. Female genital mutilation is a tradition practiced worldwide in 29 countries, mainly in Africa and Middle-East. Muslims follow the old way of the tradition, but equally Christians and practitioners of nature religions. Girls' circumcision has been illegal in Kenya since 2001, but among some tribes such as the Masai people, it is still a valued tradition. 

The tradition stems from the belief that woman's sexual organs are considered to be impure. The intention is also to reduce women's sexual pleasure, and thus women's adultery .

The violent operation differ from cutting off a small piece of the clitoris and the removal of all external genitalia: the clitoral hood, the clitoris and the minor and major labia. Sometimes the mouth of the vagina is sewn shut leaving a small hole for urine, menstrual blood and sexual intercourse.

Surgery is usually done under primitive conditions and girls are subjected to a variety of risks. The girl can die because of the pain of shock and blood poisoning. Later, women may suffer from persistent infections, and urination and intercourse can be painful, and giving birth life-threatening.

Female genital cutting has been widely judged as a procedure against human rights and as a serious violation against women's sexual independence. 

The project is on-going and will be carried on in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. The applied grant will be used for the expenses of the documentation in 5 countries, Sierra Leone, Iraqi Kurdistan, Ethiopia, Finland and United States. The long-term project aims for a publication Taken in which circumcised women share their struggles in daily life resulting from an incident which took such a short time, but had irreversible consequences for the rest of their lives.

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