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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

EDITORIAL : Ban Bondo in Sierra Leone now

Ya Mbalu , the local Digba or Sowei , is a very highly respected woman in the traditional Sierra Leonean society. She hardly goes anywhere to work for her living. Ya Mbalu, for all you know, may not go to work, but her pot is always boiling .Infact, her pot boils most in the society because the townsfolk larvish her with all she desires. In her yard are tethered the fattest cows, goats and sheep and she is even very strong also  on the monetary side .Women in the villages and towns rever her perhaps more than the Chief and she elicits tremendous clout, awe and respect wherever she goes. She is the local folk heroine .

But for all the benefits, priviledges , respect and awe she commands, Ya Mbalu is by no means a model citizen or inhabitant. She has caused a lot to distress to humanity .The woes that Ya Mbalu has inflicted could better be explained by Sorie, the local palm wine tapper. Seated in his small palm wine stall where townsfolk come to  enjoy the gourds of frothing , potent palm wine he sells, Sorie  could hardly help whispering to his buddies :  " Sengeh  put my daughter out again today . He says she was cold again  last night. He says that  even a corpse would have had some life. I don't know what to do any more .It's been like this for so long.I hear he is looking for another wife . Sisi Tenneh,  his aunt,  is looking for another woman for him. "  The other  men sympathized with Sorie, but some giggled lecherously  in excitement,  though Sorie's in -law's  problem is not uncommon to them. They know what their local palm wine man is talking about but it can only be whispered among men in secret.They dare not complain about it publicly.

The other day, an angry Fatu had her husband ,  the local barber,  Abu,  fined Le. 1 million for venting his frustration  about  her failure "to meet him halfway"  every night.  He attributed  it to "This your women's Society ". Fatu reported Abu to the much-feared Digba,  Ya Mbalu , who in turn  reported his "Offensive remark " to Chief Pa. Komrabai, who issued Abu a summons to appear in his local court. In court , Abu was given no chance to explain himself. He was chastised by the old chief, fined and warned that the Bondo women will be allowed to put a curse on him in future and have him develop "Bossin " if he ever "puts his mouth in their society business again".

In other parts of the town, even  local midwives are cussing under their breaths or complaining to their confidantes when they are sure that the walls have no ears. Their complaints are  different, but still very serious . To some, the women who come to them for delivery almost always seem to have problems during and after child birth. This is a problem they claim is rare in Freetown where their services are often procured. "Could it be true after all ?", Wuyata asked her collegue ,  Mankallay : "Is what the White Man's Book saying about our society true after all? Why do we have these problems only here upcountry or when we deliver native women ? Has it happened to you when you deliver non-native women?" Mankallay shook her head and bowed her face.

Mankallay herself underwent the same complications when she had Amadu, her son. In fact, if the midwife had not been good, both Abu and herself would not have come from the birth bed alive. Wuyata herself has lots of complaints about infections and unexplained pain she has every now and again. Both women, secretly to each other, have conceded that the problems they have could be traced back to the day Ya Mbalu performed female circumcision on them . Both women whisper to each other that they were suffering from the after-effects of their ordeal at Ya Mbalu's hands. However they dare not voice out their conclusions publicly to the hearing of other women. Apart from the torture and punishment that would be their lot, both women would be stigmatized in society forever for having the audacity to talk against a custom that "their great great grandmothers, great grandmothers and grandmothers underwent without complaint."

VERDICT : Sierra Leone faces a clear choice. She must either be prepared to be a nation of disabled and secretly-suffering women or put the Ya Mbalus out of business. The argument that the Bondo society must be banned has been raging in our country for too long and it is high time for the authorities to take action.

There is no reason for our country to continue to practice a procedure that has been proven to be harmful to our female population. Let the  pro-Bondo fanatics advance whatever arguments they want. They can no longer convince anybody that Bondo has a useful function in our society.

It has been proved by scientific studies that there is no correlation between  sexual promiscuity and female circumcision. Sex is purely a function of the human mind and the abuse of it is has no connection with the presence of a certain organ in females. God gave human beings the ability to control and suppress their sexual urges. In fact, it is an insult to the wise, good and omniscient God for human beings to seek to alter his creation. Every human part has a specific and important function and it is not within the rights of any human being to decree that a certain human organ is evil and should be excised. It is wrong. Neither the Bible nor the Quoran has an edict calling for female circumcision. The Bible decreed only male circumcision as a covenant between man and God.  

Women who take offence whenever calls are made for Bondo to be banned should realize that female circumcision, apart from all the harm it creates , is also a violation of the human rights of women. As a anti-Bondo activist, Aminata Toure,  rightly said in an article produced in another column in this newspaper, Female genital mutilation is a violation of the bodies of women . It has to be banned . We cannot afford to continue violating the human rights of women. Bondo has outlived its usefulness in our society, if indeed it was ever useful.

We also call for extensive education of women about the evils of female circumcision. Ignorance is an underlying reason for the fanatical spirit women demonstrate for the Bondo society. With thorogh education about the harm FGM is causing women, it would be easier to convince the digbas and soweis and adherents of the Bondo Society to cease the practice in Sierra Leone, as has happened in some other African countries.

The government must protect women and children yet unborn from this horror of genital mutilation . 

And it must be done expeditiously.

Women , after all, are the hands that rock the nation and we cannot afford to be a nation of disabled and suffering women.