“Male circumcision is a feminist issue too”: Fake Bondo initiation rites and the relentless pursuit of Dfid FGM funds
This past weekend a few people forwarded me a post by an organization in Sierra Leone called Purposeful purporting to launch a Bondo Society initiation without so-called FGM. This announcement will be formally addressed in an official press release this week but I want to use this moment to bring up, as I always do, male circumcision (or male genital mutilation as opponents insist) and our zero-tolerance for any hypocritical policy with respect to the regulation of female and male genitalia in Sierra Leone.
I continue to be amused by a handful of Sierra Leone’s social media FGM activists who call themselves “feminists” and say they are opposed to female circumcision because it is supposedly gender based violence (GBV).
The most vocal of these opponents are often UK or US educated women who, without hesitation, are quick to defend subjecting their own infant or underage sons to non-consensual male circumcision/genital mutilation. But at least two of the most strident FGM critics, Chernor Bah and Joseph Kaifala, are locally based men who were themselves circumcised/mutilated without their consent and arguably - given the local realities of the Land That We Love - under very painful and rudimentary conditions.
At Sierra Leone Women are Free to Choose - SLWAFC (visit our page at awafc.org) we reject this hypocritical and sexist double standard and insist to FGM campaigners that they either include the protection of non-consenting boys in their advocacy for criminalization of genital mutilation of children or they put a stop to singling out and harassing Bondo women for upholding our culture, religion and aesthetic preferences.
What a good thing that Yale/Oxford University bioethicist Brian Earp has promulgated this radical idea of the moral equivalency of male and female circumcision and argues that both should be banned for underage children. And, I agree with him - at least in the equality of female and male circumcision and that we should do away with the word "mutilation" altogether.
I bring this up now to highlight ever persistent anti-Bondo stunts spearheaded by failed FGM activists in Sierra Leone. This past weekend, it was Chernor Bah’s announcement of a supposed “historic” Bondo-without-cutting, clearly a ludicrous attempt to appropriate, and thereby neutralize, the powerful cultural symbols and glory of Bondo. This comedic PR and marketing performance for external funders taking place in Port Loko is on its own level for tastelessness - but this is no problem for the conveniently self-styled male “feminist” founder of Purposeful.
Purposeful is an organization ostensibly created to help girls in Sierra Leone but its true “purpose” is looking more and more like a male intellectual NGO front to channel millions of dollars - 12 million dollars to be more precise - of Dfid funds still set aside for the implementation of a National Anti-FGM Policy that was flatly rejected by the previous Government.
Hon. Dr. Sylvia Blyden, former Minister of Social Welfare Gender and Children's Affairs had rejected the National FGM Policy in the previous Government
To this effect, Purposeful is merely the local extension of the controversial US and U.K. based FGM campaigns Equality Now and The Guardian respectively. Both of these avowedly anti-Bondo organizations have already been chased out of Sierra Leone for staging fake kidnappings and hoax cases of forced FGM with the eager assistance of Amazonian Initiative, headed by a former Deputy Minister, Madame Nenneh Turay Koroma.
Their latest attempt to defame Bondo Society and our legitimate sowies took place in the very same Port Loko last year when and where Madame Nenneh Turay planted lies and fake photos in local and global media about a 10 year old girl who she declared died from a female circumcision procedure in the Bondo bush.
My organization, Sierra Leone Women are Free to Choose (SLWAFC), with the assistance of our legal team, showed up to console the community and to ensure the release of the girl's father and several sowies who were falsely arrested and imprisoned over the Christmas holidays with trumped up "murder" charges and behind-the-scenes-pressure from FGM activists.
We were left to provide not only legal assistance but financial help and donations of materials at the funeral of the young girl and mourn with the citizens of Mile 91 after the way they had been unfairly disgraced and persecuted by Nenneh Turay and her western financiers. Mrs. Turay made it a point to skip out on her scheduled appointments to be interviewed by our investigative journalists and staff. We have not forgotten.
We have not forgotten the damage these actions by FGM activists have caused individuals, families and communities and now that these same actors - Equality Now and Guardian UK - are brazenly back in town, we will certainly make our concerns known at the highest levels in Sierra Leone, local and global media houses and pursue whatever legal actions necessary to protect our local communities and redress these infringements on women's basic constitutional and human rights in our own country.
SLWAFC exists to protect these basic constitutional and human rights of women in Sierra Leone to self-determination and dignity, to uphold our culture and tradition, and to ensure we pass these on to our daughters in the same way that men are free to do in Sierra Leone and worldwide.
SLWAFC Constitution 2018
Each and every single Member of Parliament, relevant cabinet ministers, Council of Paramount Chiefs and other stakeholders have received a copy of our introduction letter and position statement with regard to female circumcision and the rights of Bondo women in Sierra Leone.
We will release a separate public statement in the next few days concerning the use and abuse of the name of Bondo Society by the western financed NGOs Purposeful and Amazonian Initiative as well as the interference of Equality Now and The Guardian with the democratic rights of the women of Sierra Leone.
Further, we will continue to make it clear to our Government and Dfid that if white British women and girls are free to undergo any and all forms of labia and clitoral cutting, trimming, reductions, reshaping and piercings, Sierra Leonean women and girls also have the democratic right and freedom to choose what to do with our own bodies. Our culture, traditions and identity as women are not for sale to western donors.
SiA Magazine Special Issue on White Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery. Right and left click to flip pages.
Meanwhile, I have here for Chernor Bah and his fellow “feminist” FGM social media activist, Joseph Kaifala, an excellent easy-to-read interview of a renown child rights advocate who insists that, you guessed it, “male circumcision is a feminist issue” too.