For the maasai of east africa circumcision represents

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For the Maasai of East Africa, circumcision represents the beginning of adulthood for both boys and girls. Boys must endure the operation without flinching or crying out, while girls are allowedto show pain but cannot marry or bear legitimate children within Maasai society if they refuse to undergo the procedure. In their book African Ceremonies(2002), Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher note that the Maasai “believe that the male or female youngster who undergoes the agony of such an ordeal with courage will be able to endure the challenges of life and uphold the proud reputation of the Maasai people.”Many initiations culminate with a supreme test. In Ethiopia, Hamar boys complete the Jumping of the Bulls, a ritual in which they must leap over the backs of 20 to 40 bulls in order to demonstrate their manhood. Young Maasai warriors must prove their courage by hunting lions with only a spear. In Bassari culture, the climax of the Koré ritual is a duel between each new initiate and a fierce masked spirit known as Lukata. Krono girls also undergo a final trial in which they are lowered several times onto a sacred stone in a test of their virginity.After completion of the isolation period, the initiates return to the community as fully fledged adults and are reintegrated through a public ceremony and celebration. After undergoing these
rites of passage, both sexes are prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood and are allowed andexpected to participate in society in fundamentally different ways. For some groups, this change is so dramatic that the newly initiated aduly is given a new name and presented to the communityas a different person.The emphasis placed on specific aspects of initiation varies greatly, with some ethnic groups placing greater importance on the physical tests of bravery and toughness, others emphasizing spiritual aspects, and still others focusing on practical education. In any case, the bonds that develop between initiates during the period of seclusion and trial usually last a lifetime.Both coming-of-age rituals and circumcision are still widely practiced today but have frequently become separated from one another, even in places where they traditionally went hand in hand. Anthopologist Ylva Hernlund, who has conducted extensive fieldwork in Gambia and had authored or edited numerous publications on FGC, notes that in many places, coming-of-age rituals still take place that have nothing to do with circumcision while in other parts of the continent, especially in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia), circumcisions are performed on both boys and girls without any ritual context at all.The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide, 91.5 million of them in Africa, have undergone FGC, with another 3 million undergoing the procedure every year. The procedure is still practiced in 28 African countries, most located in a belt stretching across the continent at its widest point, from Senegal and Mauretania in the west to Somalia in the eats, with Egypt and Tanzania extending out from the belt to

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