August 4, 2015
I grew up in the Gambia and I didn’t know I had been through circumcision. I was between 3 and 6 months old. By the time I was 7 or 8, I told my Mum I wanted to go through it as all the kids were having it and they got gifts and parties. Then my Mum told me that I’d had it already.
Men are not involved in circumcision and most of the time it’s not the mothers but aunties. My Dad’s sister organised my circumcision. In Gambia you have like a “big sister” who takes responsibility for your circumcision and you go to for advice. She will take pride in arranging the circumcision. It’s like boosting the family – they want to show that they care so much for the child they want to show the whole world.
They don’t announce the circumcision. Relatives steal girls and circumcise them. They teach morals during the circumcision period – how to be a woman, about pregnancy, how to treat elders, not to look elders in the eye and how to be a good wife.
During the season the environment is very nice. They sing nice songs. Everyone in the area is cooking every day and no one is hungry. On the final day there is a massive party.
My Mum is Mandinka and my Dad is from the Fula tribe. Some tribes don’t do circumcision. If a woman from a tribe which doesn’t do it marries a man from the Mandinka tribe, the elders will look down on her. I know a woman who went through circumcision late because the elders wouldn’t eat her husband’s food as they said his wife stank.
Sometimes girls are stitched also so there’s no early pregnancy. In some cases they let the blood dry so there’s a blockage and she can’t have intercourse. The lady who cut us died before I got married and didn’t tell us that I had been blocked. Me and my Mum didn’t know I had been blocked so I had to be cut open again when I married.
I went to Gambia last year and was upset that my cousin’s daughter had been cut. I went to my auntie’s house and had a row. I told her that circumcision causes many, many problems. They cut with no anaesthetic or pain relief. They don’t sterilise what they use to cut and other kids might be sick.
I didn’t know the effect until I got married. It affects your sex life with your husband. They don’t talk about sex in Gambia – they are not honest with children.
I remember a girl died one cutting season. They pointed the finger at people and said it was witchcraft.
Circumcision has no use. It’s evil. What is the point? You can teach morals without cutting.