The Nigerian feminist and literary critic, Molara Ogundipe- Leslie, in her provocative and insightful text, Recreating Ourselves: Women Women and Critical Transformations AWP,wonders at the growing popularity of "narratives of victimhood" about African women, in Euro-American discourse, over and above their other experiences-a discourse totally isolated from the "violence" done to women's bodies in Western cosmetic surgery and disembodied from the roles and activities of African women in other non-sexual domains.
This issue of Africa Update offers the analyses of three African women on the explosive issue of female circumcision so-called female genital mutilation. While none of the s constitutes a blind defence dating this social practice, all three emphasize the need Binghamton a holistic perspective that brings into the discourse the rich, complex and diversified nature of African civilization- in its patriarchal and matrifocal dimensions, its strength and weakness, its glory and pain.
African Polytheists including the Ancient Men as well as African Muslims, Christians and Jews, have often practiced female and male circumcision in their rites of passage, for the transition to puberty and adulthood seldom went unnoticed.
Ifeyinwa Iweriebor points out that the practitioners nigerian not perform genital surgery on their girls and sons to harm them, but rather they engage in the activity for "the noblest of reasons. Aisha Samad Matias reminds us that the custom was in some cases done to enhance sexuality; that all groups circumcising females generally circumcise males; and that the actual day of circumcision is one of accomplishment and recognition as much as fear and pain. Each of the three contributors to this issue of Africa Update has been active in both research and social struggle for over two decades.
Iweriebor was indeed a founding member of the influential Nigerian organisation, Women in Nigeria, which was established in Adeline Apena, after graduating from the London School of Economics and the University of Lagos, carried out research on the NCWS, another powerful women's organisation, ideologically distinct from the more radical "Women in Nigeria" organisation.
There has in recent times been a hue and cry about the practice of genital surgery on women in Africa.
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The prevailing perspective in America has been absolute condemnation. What is bothersome is not so much that people have a negative opinion of the practice, but that the issue is misrepresented as a form of child abuse or a tool of gender oppression.
The language and tone of the outcry in most cases reflects a total lack of respect for the culture of other peoples. Even more bothersome is the false portrayal: the falsification of statistics and a successful demonization of the practitioners.
There may be an on-going debate about the effects or necessity for the procedure, but the essential truth is that the practitioners do not perform genital surgery on their girls, nor on their sons for that matter to oppress them or do them any harm. For them the procedure is carried out for the noblest of reasons, the best of intentions and in good faith. The fact that it can be performed in public in the countries that permit it demonstrates that the practitioners do not consider it dirty laundry or a dark hidden secret.
All over the world, innumerable reasons abound for the practice of genital surgery of both sexes, a procedure that dates back to a least 5, B. Broadly, they can be categorized according to health, religion, social, political and cultural considerations.
While there has always been debate about the hows, whys and effects of the procedure, in recent times the genital surgery of women and girl children has been embroiled in contentious controversy. In Africa, the rationale for genital surgery are as diverse as the continent itself. However one overriding perspective is that it is conceptualized as a process that applies to both men and women. Hence a framework that differentiates it according to gender is not a useful tool of analysis.
Be that as it may, here are some of the posited reasons for carrying out the procedure on women. For some cultures it is a component of a rite of passage to socially acceptable adulthood.
For others it is a nuptial necessity. For yet others, it is a mark of courage, particularly where it is carried out on older people. For some it is a reproductive aid, increasing fertility. For others, it enhances sexuality. Many parents want surgery done on their daughters because it protects them from would-be seducers and rapists.
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There are several countries in Africa where efforts are being made to discourage female genital surgery. They are doing this by providing up-to-date information to show its disadvantages, and why it may not be necessary to achieve whatever it is believed to accomplish. For example, with respect to infant mortality, when health workers explained to women that sexuality transmitted diseases could be treated with medication and that it is possible to have healthy living babies without genital surgery, they were convinced to refrain from having their daughters undergo genital surgery.
There is however, no question that like any other form of surgery, particularly for the delicate region of the groin, if carried out improperly, or under unsanitary conditions, the damage done can be absolutely terrible. That is why, as long as it remains a practice, little girls and women deserve to have access to the same quality medical care that little boys and men have.
Over million women in the world have experienced the custom first recorded over years ago in ancient Egypt.
Because of its origin, it is sometimes, particularly in its variation as infibulation, referred to as a "pharonic custom. It spread through migration routes into the Magreb area N. Africaand across the Sahara and Sahel regions into the West African savanna. In some areas it is practiced by almost all groups, in other areas by some ethnic groups and not others, and in other African areas, such as Southern Africa, by only a few groups.
Female circumcision FC is traditionally practiced in some other areas outside of Africa. In those areas, it is found among certain indigenous Andean and Australian ethnic groups of varied traditional religious and cultural backgrounds and among Bedouin groups in Israel and surrounding areas.
It was practiced before European colonialism in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, although in these mainly matrilineal areas, it was done to enhance female sexuality rather than to control it as in most other places. This custom is practiced predominantly in the Nile, Sahara, Sahel and Horn regions, where in most areas the overwhelming majority of women have or will experience it. In those areas some groups who traditionally did not have this custom are adopting it when they move into regions or urban zones where it is practiced, for example in Khartoum.
In adjacent African regions such as West and East Africa, many cultures traditionally have dating this custom. The custom is also found, to a lesser Binghamton, among some groups in central and southern Africa. This is interesting because this custom, not only originated in Africa during pharonic pre-Judaic, Christian or Islamic timesbut it is still practiced in the continent among African groups practicing traditional Judaism in Ethiopia ; traditional Coptic Christianity Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt ; some of those who became Christian during or nigerian the European colonial era; and among some Muslim groups.
In some regions, FC can be seen to be men by certain socio-economic groups, for example, among those of a particular culture or lifestyle: nomadic versus settled, or farming herding; Muslim versus Christian or traditionalist. It is mainly found in predominantly patrilineal groups in Africa.
Some groups circumcising females also circumcise males. Many groups that now circumcise men but not women were influenced by missionary and other European colonial influences to stop circumcising women and to also stop or reduce the traditional long socialization period, rituals and ceremonies preparing boys to be men.
In the colonial period the Women in Kenya, see Jomo Kenyatta, Facing Mount Kenya and also today some modern westernized African States have sought to minimize, limit or outlaw certain traditional practices of some ethnic groups within their borders which, of course, do not reflect traditional ethnic borders.
Such governments apparently value colonial or western institutions such as government schools and churches and the socialization of youth toward the sedentary lifestyle, national unity, loyalty and "modernization" much more than traditional customs such as the migratory lifestyle, ethnic Anbal group unity, loyalty and traditionalism. Today, for example, the Kikuyu of Kenya find their land and customs under attack.
The Masai of East Africa find their traditional area divided into two nation states, Kenya and Tanzania. They find themselves being pushed into more and more arid areas as officials and tourist companies feel that their cattle are overgrazing on grass-lands that wild animals that attract tourists need.
Editorial: female circumcision in africa
The traditional Masai socialization of youth both male and female that lasts several years involves travel in groups with elders throughout their traditional region. During this period youth are intensely socialized for adult life, including several ordeal rituals, which includes male and female circumcision. The initiations are firmly rooted in and dedicated to their Masai identity and reject modern westernized society, which they are taught is inferior to their own lifestyle.
After completion of this period, they are considered Masai adults and able to marry. Male and female circumcision is an essential part of the Masai socialization into adulthood. It is also an integral and necessary part of many other African groups' socialization towards recognition as adults in their society.
In circumcising groups, a person who is not circumcised is often considered unclean, not fully formed as an adult member of society, not prepared to marry and bear children and a perpetual child. When modern African governments seek to limit or outlaw such traditional practices as female circumcision, the groups practicing them usually either cross borders and continue the practice in adjacent nations their own traditional ethnic territory without such limitations or continue the practice in secret usually under less hygienic conditions or access to an outside clinic, hospital or professional aid.
These two brief examples are typical of the conflict between traditional groups, their land and social customs and the interests of colonial or modern western states and institutions. It is always difficult for a group to accept dictates from the group they feel is attacking their land, and turning their children away from their traditional lifestyles towards one they neither understand nor admire and which diminishes their sovereignty and power.
In such cases their distrust of outsiders based on material evidence the loss of group property, taxation without true representation, the forcing of youth into national armies instead of allowing them to stay with their own people, lack of respect, work exploitation, etc. Their children are taken away to government boarding schools and their youth to the army.
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Before children or youth are taken away, during school leave periods or during furlough periods from the army, elders seek to socialize and circumcise their offspring in shorter more intense periods. Naturally, when the environment or the economy changes, the culture is also affected. In this case, more extended socialization periods and later customary circumcision rituals become changed to shorter, more intense socialization periods and often earlier before school age circumcision of boys and girls. Some practitioners of FC state its functions as: "It is our culture;" or, "It is our religious obligation;" or "All normal our people have done it," or "It makes you clean, beautiful, better, sweet-smelling," or "You will be able to marry, be presentable to your husband, able to satisfy and keep your husband, able to conceive and bear children.
Keep in mind that among practicing groups, everyone or almost everyone in the community is circumcised. Therefore, it is normal in such groups. In such communities, those women who are not circumcised are traditionally prostitutes or members of outcast or formerly "slave" groups. But even most of those women are circumcised in communities where this custom is practiced. The only other women not circumcised in such a community would be outsiders-African or other women from non-circumcising groups-the others.
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Intermarriage with non-circumcised men or women is usually not allowed or is extremely rare. When it does occur, the circumcising group usually only permits it if the non-circumcised future spouse becomes circumcised. During conflict, one way of identifying "the other" as in Europe during W. II is whether or not he or she is circumcised. Sometimes, even during certain recent intergroup conflicts in parts of Africa forced circumcisions, usually of men kidnapped or captured from the non-circumcising competing group sometimes occurred. Often the rationale for male and female circumcision is that it is necessary to make neutral term a real male or female.
This le to a further explanation that "men are hard and women are soft," and that the "soft" part of a man's genital, e. As in many other instances, the "crossover"-soft foreskin and hard clitoris-is seen as dangerous to the formation of "completely" male and female adults, who in traditional societies almost always have an equal but separate and complementary rather than equal and overlapping sexual and social role.
The explanation of surgical procedures that temple drawings and pyramid carvings show, done years ago, indicates that early African societies: ancient Egyptian, Nubian, Ethiopian, as well as medieval and modern societies, were aware of the erectile nature of the clitoris and that it was an orgasmic area of stimulation.
Research also indicates that the process of socialization with the usually patrilineal birth group of a male or female child was often physically marked. That mark could be circumcision or scarification. Scarification was to protect children from kidnapping in war or slave raiding and to locate those so abducted.
It was also in many traditional groups thought to make the child different from the child sent by the gods or ancestors and therefore, hopefully, keeping that child from being reclaimed or taken back to the gods or ancestors quickly because of an altered physique. Ear piercing would be done for similar reasons.