PROJECT: Escape: ESCAPE: PHOTO ESSAY
For the Maasai tribe of Kenya, female circumcision (currently refered to by law as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM) is considered a rite of passage. It is a prerequisite to marriage as it is believed to turn a girl into a woman and cleanse her blood, which will finally make her worthy of a man’s touch. It is also believed to stifle her libido thus ensuring her fidelity to her husband. Girls undergo this rite from as early as 8 to 15 years of age.
Immediately following circumcision is marriage, which brings in a significant amount of livestock and cash flow to the girl's family. For a poor pastoral family, a gir'’s dowry will mean a rise in status in their community because property commands respect. Property however, is not limited to inanimate objects. Girls and women are considered property. They can be exchanged, married off or banished at the will of the husband, father, brothers or even uncles. The man is the final decision-maker and to contradict him would be an unfathomable act of disrespect. A girl cannot scream or cry when her clitoris and labia minora are cut off for she is not to disobey the will of her father. Once she is married, she can no longer proceed in her studies as she is to tend to her obligations as a wife. She is to cook, clean, and procreate.