The Multicultural Student Services Center brought the 2004 film, “MoolaadÃ©”, to the screen this past Monday. Attendees at the screening included Gender and Women’s Studies professor Donna Hughes along with graduate assistant, Safie Sagna.
The Senegalese director, Ousmane SembÃ¨ne, is considered the father of African cinema. In “MoolaadÃ©”, he recognizes the purification of women, in which women are circumcised to be kept “pure” until marriage. The practice of female genital mutilation is frequently practiced in many African countries. A woman is most likely to perform the practice on other women. It is meant to control a woman’s sexuality. Being particularly liberal, SembÃ¨ne delved into a highly controversial topic.
The film specifies the main character, CollÃ©, as the intelligent, wise and favorite second wife (of three wives) to CirÃ© Bathily. Because her daughter, Amasatou, is soon to be wed, CollÃ© refuses for her to be cut, and so she ties a colorful rope across the main entrance of the family’s residence and begins the MoolaadÃ©. The word MoolaadÃ© stands for “magical protection”, in which CollÃ© protects her daughter, Amasatou, and a group of little girls (within her home) from female genital cutting.
The MoolaadÃ© averts the eldest women, who perform the cutting, from entering the home. Anyone who crosses over the rope is punished with very bad luck. By casting this spell, CollÃ© uses MoolaadÃ© as a symbolic tradition to fight the tradition of female purification. CollÃ©’s rebellion causes the elders to become very baffled and upset with CirÃ© Bathily and his wife. CollÃ© knows that tradition is an important role to the people, so she brings back an old tradition in order to stop female purification and protect the people she loves.
“Many governments have banned this practice,” Sagna said. “But it is very difficult to enforce it because even if they touch people, they do not really go to jail for a long time, and then they keep doing it.”
This is part of the reason it is so difficult in other counties.
“Mothers who support it will say, ‘Well if they do not want us to do it in public, then let’s do it without telling anyone.’ Parents themselves are supporting this issue,” Sagna said.
As for Sagna’s mother, she did not believe in such a practice. Her father was also supportive of Sagna’s mother’s views on purification. Sagna says he was not the traditional man like Amasatou’s father was. Hughes says that 98 percent of all girls are almost always cut.
The girls are usually cut when they are in elementary school, and Sagna added that some girls made fun of other girls if they waited too long to get purified. As for Amasatou in the film, that is the reason why her marriage started to backfire. Her mother waited and did not approve of the tradition. The people of the village began to dislike her for it.
This practice is prohibited in the United States. What most families do if they live in America, is they will take their daughters back to their country for vacation and have them cut there. They will bring them back to the U.S after the fact.
Sagna says that female genital mutilation is not a permanent circumcision, but instead, women are sewed up before marriage so they do not explore their sexuality. Unlike the elder women, CollÃ© and the other wives refused to make the same mistakes with their daughters that they did for themselves.
These women were cut in the past because they did not believe they had enough power. Now, they realize that if they fight enough for it, they can get other women to agree with their views against purifying women.
Sagna commented about men’s authority, and said, “they do not have any authority here. Men do not have any choice. Men are going to have to comply with women because they are going to need wives. This is a change that has to come from women.”
As much as men disagree with it, women will overpopulate their decisions, and men will just have to live with it. CollÃ© earned her rights, even if it meant she had to get beaten by her husband first. In the end, her husband sided with her, and admitted that what men are doing is wrong.
This film brings voices to women that vary between Nigeria to Egypt, women from places where this practice is still going on. This is still an issue in 2016, and women are trying to spread this injustice across the world in order to stop this practice for good.