Today is probably the first time I checked out an nytimes.com blog. I usually go for the frontcover stuff. However, this particular entry was difficult to pass over.
I had hoped that my next African feminism entry would be later in the month, but I guess I could not help myself (oh, and I'll eventually respond to the tag from Ore).
It was only recently (say like a year or two ago), that I found out that female circumcision is still practiced in Nigeria amongst some groups, including Igbos. (Yeah, I was shocked about the latter, for even my even my cultural consultants, i.e. my parents, were unaware that it is practiced).
Of course the witness of many, including within the Nigerian community, testify to the practice being repressive and another means to subjugate women physically, sexually and otherwise. Additionally, there is evidence that it leads to adverse birthing outcomes and increased HIV/AIDs transmission, through the use of infected materials.
I am also aware of the arguments for FGM, which before reading the nytimes.com entry, I had only heard from women on the ground who state that is a part of their culture and that it no different from male circumcision, tatooing, breast augumentation, or cutting the umbilical cord to the point of creating a navel (belly button) in infants.
However, this is the first time I have seen academia address and advocate these arguments. In this case, it was from a post-doctoral candidate who traveled back to Sierra Leone in order to undergo female circumcision.
Personally, I am not against her decision for she felt that to do so would be empowering, both as a woman and as a member of the Kono. However, I am not comfortable with having it as standard practice amongst girls who are not at the age of consent. Even so, if one were to say the age of consent is 18, I am sure there are other very real pressures on women to perform the practice that may seem like coercion (threat of being labeled an outcast in the family and community, etc.). The decision of a post-doc to spend how many hundreds of dollars traveling back to Sierra Leone to undergo circumcision is on very different playing field from a female child or young woman who's social and financial well being is predicated on her willingness to adhere to a practice she may not agree with.
So what's the bottomline here? Well, more power to Fuambai Ahmadu for presenting a viewpoint that is definitely against the grain in the West. I am always for hearing out an alternative explanation. However, as women and as people, we also need to be careful as to whether our personal efforts to liberate ourselves could run the risk of creating a problem for others. Ahmadu, go and do you, but, please, not at the expense of the African girl-child.
oh and "akuko nke abuo" means story part 2 or the second part....and I know, the dots under the u and o are missing...if you know how I can get those characters...let me know.
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