• Reasons given for female circumcision include traditional requirements, religious cleansing, rites of passage, tribal or group identity, and loyalty.
• FGM is a violation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The majority of cases—75 percent—occur in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria. Some cases were reported in Malaysia, Australia, South America, Europe, the Middle East and in U.S. immigrant populations. It was also practiced in Europe and the U.S. until the 1930s by some medical practitioners as a treatment for “hysteria.”
You can’t tell the trauma a woman goes through
just by looking at her, says Rachel Ramadhani, director of women’s work
for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
Three photos testify to this truth. They reveal three generations of women who have suffered from female circumcision, also known as FGM—female genital mutilation.
Bertha gazes up at me from the faded paper with a sweet, solemn expression on her plump baby face (her name and others have been changed). When this girl from Singida was circumcised at age 4, she was cut so deeply her nerves were affected. She died in 1997 at age 6—gaunt, hollow-cheeked and mentally deteriorated.
Then there’s Habiba, glowing as she balances a heavy bundle on her head. Married at 16, she became pregnant one year later. When Habiba arrived at the hospital, it was too late for her stillborn child. Instead of a baby, she took home a severe form of fistulae—large holes in the muscle wall—that caused urinary and fecal incontinence.
The photo of Rehema shows a faint smile breaking through the wrinkles of her weathered face. At age 60, Rehema was finally treated for fistulae that caused her to suffer 30 years of urinary incontinence. The complications began during her third pregnancy, which ended in a stillbirth.
In Tanzania and other African countries, ending female circumcision, a traditional practice among Muslims, Christians and traditionalists, is becoming a priority for Lutherans.
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© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers