30 June 2007

Female circumcision

Dr Grumble came across female circumcision first in Ethiopia where he spent three months as a student. He comes across it still. Many of his patients come from Somalia. The idea of old witches carrying out this operation on poor young girls in a remote African village makes his blood turn cold.

Here's a picture of the equipment the old hags use.

Meet a girl who is about to be circumcised in the video below taken in the Omo valley in Ethiopia. (The video was too awful to watch and has now been removed.)

Doc Grumble was pleased, very pleased, to learn that Egypt has now banned the practice.


Anonymous said...

I am originally fom Egypt Dr Grumble. I was not circumsised, nor my mother, nor her mother, no her mother. Circumsision happens in very poor rural societies because of ignorance, so, Egypt can ban what Egypt wants to ban, unless those poor peasants get properly fed and educated, this practice, as well as many other social problems that arise from ignorance and poverty, will simply go underground.

So, let's start talking about fair distribution of wealth if we really want people to change their ways

Dr Grumble said...

It did occur to Dr Grumble that banning circumcision could cause more children to die as a result of the procedure going underground.

Fairer distribution of wealth is not a goal we can expect to reach quickly. Is it wrong to ban circumcision in the meantime?

Anonymous said...

As I said, they can ban it if they want, but unless people are aware of why this practice "Must" be stopped, they will simply do it anyway, putting the lives of those women at more risk. I remember when I was around 18, near the end of Nasser's rein, I volunteered in what was the only organisation that allowed girls to go away on voluntary work in rural areas for a week or two. We were supposed to try and convince young women to take the pill but was met with great hostility from whole families because, to them, children are extra pair of hands to work the field or factory and make a little more money. Otherwise there will be no food on the table. They looked upon as as "The 'loose' spoilt girls from the city" coming to tell them how to live their lives. Since then, I knew I had no right, unless I put food on their table first ... And I was not able to do that, not is anybody trying to do that .. to date! Birth control remains a major headache as the population explodes, big bang style.

What makes me really sad is the vicious circle as the rich in Egypt become f*ilthy rich and the poor suffer the consequences of "globalisation" making them poorer and poorer and more adament to produce more and more children in a desperate attempt to fend off poverty. Pay back I suppose, their way of making trouble for the rich. We each have to suffer the consequences of what we do ... I am not Indian but do believe in Karma

By the way, it's alright for us to punish western companies that manufatures abroad using child labour. We scream and shout but has it ever occured to us spoilt pratts here what will happen to these poor families when the children are sacked? I haven't heard anyone here in the west yet asking for an increase in wage for this "cheap" labour in poor countries so that adults can make enough able to stop children going to work! .... At least they do not suffer from obesity and heart disease! See, Karma again :-)

Dr Grumble said...

A few things are abundantly clear. For example, population is a problem that must be tackled. But very poor people see children as a financial asset and not, as in the UK, a financial burden. The very poor have children to till the fields and look after them in their old age. If the infant mortality is high they need to have more. In that context, as you say, white people or spoilt girls from the city are never going to get the message of contraception across.

But how do we solve this? Bob Geldof seems to give the impression, at least in the sound bites that we hear, that it is just a question of banging a few heads together and redistributing the money. He's too intelligent to really believe that it is quite as simple as that.

As a student in Ethiopia, Dr Grumble worked in places 5 days mule trek from the nearest road. Some of these places were incredibly barren. But everywhere there were people who were somehow eking out some sort of a living. For the modern world this sort of a lifestyle seemed to Dr Grumble to be a no hoper. In many parts the terrain was so inhospitable that modern farm machines did not seem to be much of a way forward. Not so long ago there were people like this in England – though much of England is more fertile. Now few people work on the land. But how does this example help the people of Africa? In the UK the industrial revolution sucked people into the cities. In places like France this happened less. Isn’t that what the Common Agricultural Policy was all about? And isn’t that now seen as a problem rather than a solution? It can’t be a solution just to give money to people in unsustainable lifestyles. So what is the solution?

Why is it that we worry enormously about maltreated white children in our own country and not about starving black children – children who are dying for lack of food that we throw away? Is it because we can’t actually do much about the black children? If we feed them to get them over a crisis, it is just building a crisis for another day. So we prefer to forget about the problem.

But there are some things we should try and do. What about all that interest the poorest countries pay us? What about trying to stop these people killing each other with sophisticated weaponry that we in the developed world make a killing on? And what about making sure that we eliminate any trade barriers with poor countries? But it isn’t simple. What do we do about the dictators out there that take their country’s wealth and spend it on themselves or on guns that they will buy from elsewhere if we don’t sell them?

Bob Geldof has tried but some have said that the changes he wrought have left Africa little better off. But at least he doesn’t hide his head in the sand like the rest of us. Putting a problem into the ‘too difficult basket’ is no way forward.

Anonymous said...

So, we both come full circle and agree together, hence, the conclusion MUST be; live and let live. We have no right to judge those people nor tell them what to do if we can't help them put our judgements into practice, right?

BTW, have you ever tried to imagine yourself in their shoes? Looked at us here in the west and tried to pass judgement on what we do that they do not approve of? ... Of course they are "blessed" with the inability to travel to us like we do to them, otherwise, they would have loads and loads to judge us on, I often wonder what they would say!

I said before that you seem to be a very able doctor as well as a very good human being, the reasons why I am a fan here but, but, your trip o Africa was a "luxury", please don't forget that. :-)

Dr Grumble said...

Africa was a "luxury"
Dr Grumble hates being the wealthy tourist. It makes him very uncomfortable because it brings him face to face with the issues above. Many trippers seem quite unbothered by this. Perhaps they are able to stay insulated in their smart hotels. They seem almost to relish their relatively enormous wealth. Dr Grumble lived alongside the lepers (he should, of course, say leprosy patients) and the few hotels he stayed in would not qualify as such in most people's book. But it was still a luxury, of that he was only too aware. But, as you imply, many don't grasp that at all. Travelling in the third world is a luxury. Dr Grumble is aware enough of this to be so embarrassed by his riches that he generally chooses to stay at home. But that’s not an attitude that helps anybody.

Anonymous said...

I know how you travelled Dr Grumble but what I mean by luxury is different to what it usually means; I meant you were able to travel but a young poor african of the same age could not, ever. I am sure you were a plus to the africans who, I am sure, still remember the young man who did not run away when he saw the reality of their existance. What I can not bear to see are young westerners in khaki trousers and crisp clean white shirts posing to take a picture with africans looking at them as if they were god, this makes me sick. When I visit and I do because I "envy" their simple lives, I never wear khaki outfits! ;-)

There is also nothing wrong in being the wealthy tourist as well, providing you stay with likewise company ... I do that too