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Female genital cutting in Africa: A first layer of meanings Wednesday, October 18, 2000.

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Presentation on theme: "Female genital cutting in Africa: A first layer of meanings Wednesday, October 18, 2000."— Presentation transcript:

1 Female genital cutting in Africa: A first layer of meanings Wednesday, October 18, 2000

2 Being distributed Topics for third segment paper Guide for next week’s readings

3 Two important concerns Does seeking to understand the values and worldviews that sustain FGC mean that we are condoning it? Why are we starting this segment by focussing on women who are not opposed to FGC? Isn’t there anti-FGC sentiment? –Yes! We will focus on that on Nov 6 –Still, research shows ongoing predominance of acceptance (example of Rendille) – Without starting with acceptance, hard to understand on-the-ground reality –Without understanding acceptance, difficult to strategize about how to end practice

4 Objectives today Help you understand how African women regard FGC as a rite of passage help you understand how African women regard FGC as supporting their roles as wives and mothers (have included, as per your request, passages of speech) Next time: –associations with beauty, purity, religion –the nature of “cut” women’s sexual lives

5 Becoming an adult person FGC a rite of passage The Mandinga of Guinea-Bissau –all girls and boys at age 10 go through rite –seclusion, operation, celebration –the teaching of “knowing the eye”: learning to be a respectful person –creation of life-long cohort –the role of pain in the rite –feelings of admiration, anticipation, and pride

6 Mandinga woman, Guinea- Bissau –“When I was circumcized, I wasn’t afraid and it didn’t even hurt. When the ngamano cut me, I asked her, ‘Is that it?’… To this day, the old woman still smiles at me when she greets me.”

7 Sudanese woman “When I was little, about six years old, I could not wait to be circumcized. I recall that I used to beg my mother constantly to bring me to the midwife’s place to circumcize me. I still remember that my mother used to tell me to wait until my little sister is a bit older so that we can be circumcized together. Waiting was like a lifetime. Personally, I think that I would have died at that point, if my mother did not have me circumcized.”

8 Becoming marriageable Puberty and older: marriageability –becoming an adult woman: to marry and have children –uncut women cannot marry –FGC believed to make possible the bearing of many, healthy, legitimate children for husband’s family

9 FGC pain and the pain of childbirth Widespread claim that FGC “prepares” young woman for pain of childbirth –Somalian women The Rendille of Kenya upon marriage –Bravery and self-control –readiness to endure childbirth and other hardships –After FGC, women allocated livestock, called respectful terms

10 Enhancement of fertility Belief, esp. with infibulation, that closure protects womb from pollution Example of Somali women Read article by Janice Boddy very carefully!

11 Marital fidelity Infibulation and virginity at marriage –“good risk” –the young woman’s feelings of personal honor –feeling of honoring the family Ability to be a faithful wife –Men’s point of view –Women’s point of view

12 Somalian woman “When I was circumcised, there could no longer be any question about my honor, no one could say of me: ‘Maybe she slept with so-and-so before marriage. Because the whole family would suffer from that. If one girl doesn’t get circumcized, the honor of the family suffers, for they say: the family is no good. If I weren’t circumcized, maybe no one would want to marry my sisters!”

13 Ability to bear legitimate children Only cut women can bear legitimate children Husband’s family indebted to wife –Respectful treatment from sons –Respectful treatment from brothers-in-law

14 Somalian man –“You had better treat your mother with more respect, boy! A circumcized woman! A woman whose womb has brought forth three sons into this family! That is a circumcized woman, my son, not some loose woman who can be treated as of little account! Without her, this family would have no one to pass along the name! Now you listen: you start giving her gifts, you cast your eyes down when she enters a room; do you hear me?”

15 Sudanese man –“Is this how you speak to your sister-in-law? Have you forgotten that she is circumcized? If this is how you treat circumcized women, then does your own family mean nothing to you?”

16 Starting purity and beauty Purity: the example of the Rendille: “For Rendille women, circumcision is the only thing that separates us from the animals”

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