Reprod Health Matters. May 2010, 18(35):84-93
Views of women and men in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, on three forms of female genital modification
This paper is about how female circumcision/female genital mutilation (FC/FGM) was viewed by women and men aged 18–89 in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, now that it has been against the law for almost 15 years. The findings come from 11 months of field research, participant observation and interviews in 2008. The practice of FC/FGM was an important issue in Bobo-Dioulasso, even though prevalence seems to be falling. The most important argument for continuing it was not a traditional role, but the need to control female sexuality – regarded as very active – not to negate it, but to ensure morally acceptable behaviour. When I talked about female genital cosmetic surgery it emerged that Bobolaise women used various substances to enhance sexual pleasure for men, both to keep the relationship and to protect the gifts and money many women needed to survive and for their children. FC/FGM was seen as a socio-cultural obligation, necessary to achieve a respectable status. Other forms of genital modification were seen as a means of satisfying male sexual needs, though vaginal tightening to hide sexual experience was also a way of demonstrating respectability. What emerged overall is that Bobolaises had their own perspectives about all the forms of female genital modification that were discussed.