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Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 09:02:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: RIGHTS: Bride Price, Female Mutilation Still Common In Ethiopia
Article: 69665
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.16197.19990715181533@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 410.0 **/
** Topic: RIGHTS: Bride Price, Female Mutilation Still Common In Ethiopia **
** Written 9:07 PM Jul 13, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Bride Price, Female Mutilation Still Common In Ethiopia

By Yemisrach Benalfew, IPS, 13 July 1999

ETHIOPIA, JUL 13 (IPS)— With three camels, plus 38 US Dollars, a man can 'buy' a wife in rural Ethiopia. If the groom doesn't have camels, he offers his future in-laws cattle. He also has to farm her father's land.

This tradition, called 'gurgura', or to sell, is widely practiced among Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, the Oromo, who make up about 40 percent of the country's 60 million people.

Similar practice exists in Gambela, a region on the border with Sudan, where a man, aged 60, can 'buy' a 19-year-old girl for several heads of cattle, says National Committee of Harmful Traditional Practices , a non-governmental organisation (ngo) based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Once married, the girl is treated more like a servant than a wife, says the committee's Executive Director, Abebech Alemneh.

Even so, families dislike the idea of their daughters returning home, after a dispute. Since they have already spent the dowry paid by their son-in-law, they prefer their daughter to suffer than come home, says Beynech Wata, deputy chairman of the Women Committee of southern Ethiopia.

Wata, who was herself circumcised at the age of 10, has embarked on a campaign, with other women, to end the growing harmful traditional practices in Ethiopia.

Recalling her ordeal, Wata says her mother covered her eyes, while two other women held her legs apart. With a new razor, a another lady mutilated the whole part of my genital, she says.

They poured water on the wound after cutting me. It was burning. I couldn't urinate for four days, she recalls. Wata didn't undergo the stitching of her genital after being mutilated.

Unless a girl is circumcised, she is regarded a 'harem', an outcast in her society, says Abdi Ibrahim who hails from Dire Dawa, a town in the south eastern Ethiopia, where the practice is common.

Ibrahim says, a small girl's eyes are covered with cloth, while her hands and legs are tied. She is stitched and torn again on her wedding night, says Zeyneb Abdulahi of Dire Dawa. Until then, she has just a hole to urinate and menstruate.

Infubilation, the worst type of circumcision, is practiced among the ethnic Afar, Harri, Somali and Oromo, the committee says.

The UN Children's Fund (UNCIEF) says the age of circumcision varies from the first week of life, infancy or puberty, before marriage, or just after having the first child.

They usually use crude and unclean instruments like rusted, pointed metal or razor, according to the committee. They cut a vein, bleeding the girl more.

Another form of marriage, which involves elopement, is also common in parts of Ethiopia, especially in the southern and Oromiya regions. At one market place, the committee says, up to five girls used to be kidnapped.

A group of six to seven men wait in a forest for a girl of 12 to 14 years of age to return from fetching water or collecting woods to abduct her. They break her pot, pick up the struggling girl and run. If she struggles, they beat her, says the committee. If they are educated they use cars to facilitate the elopement.

If caught, the kidnappers face up to ten years in prison, according to the committee. Unless the girl has an influential father, to argue on her behalf, people will always say, afterall, a girl's ultimate goal is to get married, Wata says.

The women groups have began educating the population against the risks of circumcision and abduction.

Researches indicate that 30.7 percent of Ethiopia's population is against FGM, 74.7 percent oppose early marriage and 85.3 percent against abduction.

The rate of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is 73 percent, early marriage 54.5 percent and abduction 69 percent in 1997, the committee says.

Early marriage is prevalent among the Amhara and Tigray people. A 12-year-old girl marries a man, gets pregnant, gives birth to a still baby, or undergo a prolonged labour, or even dies. She develops fistula, the inability to control her urine and faeces.

Early marriage is a result of social pressure and economic problem. If a girl doesn't marry at early age, she is regarded an outcast in her community.

FGM is practiced in nine of Ethiopia's 11 regions. It will take a long time to eradicate the practice in the country, Alemneh notes.

The committee believes that harmful practices are declining in the country. The number of circumcised women has, they say, declined from 90 percent in 1990 to 73 percent in 1997.(END/IPS/yb/mn/99)