Published on May 14th, 2012 | by Jamie Walker0
HIV in Zimbabwe: Female Circumcision Cure says Senator
News has emerged today that a Zimbabwean Senator has suggested that women should suffer circumcision and forego basic hygiene such as bathing in order to halt the spread of HIV in the country. Such comments by Morgan Femai, which might be laughed off as ludicrous in the UK, are dangerously indicative of Zimbabwe’s gendered blame culture.
Whilst it is easy to dismiss Femai’s comments as merely ridiculous, they raise a serious issue about how the nation’s politicians realistically plan to combat the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. As of 2009, nearly 1 in 10 Zimbabweans was diagnosed with HIV. Given this accounts for over one million of the population, making such comments as “They should also not bath because that is what has caused all these problems” and “I propose that the government should come up with a law that compels women to have their heads clean-shaven” does nothing but trivialise what is clearly a national issue. Furthermore, it falsely implies that womanhood is the root evil of the problem.
Amongst his series of suggestions for combating HIV/AIDS, Femai has suggested that women should undergo circumcision, as well as making themselves appear less attractive through their choice of clothing. What is so disturbing here is that it squarely plants the blame on female shoulders; as if somehow their own attractiveness, even their basic hygiene routine, makes men unable to resist them. It is the same oppressive attitude that we reported on last year on the subject of the SlutWalk: “don’t lead a man on too far and you won’t get raped” only now instead of rape being the issue, a life living with AIDS is the possible outcome for those women.
I am aware that politicians are prone to the odd gaffe; however it is unacceptable when their voice is one of authority and responsibility to be making statements that could potentially damage people’s lives. As an assumedly educated man, he should be using his position of power to promote the use of condoms and sexual health screening, as opposed to female genital mutilation, which is more akin to witchcraft than it is medicine of any kind. What’s more, it is often performed barbarously; without anaesthetic against the woman’s will. Should women ever have to suffer the ignominy of having their genitals mutilated?
What makes these comments even worse is their context; at the time of saying them he was speaking at an HIV sensitisation workshop. Senator Femai then showed how inappropriate a speaker he was by saying “Women have got more moisture in their organs as compared to men, so there is need to research how to deal with that moisture because it is conducive for bacteria breeding”
Pseudo-science aside, the question to be asked then, is if Mr. Femai’s comments in any way politicised? Not ostensibly, though perhaps in a more gendered way. By attributing fault to women for the country’s AIDS problem, Femai’s party, the supposedly liberal Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are able to avoid questions about the nation’s politicians providing ineffective solutions to the epidemic itself. Using women as the scapegoat for an illness most commonly spread as a result of male sexual profligacy (female prostitution is, after all, symptomatic of male sexual desire) serves to hegemonise the patriarchy. It must be hoped that Femai’s words never ring true. Neither Zimbabwe, nor anywhere else, must allow such views to become society’s norm.
For more information about Female Genital Cutting visit http://www.orchidproject.org/