In most cultures, getting your first period signifies the transition from girlhood into womanhood. Other perceptions suggest this happens when a girl loses her virginity.
Others still, will say that a woman only becomes her full self when she gives birth.
But for the girls in
, they become a woman when
they have their genitals mutilated. Tanzania
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is not legal on the African continent, so why is it still so rife? It seems that governments cannot control what happens in many tribes, or simply turn a blind eye when this law conflicts with cultural beliefs.
FGM is not only about FGM. Other factors come into play whenever the ceremonial
act of ‘cutting’ is performed. The following are some of the reasons why FGM
still persists: Tanzania
1. Coming of age
Much like 21st birthday celebrations, the Tanzanians perform a ceremony when a girl is of age (between 8 and 15). This annual ritual, complete with feasting and dancing, is where children are chosen, dressed up, anointed, given gifts, paraded and bestowed their final honour: genital cutting.
It’s a rite of passage and one that girls need to pass through to be able to be married, perform certain cultural acts and be seen as a woman or member of their tribe.
3. Child marriage
FGM and child marriage is completely normal for many Tanzanians, and seen as a great honour and duty. As barbaric as it is, arrangements are made between parents and tribes as commonplace as it is for us to wear diamond engagement rings. Parents don’t view this as a human rights abuse, and offer their children up for the cutting because they want them to be eligible – often at an age most Westerners aren’t even legally allowed to consent to sex.
Elders and those who perform the cuttings are getting paid. Many of them have no other skills and will be out of work if FGM was stopped.
Women are not seen as equals and are not sent to school. They are forced into early child marriage, often uneducated, and many turn to selling their bodies to earn a living and end up contracting HIV and Aids. An uneducated life perpetuates the cycle of oppression, and generation after generation of girls and women are lost. Being no more than tools for breeding and service is what women and girls need.
Risks and Dangers of FGM
Unhygienic cuttings for both girls and boys pose many risks, including the spreading of HIV/Aids, the use of blunt unsterile instruments which cause infection and sepsis, insufficient aftercare, and the possibility of bleeding to death.
How this affects us
Inequality and gender based violence is a global problem. In ending a form of abuse, in this case child abuse, there has to be awareness first. Awareness can lead to empowering more groups to stand against any form of gender based violence in any way that they can.
A ripple effect is moving all around the globe – one where men and women are fighting for gender equality. From the writers trying to shed light on the subject, to the many doctors and volunteers working FGM, we are all part of the same army. An educated woman is a powerful tool and agent for change in this perception worldwide. All forms of gender based violence and oppression need to be exposed, no matter how far removed from our own lives.