This is one point that I’ve found I cannot and will not budge for cultural relativism. It’s a question of quality of life as well as health and individual autonomy. To take away someone’s sexual pleasure simply because of their gender is to deny them something that is inherent to all people. It is a human rights violation. There’s the health risk too, since women do not go to a clinic to have their circumcision or ritual scarring (boys do), that means dirty knives, dirty water, and no pain killers whatsoever. A woman who undergoes this operation has a higher risk of HIV (logically, I don’t know the statistics here), and other infection as well as long term health risks associated with child birth (going back to fistulas here). Besides the sexual violence that is her nightly routine as she cannot feel pleasure and is not permitted to say no to her husband. Marital rape is a real problem and men are just beginning to realize that if their wife says she’s tired, that means hands off.
So as far as the Sande go, I don’t mind the secretiveness, the community decision making, the unity among women, or the traditional values imparted. The only one that I would say needs to be taken a look at again is circumcision, particularly for girls. But that’s my rant about that.
2 thoughts on “Speaking of FGM…”
If you are lucky, you may be able to get some of the women at the compound to talk more about it. Some of them opened up last year to the other intern. It really is sad that it continues on and that some people still try to argue that its acceptable on “cultural relativism” grounds.
I've actually talked to a few women about it. No one has told me if they were circumcised, but I don't think that's necessary, especially since many are Kpelleh and went through the Sande school.
As for the men, they have been a little more open about it than I expected. If I bring it up (and I'm the only one who would bring something like that up) most men say they wouldn't want their daughters to go to Sande school (though they often pass the buck and say that it's the grandparents who force the issue). Again, it's not Sande that's the problem. I think the problem is that no one inside the system can stand up and make a Sande school that doesn't practice fgm. Or no one has, that I know of.