Meeri Koutenami 1
Meeri Koutenami 2
Meeri Koutenami
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, Nasirian, who was lying naked and tied on the floor. The light beam hit in between of Nasirian's bare thighs.

It all happened quickly. 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 unrecognisable.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision, is a ritual practice observed in various parts of the world for non-medical purposes. It involves the removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. An estimated 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone the procedure.

The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities. In certain communities, it is a rite of passage symbolising a girl’s readiness for marriage. The tradition stems from the belief that woman's sexual organs are considered to be impure. FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. It is thought to bring honour, beauty, purity and health. Many parents believe that FGM is beneficial to a girl’s upbringing.

Female genital cutting has been widely judged as a procedure against human rights and as a serious violation against women's sexual independence. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Due to population growth, however, the total number of women subjected to FGM threatens to grow. The UN is campaigning to have the practice outlawed worldwide. An important role in this movement is played by local grassroots activists who raise awareness of the dangers of FGM and pressure politicians to amend laws.

Girls' circumcision has been illegal in Kenya since 2001, but among some tribes such as the Masai people, it is still a valued tradition.
Meeri Koutaniemi, 27, is a Finnish photographer and journalist.

Koutaniemi's work extends to over 40 countries where she has photographed and otherwise documented people with powerful stories of struggle and resilience. Her work stems from the question and definition of identity. She is fascinated by the complexity and possibilities of humanity, and finds purpose in the similarity of people's hopes and fears. At the core of her work lies a universal ability for empowerment and persistence.

In 2012 and 2013, Koutaniemi was selected as the Photographer of the Year in Finland and won the category of Foreign Reportage with her photo series ‘Taken’ of female circumcision. In 2012, Koutaniemi received the Memorial Award of Tim Hetherington in United States and the Memorial Award of Carina Appel in Finland 2013.

Koutaniemi has exhibited her photos in over 40 exhibitions around the world and her first book Oasis was published in Finland, in 2013. In 2014, Koutaniemi won the ‘Visa D'or Daily Press Award’ in Perpignan and ‘FreeLens Award’ in Lumix Photofestival in Hannover. Koutaniemi was selected to participate to Joop Swart and VII Masterclass in 2014.

Koutaniemi is a founder member of the Italian Photo Agency Echo and Finnish Collective 11.