Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Woman’s Inwomanity to Woman

Pix credit: andrewbostom.org
Fire Down Below: Circumcision in Progress

Ol’ boy, you are still reading? I thought you’ve finished your semester exams.

Yes, I have. But that does not stop me from reading to enjoy myself.

That’s true. So, which book are you reading?

It’s The African Child by Camara Laye. I just love reading the book.

What’s so fascinating about it?

Everything you can imagine. But the part I love most is the growing up years of the author in his native Guinea, especially the ritual of circumcision. I just love that. You know what? In the traditional African setting, a man is not a man until he has undergone that ritual. And this is done just as he is about to reach the age of puberty.

Let me tell you, I do not subscribe to this idea of circumcising a child at an age when a boy is already dreaming dreams. It is painful and traumatic. I can remember my friend’s experience. He was not circumcised until he was in secondary school. That time, he would not bathe in the open like other boys. He would wait until everybody had left the stream before undressing and having a quick one before prying eyes could spot his hooded member.

That’s the price he had to pay for culture. In our own village, if girls knew a boy was still carrying a hood about, they would be teasing him with shouts of “aladodo … aladodo!”

Ehen..en, that reminds me... What’s “aladodo” in English?

“Aladodo” simply means a boy or man who carries his member about with its “parachute” yet to be detached.

You mean Camara Laye went through this ordeal?

Sure! The Malinke, Laye’s ethnic group, are neck-deep in this rite of passage. I’m sure all those Camaras, Diarras, Toures and Diallos of Guinea that you have heard about must also have been “aladodo” sometime in their lives. Every male goes through this ordeal whether consciously or sub-consciously.

How about the girls?

My God! I think they are very, very unlucky in the traditional setting. While the boys have their foreskins or hoods or “parachutes” or whatever removed, the girls have theirs “beheaded” phiam, just like that! Just like they behead people in Saudi Arabia. Pity!

Pix from dimaggio.org
Shh... Stop bleeding!

That’s cruel. And most of this beheading of the female thing is even done by women! Can you imagine!

That’s what I call woman’s “inwomanity” to woman though feminists who, however, prefer to be called gender activists, will describe female circumcision as “a natural continuation of the ancient patriarchal repression of female sexuality.”

They may be right. Circumcision, in this regard, is an understatement. It is what my activist female friend calls female genital mutilation, FGM. She says there are three forms of the FGM, the first of which is circumcision. This involves the removal of the prepuce of hood of the protruding part of the female member, PPFM, and it is the one they say is the least severe.

What is PPFM?

You want me to use all my mouth to pronounce the name? Before I finish saying “cli....” they would have clipped my wings and tied me to the stakes awaiting verbal execution for murdering decency. So let it be. The second form of the FGM is excision and it involves the removal or partial removal of the PPFM and all or part of the female genitalia (I hope that is not offensive either). It is the commonest and it accounts for 80 per cent of all forms of mutilations in the world. However, the mother of all forms of FGM is the one called infibulation. It is the severest, the most wicked and the most uncivilised. I shiver to describe this criminal act.

Go ahead. You can’t frighten an old woman with the size of your “tuber”. Neither can you resort to using a knife to decipher a word no matter how big it is.

That one na proverb! Anyway, as I was saying, infibulation requires the removal of the PPFM, the inner genitals and most of all of the outer genitals. Wait o! I hope this is not becoming too graphic and obscene. The two sides of the vulva are then stitched together with thread, reed or thorns to prevent the girl from sleeping with a man. Osanobuah!!! Picture that in your mind. Don’t you feel like shivering? You haven’t heard anything yet. The natural opening is sewn together like a bag of cocoa being packaged for export. A tiny opening is just preserved by the insertion of a twig, allowing for the passing of urine!

Jeeesus Christ! What wickedness is that?

Wait a minute... The ordeal is not over yet. The girl’s legs are then tied together for one month or more to allow the wounds to heal and scar tissues to form. Djibouti is notorious for this kind of man’s inhumanity to man. It is a country where about 95 per cent of the women are circumcised! It is scary! A total of two million women undergo FGM every year in Africa and some parts of Asia and South America. It is common in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia in the Horn of Africa and in some parts of East Africa. So also in West Africa, but less of an issue in matrilineal societies like Ghana and Senegal. Yet, female activists continue to fight for the right of women to be spared the agony of unnecessary female circumcision. They argue it is of no positive value; rather it represses women sexually and endangers their lives through post-removal complications and trauma which often lead to depression.

I think circumcision should be banned all over the world. It’s gruesome.

If you mean female circumcision, yes. But as for male circumcision, no. For how long will a man be carrying “lagbaja” (the masked one) about in his pants? However, I have good news for mutilated women who want to have their paradise restored. Burkina Faso is it. It is where circumcised women regain their sexual identity through surgery, a kind of restorative intervention discovered about 15 years ago. It is the only country in West Africa where women who have suffered the physical as well as psychological trauma of circumcision can have their mutilated organs rebuilt and repackaged, and, if you like, rebranded a la Sisi Dora: Good surgery, Great women! Tra la la!

Woman's Inwomanity to Woman was first published in TELL, June 29, 2009.

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