Friday, August 30, 2013

Idolizing Africa- Part 3

In my last post, I very mildly touched on violence against African Women. Briefly. Well, this subject needs it's own post!

When circumcision debates occur, Female Genital Mutilation is always brought up, always. I wanted to take a look at this practice. FGM is usually done between infancy and age 15, with the typical being 7-10 years of age. This is done to deter women from having sex before marriage and to keep them faithful to their husbands.  This actually puts a woman's health at risk. The practice is so incredibly disturbing. Most are not done under a medical professional. Usually someone like a Traditional Birth Attendant or an herbalist or an elderly person in the community. These poor girls are held down by multiple people while sharp objects are used to remove part or all of the external genitalia, and possibly injure the genitals. There is so anesthesia or antiseptic used and sometimes the same object is used upon multiple girls (increases risk of HIV transmission). Up to the 50's, clitoridectomy was even practiced in The US and Western Europe as a way to treat hysteria, masturbation, nymphomania, epilepsy, etc. Depending upon the procedure, risks vary. The most risky form of FGM is infibulation, where the clitoris and inner labia are partially or totally removed then the outer labia is sewn together. When a girl has this done, she often has to be cut open in order to have sex with her husband on her wedding night. Many have to be cut again during childbirth. In some communities, after childbirth, the edges are sewn back together. In the Sudan, 10 to 30% of girls die from FGM.

Child trafficking is an enormous problem in Africa, mostly due to poverty. Some children are used for child labor. Most female children are used for domestic duties and sex slaves.  This makes me want to cry. I look at my children and cannot understand how another human being could treat a child that way. Some adult women are lured into the sex industry. Girls are sometimes stripped of all clothing and shoes so they cannot escape from where they are. Many still don't even have breasts, they are that young. Some people are trafficked for muti (killing in order to use body parts to incorporate into medicine or witchcraft) and organ donation. This is done to people of all ages (yes, including babies and children). More than 90% of those caught up in human trafficking endure physical or sexual violence. In various areas, law enforcement looks the other way. Some people are able to run away to other areas or to refugee camps. Often times, children are sold by their own parents. Some children are kidnapped. In some countries, boys are turned into soldiers. When rebels raid a village, they will gather up children. These children witness their fellow captives being maimed and killed in front of them. They themselves are harmed when showing fear. Some of these children have witnessed their families being killed while others are forced to kill their family. Many child soldiers are under 12. As a mother, I cannot fathom this.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, an average of 54% of women are abused by their husbands. 46% are abused in front of their children. Due to discriminatory laws and dismissive police, the problem is compounded. There is a stigma attached to domestic violence, so many women remain silent. Women are beaten, raped, and even murdered for minor things that an abuser sees as a transgression, much like domestic violence situation's in the rest of the world. The main difference is we have resources to help us, unlike many of these African women. Acid attacks are on the rise yet not taken seriously. This should make us all sick! Unfortunately, abuse is seen as a part of marriage. How sad that you can expect to be beaten or raped by your husband for any reason that he may deem necessary.

I'm not done with this series yet, but for these subjects, I think I am. This has been a hard one. I've had to walk away and catch my breath and stop the tears. To imagine this stuff going on over there hurts my heart. I look at my nice cushy life and think about all the ways in which I am blessed to be living where I am. I look at my children and cannot imagine them enduring anything that these African children do. I'm glad that there are so many domestic violence resources around us so women can actually get the help they need. In America, we're privileged. I look at many of the things American women whine about and think "You have no idea how lucky you are and how good you have it". I see Human Rights discussions taking place about things that really aren't true Human Rights issues, they're perceived issues. That statement will probably get me flamed, but, so be it. I think that many women need to gain some perspective and in the famous words of The Feminist Breeder "Check your privilege".
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