SIERRA LEONE: The Bondo Debate: An Affront To The Sierra Leonean Woman

This piece is partly a response to Mr. Donald Georgestone’s very misleading and uninformed piece in Cocorioko and other online outlets, calling for a ban Bondo and by extension Female circumcision. What is a little despicable is the reproduction of the untruth used by Western propaganda machinery to make his argument.

This piece will also disagree with Mr. Yankuba Kai-Samba who said children below eighteen years should not be initiated. This is the classic age of consent argument westerners have consistently used to eradicate African cultures they do not understand.

In the end I would argue that we should respect the rights of Sierra Leonean women to make decisions with respect to their “secret society”.
Let me start by stating that the average westerner since the advent of their contacts with Africans has been fascinated with African sexuality. There are myths and legends about the sexual prowess of the African male and how the women are promiscuous.

Even in contemporary times, HIV/AIDS disease has been couched within African sexuality. Even some of the well meaning philanthropists exhibit this demented fascination with African sexuality.
Mr. Georgestone made a series of untrue and frankly ignorant statements about Bondo. Take for example the following: “The main objective of the Bondo Society , is to make sure that every member go through the Female Genital Mutilation procedure which does not serve any purpose , nor does it benefit the woman or the country in any way”. This statement is as unfortunate as it is ignorant. Only a very ignorant person would say Bondo serves no purpose especially to women.

It is also ignorant to say the main objective is the surgery they perform on women. What arrant nonsense. Historical documents have shown that the Bondo is an educational institution which prepares girls for womanhood just as school or college education prepares you for life’s challenges. But for the unfair interference of westerners and the collusion of few confused Sierra Leoneans, women going through the Bondo society claimed their status in their communities.

It seems to me Bondo has far more to do with the whole concept of womanhood than just sex. Bondo society is not only a learning institution; it also contributes to the political economy of the nation. The leaders of Bondo Societies like our western teachers and/or professors derive some form of economic benefits from teaching young girls about child birth, family life and community life. In a country where illiteracy is king and access to institutions teaching these skills taught by Bondo is almost non-existent, it will be a tragedy for anyone to ban the institution.

I am quite sure Mr. Georgestone did not take these into consideration.
On the issue of child birth and sexual gratification through orgasm, Mr. Georgestone yet again exposed his limitations in this area. Let me hasten to tell Mr. Georgestone that not experiencing orgasm has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Bondo. Unless Mr. Georgestone wants to tell us that the sixty or some percent of American women who have never experienced orgasm were taken to Sierra Leone and forcefully initiated into Bondo.

The statistics are there about American women never experiencing orgasm and some of these women will not find Sierra Leone on the map even if their lives depended on it. If you are calling for a ban for such an integral institution of the Sierra Leonean society, you should at least get your facts right. In addition, using a couple of people to arrive at a conclusion for over ninety percent of Sierra Leonean women is methodologically dishonest and downright wrong. If that is the method you used in your book, I would advice folks to look for a better book written by Prof Ahmadu of University of Chicago.

On the issue of urinating, again, problems with urinating during old age has very little to do with Bondo unless ofcourse Mr. Georgestone want to tell me again that all the older women in USA with catheter were rushed to Sierra Leone to join Bondo. Stop this propaganda nonsense.

While Yankuba Kai-samba’s heart is in the right place, his argument about the age of consent is equally a western ploy to get rid of the Bondo institution. Sometimes the westerners have text book instructions for us but they do things as life permits them. They are all up in arms because children below eighteen are being initiated. The main argument is that the children do not give their consent.

What Mr Kaisamba should realize is that these westerners never ask their children’s consent in almost anything they do. For them the parents know what is best for the children. Even in a court of law, judges everyday make decisions based on what is best for the children so what is wrong if an African family decides what is best for their children? Obviously our women who went through the Bondo institution are thriving and the vast majority of them are not complaining. In my view, it is racist for the westerners to even insinuate that African parents do not know what’s best for their children.

This racist perception of Africans is not new. For a long time Westerners considered Africans not to be much grown than European kids. That is why for a long time in the US, they referred to grown African men as boys. Why can’t you allow African parents to do what’s best for their children? Why should the white man tell our women what’s best for them and we have people like Mr. Georgestone towing the line like a sheep to the slaughter? Let us recognize the intelligence of our parents and women. If women feel they no longer want to get involved with Bondo it is their prerogative and not an American Ambassador’s. Just as American parents decide that their kids need braces in their mouth (which involves excruciating pain), then they should respect the African families to make decisions about the bodies of their children. As a matter of fact the age of initiation is getting younger because of these negative attacks on our women.

What pisses me off is when these same western women shed crocodile tears about women’s rights. Did the American Ambassador stop to think that Bondo is an institution that empowers Sierra Leonean women more than any other institution ever created by the west? This is the only institution where the woman has total control. Now chauvinists like Mr. Georgestone and agents of male chauvinism like the American Ambassador want to get rid of it.

The decision about the continuation of the practice in Bondo should be left exclusively to the women. Let the women make decisions about their body. I am sure the America Ambassador would not want anyone making decisions for her whether she should have an abortion or not. That is the woman’s right to choose. In the same vein, the Sierra Leonean woman should have the right to choose not to have a clitoris as well as the Sierra Leonean family has the right decide whether or not their girl child should have a clitoris as long as they determine it is in their best interest.

African parents should be given the same rights as western parents who decided that circumcision of boys is in the best interest of the child. Leave our women alone.

SOURCE: Cocorioko Newspaper

AUTHOR: Abdulai Samura

DATE: 20/02/2009

URL: Click here

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