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Changing practices and shifting meanings of female genital cutting among the Maasai of Arusha and Manyara regions of Tanzania

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Using mixed methods that combined participant observation and semi-structured in-depth interviews, this study looked at changing practices and shifting meanings of female genital cutting among the Maasai people in Tanzania. The findings suggest that an increasing social pressure to abandon female genital cutting has inspired the hiding of the practice, causing the actual cutting to become detached from its traditional ceremonial connotations. This detaching of cutting from ceremony has created a shift in meanings: the ceremony still carries the meaning of passage into adulthood, while the cutting seems to function as a way of inscribing Maasai identity into the body. The detaching of genital cutting from ceremony offers those willing to continue the practice the opportunity to do so without being prosecuted, and those unwilling to undergo or perform the practice the opportunity to evade it by faking the cutting without being socially sanctioned for it. Findings also suggest changing attitudes towards the practice among the younger generation as the result of education. Maasai culture and the practice of female genital cutting are not static but actively challenged and reinterpreted from within the community, with formally schooled and women taking up leading roles in reshaping gender norms.

Journal: Culture, Health & Sexuality
ISSN: 1369-1058
Issue: 12
Volume: 19
Pages: 1344-1359
Number of pages: 16
Publication year:2017
Keywords:Circumcision, Maasai, Tanzania, female genital mutilation, health consequences