Genital Mutilation Common in 28 African & Middle
In Man, on the Ivory Coast of Africa, Marthe Bleuis is a 12 year old, shy and pretty little
girl with a heart-shaped face. She enjoys being casually dressed in flip-flops and a lacy
white pinafore trimmed in pink satin. But already her body is taking on the soft, rounded
shape of womanhood. And these days she wants more than anything to do what she
believes stands between her and being grown up. She wants to have her genitals cut off.
In the lament of pubescent girls everywhere, she says that all her friends are getting ahead
of her. Their parents have sent them into the woods where village women "cut what is
down there," she said, gesturing to her lap.
After the rite, the girls are showered with gifts of money, jewelry and cloth. Their
families honor them with sumptuous celebrations where hundreds of relatives and friends
feast on goat, cow and chicken.
"It is the custom, and I want to respect it," she said.
The tradition of female genital cutting is woven into the everyday life of the Yacouba
people here, just as it is for hundreds of ethnic groups in a wide band of
across Africa. In Man, it is part of a girl's dreams of womanhood, a father's desire to
show off with a big party and a family's way of proving its conformity to social
The rising chorus of international condemnation of this age-old practice, voiced in recent
years from the podiums of United Nations assemblies in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing,
echoes only faintly in places like Man, a tourist town deep in the interior, surrounded by
the craggy, cloud-shrouded Toura mountains.
On the coast, in the cosmopolitan hubbub of Abidjan, and in other parts of Africa, the
debate about female genital cutting is slowly moving into the public arena. Only in the
last few years have African nations even begun measuring the prevalence of genital
cutting as part of national health surveys or in other research.
In the Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic, 2 out of 5 women have been cut. In
Togo, it is one in 8. In the Sudan -- the only country that already had reliable national
estimates -- it is 9 out of 10. In Mali, it is 93 percent.
"It looks like women in most countries are nearly as likely to undergo these procedures as
their mothers and grandmothers," said Dara Carr, a researcher at Macro International