Heather in Senegal

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fatou was circumcised when she was twelve years old. She did not want to be cut. After she was forced into the hut where the old woman was waiting with her knife, Fatou held her knees together with all her strength. The other women could not pry her legs open, so a man was brought in, and he pulled her legs apart. The old woman nicked Fatou's cliteris, and Fatou bled a lot. Walking, sitting, and urinating, hurt for weeks afterwards.

A few years later, a man and woman came from Dakar to talk to school children about circumcision. Fatou was initially embarassed to speak about her experience, but the couple from Dakar were so open about their own genital cuttings, that Fatou was soon willing to share her story. The couple talked about the dangers of circumcisions, from the risks of a dirty knife to the potential of an especially invasive circumcisions causing a split to erupt between the anus and the vagina during childbirth. They spoke about Islam not requiring circumcision, and about it being an old cultural tradition designed to keep women from enjoying sex, and thus from being unfaithful to their husbands. They offered to speak to anyone's parents.

Fatou brought the couple home to her parents. By this time circumcision had been made illegal in Senegal. Fatou's mother talked with the pair for a few hours. She was interested, but not entirely convinced that she should break ties with the old practice. Fatou, however, was very emphatically against circumcision, and told her mother in no uncertain terms that if she had Fatou's younger sister circumcised, Fatou would call the police. After saving her sister from being circumcised, Fatou has gone on to talk to other people in the neighborhood. She is extremely open and blunt about her experience and her arguments against circumcision. She says all people her age who attend school are against circumcision because they have been educated about its dangers. Making circumcision illegal in itself has not made big enough strides towards ending the practice, but open dialogue about the risks involved is, I think, going to save much of the coming generation from being cut.


At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this - it's really interesting to hear how this practice is being changed...


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