Warning: this post may be distressing for some readers. It also contains spoilers from episodes one to three.
The Handmaid’s Tale is confronting viewing as it is, but episode three gave us perhaps the most harrowing scene.
Ofglen, played by Gilmore Girls‘ Alexis Bledel is arrested for the crime of ‘Gender treachery’ – engaging in a sexual relationship with a Martha.
Her partner Martha 6715301 is sentenced to the “common mercy of the state” which turns out to be be slowly hung by a crane.
Ofglen, who we later find out was once called Emily, has a "luckier" fate.
"Handmaid 8967, your existence is an abomination. True justice would see you sent to an eternity of suffering. But God has seen fit to make you fruitful, and by that we are bound. Handmaid 8967 you are sentenced to redemption," the judge tells her.
What the 'redemption' entails has left many viewers slightly confused.
It's here where the TV adaptation takes a departure from the book. In Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, Offred is simply told Ofglen killed herself to avoid giving away information about the resistance.
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The reader - and Offred - never get confirmation whether that's true or not.
In the series, although nothing is explicitly shown, Emily is subjected to female genital mutiliation (FGM) where her clitoris is unwillingly surgically removed - and with it her ability to have pleasurable sex.
"You can still have children of course, but things will be so much easier for you now," she's told after surgery, as if she's been "cured" of the desire that led to her "crime".
FGM is still practised in many countries - including western countries- today, with the World Health Organisation estimating that around 200 million women are living with genital mutilation. It's most common in girls under the age of 10 years old.
The show's show runner Bruce Miller said the team at Hulu, the service that broadcast the series in the US, were nervous about featuring FGM on television.
"When I said we were going to do it, they were like, 'On camera?,' and I was like, 'Okay, no,'" Miller told INSIDER.
"But it happens all over the world every day. It just doesn't happen to white girls who look like Rory Gilmore."
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In reference to the circumstances in which the procedure is performed, both Emily/OfGlen and the Martha are muzzled. They are not allowed to speak during the trial and in fact, during the whole episode Bledel says nothing at all.
Even in the episode, the way those in power frame the procedure is that it's a way of 'saving' Emily from her uncontrollable urge.
"Which is a lot of the underpinning of why it's done traditionally to young girls. It's to take away an unbridled sexual desire, to keep them from being lascivious," Miller explained.
"Here she's a gay woman, they don't want her to be attracted to women, so they just kind of think, 'Oh, we're going to do her this favour. We're not going execute her. We're going to be nice.'"
A 2017 report by researchers at the Australian paediatric surveillance unit at Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney found almost 60 girls with FGM had been seen by paediatricians and children's health specialists since 2010. Some were as young as five months old.
While most were performed overseas, two Australian-born children from the study had had the procedure performed in NSW.
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