Saturday, June 30, 2007
Female genital mutilation and other matters (2)
DEAREST Dora, Immediately, one of the seven elders responsible for justice rose up with a calabash filled with water in one hand. As he spoke, he poured the water onto the ground.
“That, you Lariba Ayrliki Morma, in the past few months, contrary to the edict from the palace outlawing female genital mutilation in this traditional area, went about the neighboring villages, secretly practicing your trade on young girls.
You have shown great disrespect and disregard for the laws of our land, our King and our people, and for that matter deserve to be punished according to custom. ” By the time he finished reading out the charges, there was not a drop of water left in the calabash.
The crowd grew impatient and went into a chant “She must die!........ She must die!....... She must die!”.
The charges leveled against her had been read out for her. The crowd gathered under the ancient baobab tree chanting for her blood.
The elder in charge of justice somehow finally managed to get the crowd calmed down and went ahead to address the gathering. “Well, the people want your blood. But before the occupier of the lion skin announces the verdict, may I ask if you have anything to say in your defence”?
There was complete silence as Lariba looked across the sea of hostile taunting faces almost encircling her. She lifted up her head and looked at the branches of baobab tree. She saw a bird. The bird made some noise and flew away. She looked down at the earth under her feet and slowly lifted her head. Her gaze met that of the Wuli Komba.
She was looking directly at him and him at her. She was not prepared to drop her gaze. They kept looking at each other. At a point; it was obvious the Wuli Komba was feeling uncomfortable. “Somebody should tell that woman we are waiting. If she has anything to say she must say it now or else…,” roared the lion king. “Speak now woman, for you are choking the king with your silence,” echoed the elder responsible for justice. An ominous silence befell the ground and people waited anxiously for the accused’s defence.
There was a long pause during which Lariba sorted through her mind the appropriate words that must proceed from her lips.
She smiled sardonically and said, “My chief, elders and people of Saluki, I stand here this evening under this ancient baobab tree accused of performing a role that tradition and people of this community trusted into my hands through my fore fathers.
I admit that I have been circumcising young girls, for that is my profession. But I won’t accept that I have been mutilating them.
I am a qualified and traditionally certified and recognized circumcisionist of no means repute and not a mutilator. Besides, I have been executing this job following the rules of tradition and culture as handed down to us by our ancestors. For me, it is a profession from which I derive my livelihood.
If society today requires of me to stop practicing my age-old profession without putting in place a sustainable alternative means of livelihood to support my family and I, then I beg to say that society is not being fair to us.
Unless of course, society intends for me and my family to go begging. But I am too proud to beg anybody for anything under the sun. I’ll prefer hunger and death to begging to live. Let me emphasise here that our profession is a noble one.
If there is any father or mother here this evening, whose girl-child has died or suffered unduly as a result of the circumcision preformed at my hand, let the parents step forward and denounce me”.
She paused and waited for her accusers to step forward. There was murmuring among the crowd. Nobody stepped forward. This perhaps emboldened her to stick out her neck a little further. “May I know if there is any woman here who lost her husband because she had been circumcised?” Again, nobody came forward.
“My revered elders, before Iam punished allow me to share a few thoughts with you. They are thoughts that have plagued my mind for quite sometime now. I am not trying to justify what society now considers a crime and for which I am going to be punished. I accept the verdict of society and would not question it. Society is always right.
But I only wish society would spend some time to consider the issues I am about to raise. The may not be very important all the same.
I’ll still beg of society to give the thoughts a serious look, though it’s coming from an old woman. Our elders say “even when a man is swollen, his teeth never get swollen.” A whiff of laughter swept through a section of the crowd.
“We have succeeded in criminalizing female circumcision to a point where we have surreptitiously replaced the word “circumcision” with “mutilation” and in the process, have turned poor innocent practitioners in the eyes of society.
Interestingly enough, society seems to have turned a blind eye to the other agents causing very serious mutilation to our females. There seemed to be an excitement among the crowd. People began to push around for positions so as to hear clearly the full details of what Lariba had to say.
All we know is FGM? But how many of us are aware of FSM? I am talking about female skin mutilation. Yes we allow the importation and manufacture of dangerous chemicals and authorise people to dispense same to our women to mutilate their skins.
Most of these women end up with skin deformities such as “nansuoben” and cancer which finally lead to the death of the women. Statistics show that more women die from skin cancer as a result of bleaching than of FGM.
There is also the FHM. I wonder how many of you know about it – female hair mutilation.
We have been brainwashed to believe that for our God-given black and beautiful, kinky, wooly African hair to look dark and lovely, we should apple some chemicals manufactured by a company in Europe and America to our scalps. Surprisingly, nobody is educating us on the extent of harm the chemicals cause to our feminine heads and our brains.
Has anybody found out why most women these days complain of headaches more than it used to be in the days of our mothers and grandmothers? Very slowly, the chemicals are seeping through the pores into our brains and killing us softly.
If we have criminalized FGM, we should now turn our attention to these other acts of mutilation that has the capacity to eventually kill our mothers and sisters.
Unfortunately, most of the female TV Talk Show hosts and leaders of NGOs and gender activists who could be spearheading this crusade to criminalize FSM and FHM have themselves become willing victims of those two forms of female mutilations.
They have bleached their skins and straightened their hair with dangerous kill—me-softly chemicals. These, my noble elders, are the few thoughts I wished to share with you, after which he who occupies the lion skin can pronounce the final verdict. I am done”.
The murmuring among the crowd intensified. It was obvious the crowd was divided over the type of verdict that should be pronounced on her.
Dora, supposing you were the Wuli Komba, the occupier of the lion skin, how would you rule on this matter? I need your input.
THE MIRROR - Saturday, June 30, 2007 Page: 37