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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Untying tradition

Ending female circumcision is a priority for Lutheran church women in Tanzania and elsewhere

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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April issue

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Faith traditions

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