Even though one might rightly argue that the rights of women are far more protected in our present 21st century than they were some centuries ago, it becomes a matter of utmost concern and dehumanization to learn that female circumcision, a cruel cultural practice of the past years, against women, is sadly still predominant in the cultures of our present societies.
Female circumcision, otherwise known as female genital mutilation (FGM), is still a common practice in many African countries. In the 85% of the cases, the victims are from Somalia, Egypt and Mali, while low prevalence rates (less than 30%) are found in countries like Senegal, Central African Republic and Nigeria. Other African countries where female circumcision occurs, though in a smaller proposition, include Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, to mention just some few. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) it is estimated that one percent of women aged 15 to 49 have had their outer genitals removed. That would mean around 140 million girls and women globally have undergone circumcisions. But the true picture emerges when one takes into account, the fact that the UNICEF`s assessment is based on the data collected by conventional health centers. In Africa and other developing regions, where many visit traditional health practitioners, it becomes a matter of concern to learn that the above estimate from the UNICEF is just a tip of the iceberg. Many more women are sadly victims of female genital mutilation ““ much more than the official statistics shows.
Suffice to say that the practice is indeed an epitome of barbarism, one might be forced to ask why this old tradition is still the order of the day – even in this modern age. Apart from the cultural attachments to the cruel practice, there are some latent commercial reasons why this sadistic element of African society is still prevalent on the continent. When one adds the systematic fragmentation and enslavement of women through genital mutilation, the danger it poses to the society becomes clear and intimidating. With this in mind, when one hears such sexist comment like the genital mutilation “makes a woman un-promiscuous or faithful to her husband,“ one wonders whose dominant ideology is being represented at the expense of women’s suppression.
Genital mutilation “makes a woman faithful to her husband.“ Are you deaf? Can`t you hear the archaic voice of wisdom? You are not talking about marital dichotomy, are you? Reason with me! Logically, in a marriage where only one partner ““ woman, the appendix of the man, of course – is expected to be faithful, and for that matter, a slave, you hardly need the Aristotelian intelligence to classify such a relationship as imbalance and subordinate.
A trip by Kata Kata`s reporter to various parts of Africa where circumcision is still the order of the day, revealed a shocking retrogressive cultural dogma behind the retard genital mutilation practice on the continent. Interviews with both circumcised women and their local ““ mainly female ““ genital mutilators or “doctors“ in Kapchorwa, Bukwo and Kwen (the Pokot, Sabiny and Tepeth tribes) of eastern Uganda showed the degree of the cultural attachment of the tribes to female circumcision. But more than that, it revealed devastating traumatic problems this cultural practice causes on the circumcised women and their fragile future and social lives.
Wearing a dirty wrapper, exposing her slippers-like flapping breasts, with hands covered in unnecessary blood, one would mistake Mama Judith, the local genital mutilator, for a butcher, or better still, a surgeon ““ if that haggard cloth was anything clean, white or professional. On the mat in front of her, were un-disinfected ““ and definitely un-sterilized ““ blood stained razor blades.
“This is part of our culture given to us from our fore ““ forefathers. The practice helps us to produce the best women in Uganda because after you remove those parts, the women will be very very faithful to their husbands. Every man that wants to marry wants to make sure the future wife will be faithful and loyal to him, so that the man can be sure he is the father to his kids. As a man, you do not want to have a wife you cannot leave at home alone without thinking that she is unfaithful to you, do you? Remember, it is only the woman that knows the true father of her kids.“ Mama Judith lectured her, as if the reporter, as a woman, should have understood the speaker better.
But the victims of genital mutilation think otherwise.
“Ever since they forced me and cut those parts, my life has changed completely. First of all, it was so painful that I fainted thereafter. I though that was the end after the unforgettable wound healed. No. The trauma was back when I wanted to have sex. I do not enjoy sex, not only because of the past experience, but the unbearable pain whenever I try to have sex. The situation became worse during the childbirth. The pain and loss of blood was so much that I`ve decided not to have a child again.“ Alice, one of the circumcised women from Kapchorwa, Uganda narrated.
Apart from the severe pains, many medical experts have revealed that female genital mutilation practice has other long-term consequences, including difficulties in childbirth.
When our reporter asked Alice whether the husband understands her predicaments, she looked at the reporter steadily as if her question helped recollect the victim’s state.
“He told me he was not interested in my past or my problems; all he was interested in, according to him, is that I fulfil my duty and satisfy him sexually whenever he wants it. He also reminded me that he married me to give birth to our kids. If I cannot undertake such a small task of giving birth, according to him, he would send me back to my family and marry another woman, who can.“ She lamented.
Luckily, efforts by Human Rights organisations to stop female genital mutilation (FGM), have started yielding some dividends, albeit slowly. Through campaigns, enlightenments, pressure and other useful means, these organizations try to highlight the evil of female circumcision. Recently, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family of Cameroon presented a damning report about female genital mutilation. The report accuses the promoters of the practice of not only adhering to the cultural practice, but benefiting economically as well from it. From monthly monetary gains reaching up to $200 (a huge amount in a country, where the majority of the population lives below $1 per month) plus other gifts like a chicken, many genital mutilators in Africa are not in a hurry to give up the lucrative trade. Since most of the said female mutilators depend on the activity for their economic livelihood, the best way to discourage the practice is for the government to provide the mutilators with an alternative source of income, the report advises.
But an investigation carried out by our reporters revealed that many of these African countries would rather channel their financial resource to other projects and in fact wait for fundings from outside to tackle the female genital mutilation debacle.
“Yes, we acknowledge that female genital mutilation is a serious cultural issue here, which requires government attention. Unfortunately, we do not have the financial muscle to tackle it alone. Maybe our friends in the USA and Europe could help us financially. Otherwise, we might have a situation whereby these victims of female genital mutilation are knocking on the asylum doors of our Western friends.“ Mr. Diarra Diabaté of Mali`s Ministry of Women, Children & Family Affairs told our reporter, mischievously.
While the debate goes on whether African countries are doing enough to eradicate female genital mutilation on the continent, one thing is very clear: when a problem affects the head, the eyes suffer as well. A good reason why we must join hands together and tackle the problems of female genital mutilation gallantly.
The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.