The Motive behind FGM
"Genital Mutilation is an attempt to allocate women to an inferior position; it marks them with this stigma that degrades them and constantly reminds them that they are only women, that they have no right over their own bodies or to personal fulfillment.”
As the president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara campaigned for the rights of women and brought the public’s attention to female genital mutilation. He explains the motive behind FGM in a nutshell: A cultural climate where women are regarded as property it is fertile ground for violence against them.
For such extensive violence to be sustained over a long period of time, an ideological justification is a requirement as well as an important tool. Depending on ethnicity and region, there are various justifications that people use for the mutilation of girls:
- Family honor is linked to the sexuality of girls and many believe that one must control the female libido. Genital mutilation ensures that girls have no interest in premarital sex and will not get pregnant. When a girl’s “virginity” or chastity are in doubt, it becomes extremely difficult for her to marry. In interviews with women in Burkina Faso, many said that the mutilation of their genitals was to serve the pleasure of their future husbands.
- Often times, FGM is cloaked with religious duty. Few religious leaders condemn such violence and many advocate for it.
- Some argue that such practices are deeply rooted in tradition and must be continued to please the ancestors.
- Frequently, the practice is justified by aesthetics: girls are regarded as “clean” and “beautiful” if the body parts that are considered “unclean” or “smelly” are removed.
- There are also several myths that the clitoris kills the child during birth or FGM will increase female fertility.
The list of these interchangeable myths used to justify violence can be continued at will. It is clear that the advocates of genital mutilation are creating a threatening backdrop: Families or girls who no longer want to bow to tradition face social sanctions that are interwoven. The family is shunned, the girls are not fit for marriage and thus deprive the family of the "bride price", the girls cannot improve their social status by giving birth to legitimate children, they are insulted as prostitutes, no food is accepted from them, they are credited with failed harvests and poisoned wells, and finally they are buried half-naked and "in disgrace". Thus the threat of these severe sanctions alone is effective in maintaining this horrible practice.