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.
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
- 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.