A Centuries Old Maasai Custom: Female Genital Mutilation
My series “Growing up Female in Maasai Culture” explores the challenges of being female in a society that represses the voices of Maasai girls, particularly on the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya. The series documents an unlawful Maasai FGM ceremony in Makuta, Kenya and focuses on portraits accompanied by testimonials from Maasai girls about the practice.
Kenya’s abandonment FGM was written into federal law in 2011, yet the practice remains widespread in remote areas of the country. “If I do not accept the ‘cut,’ I will be forced to leave,” says one Maasai girl from a remote village. “Where can I go? Girls are cast out from their communities if they’re not ‘cut.’” She explains that many girls undergo the process due to family and community pressures. Others express their hopes to change this culture and save girls from the health risks and emotional trauma.
For this series, I traveled to remote areas of Kenya making portraits and recording testimonials from Maasai girls, women, and men about the practice of FGM. Through this series, I aim to amplify female Maasai voices to break through prejudicial boundaries and increase awareness about the health risks and psychological trauma involved in the practice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an invasive and cruel act that is done to girls and women with no medical reasoning behind it. This procedure is viewed as a cultural tradition and is usually carried out on girls ranging in age from newborns to 15 years old. It is estimated that 92 million girls 10 and up, have undergone female genital mutilation in Africa. I learned about FGM, in a Woman's Studies during college. I thought, like others in my class, that FGM was a horrific crime against young girls and would be stopped. Sadly, that was 24 years ago and the practice exists still today. I hope this image brings awareness to this issue by informing others and brings about social change- Matilde Simas, Photographer.