Who Are the Maasai

Maasai people are found in southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They are a nomadic people who live under a communal system. They move from place to place while searching for greener pastures for their cattle. Among the Maasai rituals, ceremonies include circumcision for both boys and girls. These rituals are believed to bring elevation from childhood to adulthood. Boys becomes men, while girls become women. Boys continue their education while the girls are married off in trade for cattle.

The Maasai (like many tribes in Africa) revere certain traditions, many of which have been passed down for generations. Central among these traditions is the attitude towards the girl/woman in the Maasai society and particularly the interrelated practices of child bride and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Maasai girls undergo FGM from the age of ten years and upwards. After undergoing this painful operation/mutilation (most  often forced and without anesthetic), they are considered to be adults and can therefore be married off in exchange for cows which are highly prized within this pastoral tribe. Though against the law in Kenya, FGM is compulsory in the Maasai tribe and marriage within the tribe cannot take place for a girl/woman who has not undergone the ritual (despite of the fact that FGM induces physiological, mental and psychological complications that last a lifetime.)

Female circumcision/mutilation has been cited as a determinant in the spread of HIV/Aids and also subjects the female individual to various health(physiological, mental and psychological) complications. The use of the same equipment during the FGM operations facilitates HIV/AIDS/STD transmission. (Since the operation/mutilation is a social ritual, there are many girls that go under the knife together and sterilizing of equipment is most often not even considered.) Girls who undergo FGM are married off immediately, most often to older men who have the wealth for dowry and are likely to be infected by HIV Aids.