Bogaletch Gebre: Talking Female Circumcision Out of Existence

Bogaletch Gebre, winner of the 2013 King Baudouin Prize, is the founder of KMG, Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Toppe, a Kembatta women’s self-help organization based in southern Ethiopia. (Photo: YouTube)

The New York Times


Like every other girl of her era in her part of southern Ethiopia — and most girls in the country — Bogaletch Gebre was circumcised. In some regions girls are circumcised as infants, but in her zone it happened at puberty. It was around 1967, and she was about 12. A man held her from behind, blindfolded her and stuffed a rag in her mouth, and with his legs held her legs open so she could not move. A female circumciser took a razor blade and sliced off Gebre’s genitals.

Gebre nearly bled to death. She stayed at home for about two months, and after she healed, she was presented to her village, ready for marriage.

Unicef estimates (pdf) that between 70 million and 140 million girls and women globally are circumcised. The practice is widespread throughout Africa, and in some countries of Asia and the Middle East. In Ethiopia it is done by Muslims, Christians and Jews. (Gebre’s region of Kembata-Tembaro is a largely Protestant area of some 700,000 people in Ethiopia’s south.) No major religion endorses circumcision. Communities that practice it have in common that they are traditional societies where female sexuality is viewed mainly as a potential threat to family honor — in Kembata-Tembaro, the practice is called “cutting off the dirt.” To keep girls from promiscuity and ruin, the clitoris and often the labia are cut off to deaden sexual sensation.

Read more at The New York Times.

Women’s Rights Activists Bogaletch Gebre wins King Baudouin Prize (BBC News)
Ethiopian Activist Recognized for Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation (VOA)

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