I remember the first time I learned about female “genital mutilation.” I was pretty young, probably 10 or 11 if I recall it correctly. The practice was normal in my home country, Ethiopia even though the government had a policy against female genital mutilation. Some people still undergo the practice. Most, however, are from the rural area.
It is believed that if a girl is not genital mutilated she won’t be able to find a husband that will marry her. The genital mutilation is thought to keep women from having sexual desires. So they won’t have sex if they don’t get the urge. Most people here believe the practice will guarantee a young girl’s virginity which is thought to be a prerequisite for an honourable marriage. If the husband doesn’t find her virgin when they have sex for the first time, he’ll send her to her parent’s house. Parents force their kids to have genital surgeries in order to keep their honour. Parents believe without the procedure their kids will be ostracized for life, and the chances of finding a good husband and a secure future will be completely ruined.
Female genital mutilation and cutting are against the law in Ethiopia. However, in some rural areas tradition is stronger than the law. Law enforcement alone can hardly break the deeply rooted tradition. It is very dangerous to go only through a legal process, because if people are not convinced they will hide away and continue with the practice. It is very crucial to teach the community how bad female genital mutilation is. It is a must to make sure that the legal provisions are there, but also that people talk about it. One strategy that can be to foster open discussion is community dialogue is residents, gathering to attend a forum on the practice. It will be up to communities themselves to reach consensus on the harm being inflicted on their daughters and ultimately make the collective decision to abandon the practice.