FGM in Africa
African woman has a unique body figure that makes her exceptional. She uses natural ornaments to enhance her beauty when needed. Unfortunately, female genital mutilation (FGM) is a menace that has harassed African girls since the time in memorial. Female genital mutilation has been practiced by communities that believe that both men and women should be circumcised to mature. This practice is common in African cultures that still hold their beliefs of circumcision. FGM has caused a lot of pain, agony and suffering to African women. Many women have died while thousands of others suffered for the rest of their lives after undergoing the cut. Moreover, FGM greatly contributes to the poverty levels in Africa. A poor woman goes through FGM, gives birth to more than seven children who later go through the same process. Most governments in Africa have tried to curb this menace. However, the approach they used concentrates on hunting the perpetrators of the practice. Unfortunately, because FGM is culturally embraced, it becomes hard to eliminate. Therefore, there is a need to educate the society about the importance of avoiding FGM to neutralize the cultures. Governments must work together with their communities to protect the beauty and innocence of African women.
Context and importance of the problem
In most of the traditional African communities, both men and women should undergo a circumcision to mature. Usually, Africans are ready to defend their beliefs at all costs since they value their cultures. Most of the values that African traditional societies hold are appropriate as they help them remain united. In addition, Africans have the values that are exceptional in the world. Their cultures teach children to respect the elders. According to Mohammed (2008), there are a lot of good values in Africa that originate from their cultures. However, some of them are primitive and oppressive in respect to human rights, which should be stopped immediately. Female genital mutilation is common in African communities as it is deeply rooted in their cultures. Most communities believe that both a girl and a boy should go through circumcision to transition from childhood to adulthood. Therefore, African women are not exempt from the knife (Mohammed, 2008).
Unfortunately, female circumcision has many negative impacts on African woman. Firstly, FGM can cause death as a result of excess breeding after mutilation. The process is usually conducted by traditional specialists who do not have the means to stop the breeding after the cut. Secondly, girls and women are exposed to the HIV infection and other diseases. The perpetrators of this evil culture use the same tools with all the women without sterilization. Therefore, women are likely to pass diseases from one victim to another. FGM can also cause complications during the childbirth. Cutting of the female genitals destroys their sexual organs as it removes the muscle and leaves a scar that cannot expand and contract during the childbirth. Thus, a woman and her child can be endangered during the process. After a child is born, a woman is at risk of fistula development because of the difficulties at birth. Therefore, a woman might face the future of shame because of a failure to control urine (Ehrenreich & Barr, 2005).
Ehrenreich & Barr (2005) argues that after undergoing circumcision, young girls are believed to be mature. Therefore, they are ready to get married. In this case, most of the girls at the school age drop out to get married. They agree to be married to men of any age to experience the next rite of passage. Thus, they start giving birth at an early age causing complications because they are not mature enough to be mothers. After getting married, girls give birth to many children as they do not have a say in their marriage. Moreover, they have no education since they have dropped out of school. They cannot understand the importance of education and thus, end up giving birth to another poor generation that will go through the same process (Ehrenreich & Barr, 2005).
African society encourages female circumcision. According to the cultural beliefs, a girl should go through the cut to become a woman. Women are their own enemies in African culture. A girl who decided to refuse the cut is considered a coward. In fact, women will mock her until she agrees to face the knife. In such communities as the Abagusii of Kenya and Uganda, women will not help their fellow women who are not circumcised to give birth. In these communities, a woman in labor is circumcised before the baby comes out. They claim that it is wrong to allow a baby be born of an immature woman. On the other hand, men also support this practice. In most communities, men will not agree to marry a woman who is not circumcised. They claim that a woman is immature and cannot face the challenges of marriage. Therefore, women prefer to fulfil the expectations of men to avoid becoming the outcasts in the society (Berer, 2007).
In most African countries, there is a policy aimed to reduce FGM. It focuses on persecution of parents of the girls and perpetrators of the cut. Any parent who makes their daughter follow the cultural tradition is arrested and sued for forcing the girl to undergo the cut. Traditional specialists that take part in the process are also persecuted. However, the rule of the law against parents and specialists has not done enough (Mohammed, 2008). Many FGM cases are still present in Africa. Despite civilization and education in the continent, African woman still suffers the consequences of FGM. HIV infection has risen in some African communities including Somali and Samburu. Therefore, there is a need for a well-rounded and all-inclusive policy to reduce FGM (Berer, 2007).
Critique of policy option
African governments have tried to reduce the prevalence of FGM in the continent. However, the method concentrates on parents of the victim and perpetrators of the process. These long-term goals become hard to achieve because society lacks the reasons for the termination of the practice. In addition, African cultures are strongly rooted in the minds of the people. Usually, these communities are ready to defend their culture at all costs. In this context, they hide people that continue the practice as they consider it the right thing. Hence, it becomes hard for the government to arrest parents and the specialists involved. Unfortunately, local authorities that represent the government are part of the community. Most of them participate in the practice or simply support it because they cannot betray their people (Gerry & LeJeune, 2008). Therefore, the practice remains and women continue suffering. Women who refuse to go through the cut are rejected and seen as immoral betrayers of their cultures. Thus, there is a need for a critical change of that approach. Public education should be included in the fight against female genital mutilation to help African societies understand why the practice is wrong (Wildenthal, 2012).
Berer (2007) points out that the solution to FGM in African communities lies behind the African mind. Since Africans value their cultures so much, FGM can only be eliminated if the cultures are neutralized. Many communities have ceased the primitive and dangerous practices of female circumcision. However, others strongly hold onto their cultures. In this case, the first step in eliminating the menace is to educate the community. Public education should start at the village level. There should be a continuous campaign in the villages to educate local communities about the dangers associated with FGM (Berer, 2007). When local people will understand why the practice of FGM is wrong, they are likely to stop it. However, the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is very important in African culture. Therefore, educators have to offer communities new methods of maturing as well as training girls to become women. For instance, teenage girls can be taken to training or camping sites for two or three weeks, where they are taught how to behave like women and treat their future husbands (Wildenthal, 2012). After the training, girls should go back home and enjoy a celebration. They should be welcomed home as women who have gone through the rite of initiation. Communities should be educated to understand that initiation does not have to be in a form of the circumcision. This campaign should remain for several consequent years because it is the only way to change the minds of people. According to Gerry & LeJeune (2008), cultures are hard to change, but education and information can help. When communities understand that female genital mutilation is wrong, they will fight those who still support the practice. Consequently, people will voluntarily report anyone who tries to hurt African woman with FGM (Gerry & LeJeune, 2008).