I was told to write something connected to my future intensions, but I would rather show you the research I have done about what women in Africa go through. I would personally still consider this research connected to my future because I would love to stop what you will be reading about in this paper and if by showing people this paper, they will make a decision to make a difference in the future then my research was worth it.


The Rights of Women in Africa Past and Present

I will be pursuing the truth or over exaggeration of the hard lives and the negativity shown toward women in the country of Africa. Included in this search I specifically hope to find information about Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C), women’s rights in choosing whom she marries, and what rights she has in her marriage and sexual life.


I first started my search of FGM in google and this led me to a documentary which spoke of how women go through FGM as the last step into womanhood and it is a tradition that has been passed down to African women for hundreds of years. But also included in the documentary I found out that there is a belief that if the cutting is not done that when you bear your first child it shall die to punish you for not respecting your ancestors in the ancient ritual. It is also a belief that if the FGM is not done that your clitoris will grow very long and swing on the ground. I have found that the claim that no sign of pain or fear should be shown is shared in this video otherwise the women shall be shown as a coward. It is believed that a girl is not a woman till she is cut and that if a woman/girl is not cut then she enjoys sex too much and will be a prostitute. I also found out that a woman has her hair and eyebrows shaved off in order to strip away a symbol of her natural sexuality. I am just astonished at watching this video and how women can just accept this and let it happen. In the video we are told that Mary who is 14 yrs. old will be getting her clitoris cut off and if this wasn’t bad enough, we find out that her own MOTHER is going to do it! I wonder how a woman who has gone through that kind of pain and has had the side effects from it can cause such horrible and life threatening pain to her own child. At the end of the documentary we are told that over 6000 girls get their genitals cut off every day and that if they don’t die of blood loss or shock that they will deal with pain for the rest their lives. This also causes painful sex and childbirth and some times in the very bad cases the husband will have to cut open their wife every time they want to have sex. And when they have their children they will need to be cut open again but right afterward they are sewn back up. This has been going on for 5000 years according to this video and is now a global issue.


The feeling I had about realizing just had bad this situation led me to further dive into a book called “Sisters in Affliction” where I read that there are three types of female circumcision. The first including the “removal of the prepuce of the clitoris only”. The second including the “partial or total removal of the clitoris together with the adjacent tissues of the labia minora and sometimes the whole of it”. The third including the conditions from the second type but also including “the two sides of the vulva” being sewn together (Not to copyright, but wasn’t sure how else to write these last few things properly). As shown in the book “Monique and the mango rains” and quoted as “There were three levels of circumcision practiced across Africa. Circumcision, or Sunna, entailed the removal of the hood of the clitoris and sometimes part of the clitoris itself; excision was the removal of the clitoris and all or part of the inner lips of the vagina; and infibulation meant the removal of the clitoris, inner lips, and all or part of the outer lips, Infibulation also entailed sewing the area back up and leaving a hole about the width of a matchstick”. This proves that this information was very true and not exaggerated. This disturbed me to the core and has really brought to my attention how lucky I am and my daughter is for not being born in such an ignorant and foolish continent! I also found out that the age at which these “operations” are done vary from 8 days old!! to shortly after a woman has her first child. This book showed me though that not everywhere in Africa is this practiced, the main areas where type three is practiced includes Mali, Sudan, and Somalia. Most other countries sounding the rest of the central east, west and northern Africa countries are included in practicing the second type (This excludes Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Libyan Arab Republic).


I was really starting to wonder at this point just how much I didn’t know about the problem with the FGM in Africa, so I have decided to look at one more book titled “Female Circumcision in Africa, Culture, Controversy, and Change”. I have now read that in this book, that “Infibulation” the third type from my last book is considered the most popular in Africa. So now I am puzzled and must now dive into a web search of my own. I have now googled “most common form of female genital mutilation” and have decided to click on UNFPA site and have dove into the Female genital mutilation category. I unfortunately can’t find a quote on the true most popular form of FGM. But I ran into once again a video that had three young ladies who told of their experiences with or without FGM and it was shown that one of the women will never be able to get up again since her childbirth because she was mutilated so bad as a child and then had to be cut open when her husband was trying to take her virginity and then again when she gave birth and now she can’t even hold in her own urine and feces and endures never ending pain that makes her wish she could die. But it was also shown from one of the other women that they were told that they weren’t allowed to circumcise girls anymore according to law and so the women decided to go along with it until it is legal or popular again. But it is also good to see that some women are learning from the experience and sparing their daughters so much pain and anguish that no one should ever have to go through.


I have at this point lost track of how many books, articles and videos I have watched and what comments I shall now make about what I found (all sources of information will be on the reference page), so please listen to my sad tale of how girls are treated in Africa. I was drawn to yet again another video which talked about girls that were completely circumcised to where only a small hole was left and was causing their menstrual cycle to back up in their body and cause great medical harm and when fixed, it left them with the inability to have children, and understanding that the main thing that is wanted in these tribes is a lot of healthy babies, by doing what they are doing they are just cutting their chances of having a happy marriage and have lots of healthy children significantly. I just watched another video that showed an African girl speaking out because her family was trying to marry her off at 11 and she was saying how many child brides end of killing themselves because they are abused physically or sexually and they just can’t take it anymore. She thought she had escaped but it was told in the title of the video that the girl was killed shortly after that.


And with that transition from FMG to marriage I will now explore in “Women and Marriage in Kpelle Society”. As in the book “Things Fall Apart” I have indeed found that women/girls are given to men as property as shown by the “bride price” that the bride’s family receives upon giving their daughter to her husband. Females are sometimes betrothed at a young age but will not be “given” until she has hit puberty and only after the family has been paid the bride price. I am just floored at how African women are treated and couldn’t believe that so far everything that we have read in our books has been true and not at all exaggerated. Women are being shown as a piece of cattle to be traded for something else that is wanted or needed. In Things Fall Apart it is shown that daughters are haggled over like vegetables that go to market like for example “In this way Akueke’s bride-price was finally settled at twenty bags of cowries. It was already dusk when the two parties came to this agreement”, and before this passage it was shown they went back and forth negotiating till one was finally narrowed down. I now turned to the internet trying to find better answers to my questions. I have found in one website that UNICEF the United Nations Children’s Fund found that two-fifths of girls from Africa have been married before the age of 17 and in Chad and Niger one-third of women said they were married by the age of 15.


I have now broadened my search to hopefully include a brighter side to marriage and to see if it has changed since the past. I came across another website which I have been able to find a lot of information about marriage. One thing that I noted was like in the books we have read, the women are well respected when they are pregnant or are mothers because they serve as the connection between the unborn baby and the ancestors. Now I also recall that sometimes this is not the case in individual cases where there is a husband who is a drunkard or is just abusive like for example in the book “Things fall apart” it is stated “ Two years ago, continued odukwe, when she was pregnant, he beat her until she miscarried.” The man then went on to try and lie and say that she miscarried because she was sleeping with her lover, but the “evil forest” sided with the woman because of the man’s foolishness and carelessness. By this it is shown that even though a woman may be “property” she is still valued and cared for in her community as long as she abides by the rules laid before her.


Now in the present age of Africa marriage is treasured and valued above all else because it is believed that it enriches and enhances the community as a whole and that the product from such compatible marriages produced the best behaving and respectful children. This is why it is believed that arranged marriages are the best alternative because it is believed that parents know best and will pick the most compatible partner for their child that will result in a happy and working relationship. Upon reading this I kind of understand where they are coming from but I still feel that most of the time, young adults know who they are better and therefore can choose their own perfect spouse. For example I will share that I met my husband and decided that we were the best thing for each other and I loved him but when my family was asked for their blessing it was refused because they didn’t think we were truly meant to be to gether and were too “different”. But isn’t that what makes marriages great, the yin and the yang? I would say so because me and my husband are 5 years strong and now with a baby who is being raised to be the best that she can be. There is a quote that was on this site I am on and I totally agree with what it states “Anybody can make a baby, but a father helps to raise his children. There is another word for fatherhood. It's called responsibility This is also shown in the African culture in the present, that a father is supposed to raise his children and not just leave it up to the women as they did mostly in the past. Women were almost treated as slaves, having to cook, clean, child raise, and take any beating the husband decides you deserve but now the good thing that is shown on this site is that opinions have changed and life is getting a little better for women in Africa.


I have now moved on to directly looking to see if arranged marriages are still a majority in Africa or not. This search led me to a website that showed me that there are some rare cases where the two people involved in the arranged marriage have no say what so ever and if they refuse they are simply ignored or killed. But the more common arranged marriage, is one where the parents will choose the best match for their daughter/son with a little bit of input from the two involved, the big difference would be that if the two don’t agree to be married the parents agree and try to find another match but will still try to push them together with persuasion. But the purpose of this kind of arranged marriage is the happiness and survival of the marriage but the parents still “think that they know best” and can’t help but try to convince them. Arranged marriages tend to be more thought out too and include consideration such as reputation, medical conditions, and values of the family instead of physical attraction being the first reason.


I have was now looking into the rights a woman has in her marriage and found on a website that the current President of Kenya has passed a law that allows men to marry multiple wives up to four and they don’t have to have their current wife/wives permission. Before this certain traditions allowed men to marry other women but the wife/wives permission must be given first otherwise it wouldn’t take place. Junet Mohammed is a believer of this and went on to say When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife… this is Africa”. This disturbs me down to my core because when the country is growing and should be adapting a more modernized approach to marriage, then they get this president in to ruin it all and bring back the old ways. I just find this stupid. It was also reported that forced sex between spouses is not included in the Sexual Offenses and that in a recent report 27% of men have the right to get mad and punish their wife if she refuses to give her husband sex and 5% said that husbands have the right to make (rape) their wives have sex.


In conclusion I would like to say that in the past women had no rights, were treated badly by society and their family as a whole, and were only further “under a man’s thumb” by being made to cut up their female parts, only taking away their pleasure and leaving them with the pain.  Women also didn’t have much say in their marriage if any and were always being watched closely by the community, they were also taken advantage of sexually in most cases in their marriage. But maybe there is some hope for African women because the World Bank is making stipulations in their loans that all FGM must be stopped and so maybe someday it will all end. And with women fighting to get their rights and some men starting to treat their women as kind of equals, there will probably be a brighter future for African women and I can’t wait to see it. Oh and the current president of Kenya needs to FIRED!!!





Library Book Sources:


Abdalla, R. H. (1982). Sisters in Affliction. In Circumcision and Infibulation of Women in Africa (pp. 7-11). London: Zed Press.

Amadiume, I. (1987). Male daughters, female Husbands. In Gender and sex in an African society. London and New Jersey: Zed Books Ltd.

Bekers, E. (1960-2000). Rising Anthills. In african &african american writing on female genital excision. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Bledsoe, C. H. (1980). Women and marriage in Kpelle society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Hernlund, B. S.-D. (2000). Female "Circumcision" in Africa. In Culture, Controversy, and Change. Boulder, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Kevane, M. (2014). Women & Development in Africa. In How Gender works. Boulder, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.


Online Sources