Female Genital Mutilation

Maasai Resource Centre

The Maasai, an indigenous African tribe of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania, are among the groups that see the Female Genital Mutilation practice as an inherited cultural tradition.

Before Maasai girls in Kenya and Tanzania are married, they must undergo circumcision in a ceremony that 99 percent of the time is sponsored by their prospective suitors. Aside from the actual surgical procedure, the rite includes a ceremony in which the entire community comes together to celebrate the girl’s passage to adulthood.

Many Maasai families cannot afford to give their children formal schooling, so to protect their daughters from lives of poverty they choose to marry them off at a young age. Because Maasai girls are traditionally considered children until they are circumcised, it is seen as imperative for a Maasai girl to undergo the circumcision rite before she is married. This strongly ingrained cultural belief propels families to go to great lengths to complete the circumcision. Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed people in my Kenyan Maasai community being arrested for practicing female circumcision.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the traditional practice of initiating girls into womanhood. FGM among the Maasai is as high as 99%. FGM is one of the most strongly held tribal customs revered by both men and women among the Maasai people. Traditionally is not allowed to get married to an uncircumcised woman, all women must be circumcised in order to get married. So, FGM is part and parcel of the existence of the Maasai people from this perspective.

FGM subject women and girls to the violent process of cutting and removing all or part of their genitals especially the clitoris. Often local circumcisers, who have no medical training or capacity to deal with complications, use crude un-sterilized cutting metal instruments. FGM has very serious and irreversible physical and psychological effects on its victims such as extreme pain and shock, extensive bleeding, Sexually Transmitted Diseases including HIV transmission, problems during childbirth and continence

A Maasai Girl and Female Genital Mutilation

  • Risk of HIV/AIDs, tetanus, and other infections at the time of the "cut".
  • Risk of death at the time of circumcision due to blood loss and shock.
  • Removal of clitoris and inner &outer labia.
  • Removal from school at the age of 8-9 yrs. to be married off to a Maasai man in his 40s-50s.
  • Lifelong psychological trauma.
  • Chronic UTIs after circumcision
  • Childbirth can be life threatening due to scarring after being circumcised.
  • A lifetime of hauling water and firewood & bearing children.

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