Chanel Ayan of RHODubai reveals her forced Genital Mutilation at age 5
The star of “The Real Housewives of Dubai” is speaking out about her own forced genital mutilation, which she endured when she was five years old, in an effort to end what she calls “torture and abuse.”
Female circumcision is still practised in some regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and Ayan, who is of Somali and Ethiopian heritage, confessed that she and her sister had undergone the procedure against their choice to ensure they would stay virgins until marriage.
In an exclusive interview with E! News, Ayan said, “I’m a survivor,” after opening up about the traumatic experience in the August 17 episode of the Bravo series. “I felt that I was utterly betrayed by my culture and my family. This is just a barbaric practice and it shouldn’t be happening to young girls. It happened to me 35 years ago and I’ve never gotten over it.”
Ayan’s aunt and grandmother took her and her sister to the home of a stranger, where a guy “sewed” up their genitalia.
“In my culture, it’s done to keep women virgins,” the fashion model explained. “Everybody’s a virgin in my culture because of this. Because how are you going to have sex when you’re sewn as a girl until you get married? It’s a way to keep men satisfied.”
She went on to say that this was common practice in the Middle East, Syria, and Yemen in addition to more than 28 African countries. “Even in America, I have cousins and family that still find ways to do it to the young girls behind the scenes, because you don’t need a doctor. You just need someone who knows how to do it.”
She suffered from bodily pain, but the emotional wounds from that incident lasted well beyond her adolescence.
“I think the trauma is something that I will live with for the rest of my life,” Ayan said. “This is why I want to talk about it, because I honestly don’t want this to happen to anyone because I know exactly how it feels and it’s not good. A lot of girls get depressed, hormones are imbalanced, a lot of young girls die.”
It is the “the first time most of my friends and family will actually see that I’m talking about” the painful experience, Ayan says.
“We don’t share things like this, it’s kind of kept quiet in our families,” Ayan explained. “I just feel like after opening [up about] it, I was taking my power away from the people that did this to me that I trusted the most because I was five years old and I did not know what was happening to me. I didn’t even know what was going on. I just want to bring awareness to it as much as possible because it’s still happening 35 years later. Every 11 minutes it’s happening to some little girl that is as confused as me.”
The Bravo star is so committed to ending this destructive practice that she is launching her own beauty line, Ayan Beauty, to raise funds for the cause.
“As long as I use my platform to bring awareness to stop this—if I can save 20 girls, 100 girls, 500 girls, I feel like that’s the purpose I have,” the RHODubai star said. “It’s child abuse. And a lot of girls just die for no reason.”
“We’re in 2022 and it’s still happening now,” Ayan explained. “It’s crazy. It’s insane.”