Magazine article New Internationalist

Secrets Can't Last Forever: A New Approach to Female Circumcision [Simulacrum Simulates Tradition]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Secrets Can't Last Forever: A New Approach to Female Circumcision [Simulacrum Simulates Tradition]

Article excerpt

Secrets can't last forever A new approach to female circumcision

AJA Tounkara Diallo Fatimata circumcises thousands of young girls every year in Conakry, Guinea. The practice, she admits, causes untold health problems for millions of African women, particularly when they give birth.

So why does she do it? She doesn't.

Rather than cut, Tounkara, who began her career as a gynaecologist, just pinches the girls - enough to make them cry out. Then she pours mercurochrome, a bright red antiseptic that looks like blood, onto their genitals, and wraps a bandage so tight that they 'walk funny and look like they are in pain'.

Tounkara has practised what she calls her 'simulacrum' since 1969, when she saw a girl nearly bleed to death. She began trying, in her capacity as a midwife, to convince parents not to circumcise their new born daughters. 'When they invariably said that their relatives were going to do it anyway, I would suggest the simulacrum. We would take lots of photos,' she said. Tounkara has taught her trick to midwives and traditional circumcisionists ever since. But 'secrets can't last forever', she says and to the dismay of many she has gone public.

Some accuse Tounkara of compromising the movement,' says Marie Helen Mottin Sylla, head of the Senegalese - based Synergy in Gender and Development group. 'But they are usually the ones removed from the reality of the situation . …

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