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Why Female Circumcision Is A Wicked Act 

Interviewed By Walter Wilson Nana — Joseph Tabi Tabi, a medical practitioner with many years of learning and practice hails from Manyu Division in the Southwest Region where the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, is still being carried out.

In the following exclusive interview, he defines female circumcision, states why this primitive practice is still being carried out in certain parts of Cameroon, situates its evolution and the health hazards that go with the act and indicates how it dehumanises its victims. Read On

How would you define the FGM?

In the simplest of terms, Female Genital Mutilation, FMG, is a situation whereby the clitoris of a female is taken off in the village setting during the process of circumcision.

As a medic, is there anything to worry about a woman’s clitoris being cut off?

There are several complications that come in thereafter. The issue of HIV/AIDS comes in as one blade is used for many persons in the process. Those carrying out the act think they are doing a good thing to the person who loses her clitoris, not knowing that is where the fun of sex comes from.

The perpetrators of the act forget that the woman whose clitoris is taken away has a future and a marital life to live. In marriage, you are supposed to enjoy sex with your husband. The perpetrators of FGM look at the problem at the level of promiscuity among the youths and hold that taking away the clitoris will avoid unnecessary sexual activities. If the ladies don’t indulge into sex today, they will tomorrow. A woman without a clitoris doesn’t get excited in the sexual game.

FGM has been a practice over the years in Cameroon and some parts of Africa. Why this sudden buzz about it by medical practitioners, social scientists and even politicians?

Yesterday is yesterday and today is today. There is civilisation and increasing awareness of things happening around us. The youths of today say no to FGM and it should be abolished. A lot of youths in Manyu Division, Southwest Region of Cameroon are leaving the place. As a medical doctor, I worked with a nurse, Grace Ngwai Agbor, who today, is keeping a safe distance not only from her native Manyu but from Cameroon as a whole.

She is keeping a safe distance because every now and again, she is confronted by her family members and dutifully reminded of how she must undergo the process of FGM before ever she is recognised and accepted as belonging to the family. Being of the medical field herself, she has vowed that she would rather stay away from family and keep her clitoris instead of the other way round.

Is it an issue where you are forced to do it or a voluntary decision?

You are forced into it. Your opinion is not sought. You are monitored and at the age that the perpetrators think that you are ripe for sex, they call for you and this very sensitive part of you is unjustly and crudely harvested.

Observers say the FGM practice in Cameroon is insignificant and the much noise about it is unnecessary. Do you share that view?

I know that it is also practised in some places in Nigeria, where I schooled. Whether it is only one village in Manyu Division that practises FGM, I am saying that it is wrong. I am yet to see it in other parts of Cameroon. Some people say it is done in the Northern parts of Cameroon. How can the fight against HIV/AIDS be won when we still have acts like FGM? There are other complications like cervical cancer that goes with FGM practice.

Have you had cases of women who suffer from HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer because of the FGM practice?

During a voluntary service in Manyu Division, we never found any during my sojourn there, but there is always talk of women and girls running away from the village and not interested to be associated with the FGM act. Since I have not practised in Manyu Division for a long time as a medic, there could be some cases that I am not aware of. It is possible.

Those who carry out FGM say it is a money-making business and for them to stop, an alternative should be offered. What could be this alternative for them?

I read in the papers, when a man from the northern part of Cameroon claimed the FGM practice is a source of income for him and the family. There are other better things the man can do, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family. Causing injury to the population cannot be somebody’s source of income.

My worry is in the future of the women who are subjected to this act. All the young girls in my village are on an exodus to the city and out of the country. I am not certain my female children will go to my village or identify with that village. That practice has to be denounced.

As a medic and elite of your people, what have you been doing to highlight the sleazy side of FGM?

It is difficult to convince the old people. All I have is to talk and continue talking to them. Some do listen and others don’t. Progressively, there is some change of attitude, especially when we present the complications that go with the FGM like HIV/AIDS. They have seen people around them die of HIV/AIDS without knowing the source of it. Some have begun to see with us. We’ll not succeed in one day. It is a gradual campaign and the denunciation has to continue.

Do you think government is doing much to fight against the practice?

For now, I am not feeling government action against the practice. They may be doing their best but I am yet to be convinced. That’s why I am joining my voice to the fight. Let the government go beyond what they are doing now. The sensitisation is not comprehensive. Medical officers and health personnel in Eyumojock should have a programme on how to talk to the people out there.

Have you had complaints from the women or girls who have gone through the practice?

A lot of them. Some have been divorced from their marital homes. Some of them are sick; psychologically sick. That is very dangerous because it is difficult to diagnose. It is difficult to tell people that your marital home got broken because you don’t enjoy sex with your husband because your clitoris was taken away. Victims of FGM are in a fix, they don’t know where to get help. They are suffering from stress.

Is the FGM an issue of male chauvinism?

The idea around it is not just from the male counterpart. Reference to the elderly people isn’t only the men. There are lots of old women who are into the practice, believing that they are protecting the young girls.

From your discourse, there is a conflict of tradition and modernism. Where is the middle ground?

Tradition is tradition and it goes with modernisation. Tradition must not be stagnant. It moves with the times. People can circumcise but they should be aware of the complications. Yesterday, people did not know that using one blade for more than one person is dangerous.

Today, we know that. We’ve to adjust tradition with modernisation, if not, there will be a clash. We’re not in a fight with the elderly; we wish that reason should prevail. The act is wrong because it comes with complications. Let my people in Manyu Division allow our mothers, sisters grow the way nature made them. 

First published in The Post print edition no 01418

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