Female genital mutilation – a common practice in Atacora. Helping a young girl, Waama, refuse the practice.
I’m a teacher living at the heart of a community in Benin that still practices circumcision and cutting. It’s a rite of passage marking an adolescent’s transition to adulthood and takes place once every three years. The practice consists of men having the foreskin cut off and women having the clitoris cut and removed.
Whilst this practice causes less fewer repercussions in young men, it often leads to serious health problems in young women.
Firstly, the same knife is used for all of the women, so the risk of spreading disease, including HIV/AIDS, is high. In addition, the removal of the clitoris removes the woman’s right to sexual pleasure, as well as causing sterility, early menopause and other conditions.
Furthermore, the practice often leads to depression and creates physical and mental health issues. It can reduce her ability to work and thereby her income, making her less well-off and unhappy.
Finally, in spite of a variety of protests against the practice, it continues to happen. This resistance to change is due to the fact that the ceremony is held dear by the community, and is also seen to bring economic and cultural benefits. All of which make it difficult to eradicate the practice.
In order to stamp it out, in addition to developing policies and raising awareness, we must find stop-gap solutions that can lead to the eradication of this practice – solutions such as FACTAM (an Arts and
Cultures festival in the region), allowing the economic and celebratory aspects of the ceremony to be preserved. This will allow young women to renounce the practice of FGM, for the preservation of their honour, their health and their dignity.
This English translation has been possible thanks to the PerMondo project: Free translation of website and documents for non-profit organisations. A project managed by Mondo Agit. Translator: Rachel Holland. Proofreader: Scarlett Newton