Wednesday, March 5, 2008

FGM rages on in Sierra Leone

This disturbing visual hails from Sierra Leone where some 800 women paraded and protested their right to female genital mutilation. These women, ironically 185 miles east of Freetown, danced and sang a warning to outside governments and groups against "any attempt to take away our traditional ritual".

Mamie Banya, a member of the Bondo Society, claimed, "Any organisation that has accepted funds from overseas donors to wage war against FGM is fighting a losing battle. Let donors keep their money, we will keep our culture."

The ritual is regarded as "harmless" while it "promotes marital fidelity". One demonstrator even stated that "it has made us women be responsible housewives to our husbands". Women were actually using the phrase "we love FGM" during their protest. They say that if the process was outlawed in their region, as it is in many others all over Africa, they "will become uncontrollable". It is a very important part of their culture that they hold dear.

That is hard for an American to handle, especially when we hear so many stories of women who experienced it as children; women who were scared, in great pain, forced against all will to be cut by unsanitary tools. According to the July 12th issue of Women's Policy, Inc., written in 1996 mind you, in areas in the Sudan where antibiotics are not available, it is estimated that one-third of the girls undergoing FGM will die.

Another piece of this puzzle often left unmentioned is HIV. Many women, especially those who experience infibulation, the most severe and damaging form, are left with no sexual options other than anal intercourse to please their husbands. This radically increases the odds of catching and spreading the virus.

If you believe in prayer, please say one for these women. Those that are suffering from the practice against their will as well as those who fight desperately to maintain it.

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