50. Interview with Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, 7 June 1997, Los Angeles, CA. Qtd in Absharaf and Halim,138.
1. [FOR ALL INTERNET SOURCES, PLEASE GIVE A COMPLETE URL, SO WE CAN SET UP HOTLINKS] FGC is also referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Western and African activists such as Amal Abd El Hadi, Alice Walker, Evelyn Accad, and Fran Hosken, author of The Hosken Report: Genital & Sexual Mutilation of Women. For these activists, “mutilation” accurately names the procedure as an unnatural disfigurement and highlights what they see to be the misogynistic undercurrent of a practice they understand to rob women of sexual pleasure. As will become clear in this essay, the practice is not easily isolated in this way; rather, it engages with gender, sexuality, and economic freedoms in a complex dynamic that is not easily cast as misogynistic. The language of FGM has also come to be seen by local activists as a Western neocolonial judgment that works to shame and press Western defined rights discourse on local communities, thereby ignoring the cultural, juridical, and gendered traditions of these communities. For these reasons, I will use female genital cutting (FGC) throughout my essay. [return to page 1]
2. These procedures include: clitoridectomy – “partial or total removal of the clitoris,” excision – “partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora,” and infibulation – “narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.” World Health Organization (WHO), “Female Genital Mutilation,” Media Fact Sheet, no. 241 (February 2010) web, 27 Dec. 2010.
3. Moolaadé, dir. Ousmane Sembène, perf. Fatoumata Coulibaly, Dominique Zeïda, Théophile Sowié, 2004, DVD, New Yorker Films, 2005.
4. Sudanese gynecologist Hamid Rushwan lists “bleeding, shock, tetanus, blood poisoning, urine retention, urinary tract infections, hardened scars, cysts, abscesses, menstrual problems, sexual problems, infertility, pelvic inflamatory disease, and psychological problems as some of the effects the procedures may induce.” Qtd in Abusharaf and Asma Mohamed Abdel Halim, “Questioning the Tradition: Female Circumcision in Sudan,” African Women’s Health, ed. Meredith Turshen (Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 2000): 125-6.
5. New Yorker Films press book available online at <www.newyorkerfilms.com>.
6. Prompted by the simultaneous U.S. premiere of Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake and Sembène’s Moolaadé at the 42nd Annual New York Film Festival in 2004, J. Hoberman reviewed both films as movies of a similar ilk. He writes,
Hoberman’s review highlights the “agit-prop” nature of Sembène’s production and suggests that the two films may be read together as stories of women working against irrational belief systems that govern their societies and bodies. In Drake the irrational system is the bureaucracy of Western government and in Moolaadé it is the fundamentalism and patriarchy of the village’s Islamic elders, male and female alike. Both systems are marked within each film by a dominant political entity unable to see their way into the ‘women’s issues’ that affect members of their community. Setting aside Hoberman’s equation of religious belief with irrationality, his review provides us with a sense of how the film was received by a liberal, Western audience already familiar and somewhat comfortable with the struggle for women’s rights. J. Hoberman, “Labors of Love They Want to Defy the Logic of All Sex Laws: Auteurs Tackle Abortion and Female Circumcision,” Village Voice 24 Sept. 2004, web, 4 February 2006.
7. After Hoberman’s pairing of Drake and Moolaadé in his review, an art cinema in Rhinebeck, New York, offered a series entitled “Women's Issues Examined at Upstate,” where they programmed the films in back-to-back single week runs touted as the presentation of “two politically charged dramas in the month of January: Moolaadé, about female mutilation in Africa, and Mike Leigh's abortionist drama Vera Drake” “Advertisement,” Hudson Valley Times, web, 27 April 2006.
Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf, “Revisiting Feminist Discourses on Infibulation: Responses from Sudanese Feminists, Female “Circumcision” in Africa, eds. Bettina Shell-Duncan, Ylva Hernlund (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000): 152. In the same volume also see: Claudie Gosselin, “Handing Over the Knife: Numu Women and the Campaign Against Excision in Mali,”193 and Fuambai Ahmadu, “Rites and Wring: An Insider/Outsider Reflects on Power and Excision,”284. Also see Abusharaf and Halim, 125-128.
9. Fran Hosken, The Hosken Report: Genital & Sexual Mutilation of Women, 4th edition (Lexington, MA: Women's Internet Network News, 1993): 16. Qtd in Abusharaf, “Revisiting,” 161.
10. Tostan is a women’s rights NGO based in Senegal. It receives a portion of its funding from UNICEF and other first world NGOs.
11. Nirit Ben-Ari, “Changing Tradition to Safeguard Women; Villagers Join Campaigns Against Female Genital Mutilation,” Africa Recovery, United Nations, 17.1 (May 2003): 4.
12. United Nations, General Assembly Resolution 34/180 of 12 Dec. 1979. Cited in Christine Ainetter Brautigam, “International Human Rights Law: The Relevance of Gender,” The Human Rights of Women: International Instruments and African Experience, ed. Wolfgang Benedek, Esther Kisaakye & Gerd Oberleitner (London: Zed Books, 2002): notes 12, 27. Established in 1979, CEDAW is operational under the United Nations Commission for Women (CSW), established in 1946 as the major policy body for the monitoring of women’s rights, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). See Shanthi Dairiam, “Introduction,” Bringing Equality Home: Implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (New York: UNIFEM, 1998): 8-9.
13. United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Article Fourteen, 1948, UN.org, web, 20 July 2009. In December 1948, the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In an international, quasi-juridical fashion this act codified a set of human rights granted, protected, and recognized by state powers. The 1948 act was a solidification of the rights of nation-states as granters of such rights. The Declaration sets the parameters that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights uses to monitor human rights abuses.
14. United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Article Twenty-Seven, 1948, UN.org, web, 20 July 2009.
15. Ellen Gruenbaum, The Female Circumcision Controversy; An Anthropological Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001): 216.
16. For a discussion of how the Kassindja and Abankwah cases influenced U.S. asylum law and women’s rights see Corinne A. Kratz, “Seeking Asylum, Debating Values, and Setting Precedents in the 1990s,” Transcultural Bodies: Female Genital Cutting in Global Context, eds. Ylva Hernlund and Bettina Shell-Duncan (Rutgers University Press, 2007): 167-201. Gruenbaum illustrates how asylum petitions often work by describing how a Nigerian woman in the United States on a student visa with her husband remained in the country and won an asylum petition to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services after she refused to return home after her husband’s death, fearing her U.S.-born daughter would be forced to participate in a FGC ceremony and that both would be considered the “property” of her husband’s family (216).
17. UNESCO, “Film directors Ousmane Sembène and Chantal Akerman awarded UNESCO's Fellini medal,” 26 May 2004, web, 15 April 2006. [return to page 2]
19. Frederick Ivor Case, “Aesthetics, Ideology, and Social Commitment in the Prose Fiction of Ousmane Sembène,” Ousmane Sembène: Dialogues with Critics and Writers, ed. Samba Gadjigo, et al (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993): 4.
20. Marcia Landy, “Political Allegory and ‘Engaged Cinema’: Sembène’s Xala,” Cinema Journal, 23.3 (Spring 1984): 32.
21. Philip Rosen, “Nation, inter-nation and narration in Ousmane Sembène’s films,” A Call to Action: The Films of Ousmane Sembène, Ed. Sheila Petty (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996): 35.
22. Sada Niang, “Mandabi: Character, Context, and Wolof language,” Jump Cut, 40 (March 1996) web, 12 Nov. 2010.
23. Françoise Pfaff, Interview with Ousmane Sembène, The Cinema of Ousmane Sembène, (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1984): 127. Qtd. in Niang, note 3.
24. Mandabi, dir. Ousmane Sembène, perf. Malhouredia Gueye, Mustapha Ture, Ynousse N’Diaye, Thérèse Bas 1968, DVD, New Yorker Films, 2005.
25. Ousmane Sembène, “Her Three Days,” 1974, African Rhapsody; Short Stories of the Contemporary African Experience, ed. Nadezda Obradovié (New York: Anchor Books, 1994): 203.
26. “Dakar Film Festival Opens in Homage to Writer, Filmmaker Ousmane Sembène,” Agence France Presse – English, 15 December 2004, web, 10 Sept. 2006. [return to page 3]
27. “Zimbabwe Awards Ceremony Marks ZIFF End,” Africa News, 4 September 2006, web, 10 Sept. 2006.
28. According to BBC News, with an annual 1.5 million euro budget Africa Cinemas objectives are to maintain a significant presence of mainstream French and European films and locally produced Pan-African films through market subsidies of both exhibition spaces (Cameroon, Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, and Mali) and distribution companies (Mali, Senegal, Benin Burkina Faso, Niger, Cameroon). “Europa Bankrolls African Films,” BBC News — International Version, news.bbc.co.uk, 22 May 2003, web, 21 April 2006. Also see: “African Film Library,” France-Diplomatie, diplomatie.gouv.fr, n.d., web,28 March 2006.
29. “Capsule Review,” The Canberra-Times, 26 August 2005, web, 4 April 2006. “Critic’s Pick: Moolaadé,” The Canberra-Times, 3 September 2005, web, 4 April 2006.
30. Francoise Pfaff, “The Uniqueness of Ousmane Sembène’s Cinema,” Ousmane Sembène: Dialogues with Critics and Writers, ed. Samba Gadjigo, et al (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993): 21.
31. Interview with Ousmane Sembène, Making of Moolaadé, interview by Daniel Graham, trans. Samba Gadjigo, 2002, DVD, New Yorker Films, 2005.
32. Foundation For Women's Health Research & Development, Trustees Annual Report, (March 2006): 32-33, web, 10 October 2010.
33. FORWARD, Newsletter (August 2008): 2, web, 10 October 2010.
34. Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), Newsletter (Winter 2006): 3, web, 27 December 2010. Like, Tostan, SIHA is a women’s rights organization run by local activists that, according to its newsletter, receives funding from N(o)vib, Oxfam Germany, UNICEF, the French Government, the Canadian Government and the Open Society Institute” (1).
35. Inter African Committee, Annual Report (2009): 8. IAC is a NGO comprised of representatives from twenty-eight African countries and sixteen affiliates in Europe, Canada, USA, Japan, and New Zealand that collaborate with the WHO, the UN, and the African Union.
36. United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Article Nineteen, 1948, UN.org, web, 20 July 2009.
37. Sally Engle Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law Into Local Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006): 1-2. The UN Declaration of Human Rights acts as a model for various regional and continental commissions on human rights such as the African Banjul Charter on Human Rights. The Banjul Charter is the youngest regional commission and the only to include at its inception specific provisions guaranteeing the rights of women, modeled in part after the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).[return to pag 4]
38. After attending NGO sessions at the 1995 Beijing Convention on women’s rights, Gruenbaum writes that locally driven NGOs are using song and entertainment as pedagogical tools to help combat FGC and to educate women about their national and international rights in the developing world: “Girls songs are quite popular in Sudan” (213).
39. Wolfgang Benedek, “The European System of Protection of Human Rights and Human Rights of Women,” The Human Rights of Women: International Instruments and African Experience. Ed. Wolfgang Benedek, Esther Kisaakye & Gerd Oberleitner (London: Zed Books, 2002): 225. The full article reads, “The Commission shall draw inspiration from international law on human and peoples' rights, particularly from the provisions of various African instruments on human and peoples' rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other instruments adopted by the United Nations and by African countries in the field of human and peoples' rights as well as from the provisions of various instruments adopted within the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations of which the parties to the present Charter are members.” Organization of African Unity, “African (Banjul) Charter on People’s and Human Rights,” OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982), adopted 27 June 1981, entered into force 21 October 1986: 2, Africa Union, web, 22 July 2009.
Considering the paucity of women’s rights cases brought before any pan-African court, one could suggest that the greatest function of these regional commissions is as publicity organs promoting the rights enumerated in their conventions to the population they serve, which is no small thing. The economic contributions of the state members of the Commission fund these activities with additional monies from various organizations within the United Nations; the question of enforcement beyond promotional activities is, unsurprisingly, largely a question of economics. While the European Commission, established as part of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, houses a court where cases of human rights violations may be brought, the African Commission has only recently established an African Court of Human and People’s Rights. The purpose and structure of the Court was adopted by the African Union in 1998 and ratified by the necessary fifteen nation-state members. This ensured a 25 January 2004 establishment, with the election of judges in July of the same year. Even with the 2004 establishment deadline sources for the Commission’s necessary funding, let alone the separate court system, remained largely uncertain at the time of ratification (Benedek 224). So while cases may be brought before the Commission, at the time of Moolaadé’s production and release, there was not yet an OAU operational juridical enforcement mechanism capable of awarding compensation or engaging in binding arbitration. “Great News For The Fight Against Impunity on the African Continent: the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Will Enter into Force on 25 January 2004,” International Federation for Human Rights, 7 January 2004, web, 15 April 2006.
40. Henry Onoria, “Introduction to the African System of Protection of Human Rights and the Draft Protocol,” The Human Rights of Women: International Instruments and African Experience. ed. Wolfgang Benedek, Esther Kisaakye & Gerd Oberleitner (London: Zed Books, 2002): 234. Provision one of the Charter reads:
Provision two reads:
Organization of African Unity, “African (Banjul) Charter on People’s and Human Rights,” Africa Union (21 October 1986): 2, web, 22 July 2009.
41. Two years after Moolaadé’s initial African festival premieres, a growing number of challenges to national laws emerged from the Charter and the Commission that drew on the Charter’s provision that traditions and customs are ‘consistent with international norms on human and peoples’ rights. Onoria cites one case in particular where “the Botswana Supreme Court disallowed the argument about ‘traditions’ of a ‘patriarchal society’ that denied lineage (in effect citizenship) via the mother. The court was willing to discard a tradition that was in violation of the rights of women and uphold the principle of nondiscrimination” (235). This case was heard in a national court system and cited by Onoria as the type of case that highlight human rights’ abuses as well as matters of economic, social, and cultural development that could be heard in the African Union system after the physical establishment of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. However, there still remains the challenge to further translate the principles enumerated in the 1948 doctrine and the Banju Commission into a force capable of influencing the juridical systems of multiple individual nation-states. Even with the physical establishment of an African Court of Human and People’s Rights (CHPR) in Arusha, Tanzania, as of June 2009 the court had yet to hear a case and had no provisions to protect plaintiffs and witnesses against retaliation from defendants. UPI Newswire reports that in March 2009, the African Union announced the establishment of yet another human rights court: the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (CJHR). According to a 2008 report in Africa News,
They argued that a merger would assure adequate resources to fund an effective continental court. In April , after four years of negotiations, African justice ministers agreed to the text of a single legal instrument to create an African Court of Justice and Human Rights” (“Effective”). Furthermore, according to a report issued by Chatham House, a British think tank that monitors human rights on the African continent, the CHPR will be “wound down” over the next few years as it is combined with CJHR. The resulting court will act as “the main judicial organ of the African Union” (2). As of July 2009, the court has yet to hear a single case. One reason for that may be the lack of protection able to be offered by the court as well as the fact that “individuals and NGOs are only able to bring cases in their own right if the state against which they are complaining has signed a special declaration accepting the competence of the Court to hear cases brought via this route” (2). “African Court to Address Human Rights,” UPI Newswire, 23 March 2009, web, 10 September 2009. Sonya Sceats, “Africa’s New Human Rights Court: Whistling in the Wind?” (London: Chatham House, March 2009): 2, web, 10 September 2009.
42. The film’s credits alsoacknowledge the funding participation of two private foundations: the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation, a Swiss grant giving trust with a history of research monies granted to children’s health causes and non-profit arts organization and the German Church Development Services.
43. Ousmane Sembène, Interview by Samba Gadjigo, 11 April 2004 (New York: Artificial Eye and New Yorker Films Press Books): 4.
44. Direction de la Cinématographie Nationale, culture.gov.bf, n.d., web,3 February 2006. Beginning in 2005, it has also funded a regional training school and film and dv post-production resources via IRIS (Institut Régional de l'Image et du Son) in partnership with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the French Community, Belgium and the Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC) of Quebec. IRIS, iris.gov.bf, n.d., web, 20 July 2009. The site has not been updated since 2007.
45. Cinetelefilms.com, n.d., web,3 February 2006. The website for the company is no longer functioning as of July 2009. The Unifrance website lists the company as an active producer of feature films up to 2007 when it funded The Wedding Song directed by Karen Albou. This site credits the company as producing sixteen films form 1995 to 2007, including Moolaadé and Denys Arcand’s Quebecoise production The Barbarian Invasions (2003). Unifrance is an organization funded in 1949 to promote French language cinema around the world. “Filmography by Cinetelefilms,” Unifrance, en.unifrance.org, n.d., web, 20 July 2009. Funded by the French CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie), according to its website it works as a sort-of clearing house for French language film professionals:
Unifrance, en.unifrance.org, n.d., web, 20 July 2009.
46. “Les Films de la Terre Africaine,” imdb.com, n.d., web, 30 March 2006. As of this writing, the company has helped fund three films: Moolaadé, and two films directed by Basak Ba Kobhio: Le silence de la forêt (2003), which screened at Cannes and Toronto, and Sango Malo (1990).
47. “Moolaadé,” France Diplomatie, diplomatie.gouv.fr, n.d., web, 21 April 2006. Ciné Sud Promotion is a subsidiary of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs that acts as the economic arm of the ministry’s support of cinema produced in the Global South. It has supported productions in thirty-one of Africa’s forty-seven countries, as its predecessor funding agency, the Bureau of Cinema, did under the 1961 established Ministry of Cooperation, as well as productions from South America, the Middle East, Eastern and Central Europe, and Asia. While the Ministry’s funding of Ciné Sud was previously localized to features produced on the African continent, it widened the international scope of its funding in the mid-1990s to recognize the increased need for cultural productions throughout the Global South. Ciné Sud has funded over 400 films since this shift, with an average aid award of 110,000 Euros. Filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno points out that, unfortunately, the Ministry’s budget did not increase in proportion to the increased countries served. Additionally, in order to qualify for funds, “The greater part of the sum must be earmarked for post-production in France.” For a complete list of countries whose films have received production funding please visit “Film List by Country,” France Diplomatie, diplomatie.gouv.fr, n.d.,web, 18 July 2009. Jean-Marie Teno, “Imagining Alternatives: African Cinema in the New Century,” newsreel.org, n.d., web, 20 March 2006.
48. “Rules of procedure,” France Diplomatie, diplomatie.gouv.fr, n.d., web, 18 July 2009.
49. Centre Cinematographique Marocain, ccm.ma, n.d., web, 30 March 2006. The Centre is responsible for a repertory theatre, post-production facilities, production training services, and it controls a Help Fund, established in 1980, prior to the Centre itself, aimed at the promotion of a national cinema through the support of both feature and short films. In 2004, new regulations were drafted for the Help Fund to provide for both production assistance and support during the screenwriting process; however, films at the post-production stage are given funding priorities. In 2006 there were over 150 applications for support made to the Centre from all stages of production; most of the applications -- 90% -- are from Moroccan filmmakers of varying experience. As of June 2009, the Fund had contributed 2009 monies to eleven feature productions after reviewing twenty-two features readying for post-production and two features in initial production stages. All eleven films are in the post-production stage. See the following press releases: “Communiqué du Fonds d'Aide — 2ème session 2009,” ccm.ma, n.d., web, 20 July 2009. “Commuinqué du Fonds d'aide 1 ère session 2009,” ccm.ma, n.d., web, 20 July 2009.
50. Interview with Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, 7 June 1997, Los Angeles, CA. Qtd in Absharaf and Halim,138.