„Don’t meddle with our culture“ – was just recently the message from Maasai-elders in Oloitoktok (Kenya) to the Kenyan government and non-governmental Anti FGM-crusaders:
After decades of awareness- and education-campaigns among the Maasai, the knowledge about the devastating effects does not impress the tribe’s male patriarchs: They insist on the continuation of Female Genital Mutilation by referring to their „culture“.
But what is this „culture“? If we have a look under the surface of the Maasai’s exotic folklore, it becomes obvious that this „culture“ consists first of all of scroupulosly cultivated violence, and oppression against children and the female members of the society .
In fact, this „culture“ contains a perfectly organised, ritualised and perfidly justified excess of women’s enslavement and sadistic male violence.
Just a few examples:
– The girl-children (often aged only 8 – 10) are traditionally sold by their fathers to other men – who pay a few cows. The price is being negociated between the men, the girls have no choice in this matter. Despite this procedure is often euphemistically referred to as „marriage“, it would be more appropriate to call it „slave trade“.
– Before the girl is being handed out to the new owner, her clitoris and labia minore are being cut off. Men consider this violent act as guarantee to limit the sexual desire and promiscuity of girls – while they take the right to buy as many female slaves as they can afford – and refuse to buy girls who have not been deprived of their sexuality.
– Maasai women do traditionally not have the right to own property – not even their own body – they are being owned: When their owner dies, all property is being inherited by the oldest son – women get nothing.
– The female slaves are doomed to do the hardest work while excessive domestic violence (beating, caning) against them is on daily occurence…
This list could be extended – only it is not my intention to get out of hand.
Today, many Maasai are educated and live a „sophistiated urban live“, awareness-campaigns regarding violence against women and FGM have been run for the last decades.
Despite these facts, the prevalence of mutilated girls remains as high as 93-99% – indicating once more that Female Genital Mutilation has nothing to do with lifestyle or education-level – but with a deeply rooted Macho-attitude and male’s interest to keep the status quo: the violent domination over women.
As long as the Kenyan government remains in it’s passivity instead of enforcing their law to punish the mutilators – as long as Western development-organisations like Plan International, World Vision, UNICEF and others refuse to stipulate the children- and women’s rights in their preconditions for support it is mere child’s play for those Maasai patriarchs to maintain their culture of violence…
Foto (c) Flickr / Emilia Tjernström