During the first season of Real Housewives of Dubai, cast member Chanel Ayan revealed a heartbreaking secret. While undergoing hypnotherapy on the series, the 41-year-0ld wife and mother of Somali and Ethiopian descent shared that when she was just five years old, she, along with her sister, was forced to undergo female circumcision when they were growing up in Kenya. The purpose of the practice was to keep them as virgins until marriage.
During the second part, or finale, of the RHODubai reunion, she discussed with host/moderator Andy Cohen how it would go on to impact her when she met her husband.
“So the beginning of our relationship I would hide in the bathroom while I take showers. I would always lock the door and he would not understand that because I was sleeping in the bed with him, hugging before,” she said. “And then of course we got married and I was still completely not open so we couldn’t have sex or anything, even when I was married.”
While the practice of female circumcision and genital mutilation still happens worldwide, including even in the U.S., when she was living in South America, physicians with little to no experience with such practices didn’t know how to help her.
“I was living in Brazil married and doctors in Brazil didn’t know what was going on and didn’t want to do anything so I had to fly back to Kenya and then go to do another surgery,” she recalled. “I’m lucky because my husband paid for that. And so when I was young I was having issues but now? No.”
“Don’t I talk about it all the time on TV?” she added. “I do my husband all the time!”
When the cast giggled at that sexual admission, Ayan responded by saying, “I mean, you have to find some humor in everything you go through in life. But it doesn’t mean I forget my pain.”
Ayan opened up about being forced to undergo the practice after family members took her and her sister to have it done, without informing the girls’ mother of their plans.
“I was sent to visit my aunt and my grandma and I loved visiting my aunt…I thought it was a beautiful vacation to visit my aunt. And then at 6 a.m. they just woke us up, took us somewhere, put us on the table and tied us up,” she recalled at the reunion. “I hear my sister screaming, I’m screaming. I don’t know what’s happening. They tie my legs. I didn’t know what the f–k was going on. I’m five years old.”
She also explained that she underwent a different form of alteration with circumcision. Her genitals were sewn up as opposed to being cut.
“So there’s three types. They cut the labia. Mine they didn’t cut it, they just sewed it. But I still have my clitoris. Thank God because I love pleasure,” she said. “But there are some people that they cut it up and there are some people they remove it completely, which causes a lot of issues in their body. Hormone problems, not having kids, depression.”
“It’s a tough situation and it’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy in the world,” she said during the conversation, noting that she speaks out to help bring awareness to the issue in the hopes of ending it. “I want to help stop it. This is a sexual abuse to young kids who have no power to speak for themselves.”