Bioethics Blogs

PART II: SEMBENE! X MOOLAADÉ X DESERT FLOWER: Female Genital Mutilation and Bioethics

Sembene! is a documentary co-directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman. The filmmaking duo uses Sembene’s screen works to bracket the life events of African cinema’s founder. The ultimate illustration of capacity for complex socially relevant, visually compelling cinema lay in Sembene’s 2004 final film, Moolaadé (Magical Protection). This is a heart wrenching story of a woman named Collé living in a fictional, locked in time, Burkina Faso village.
Collé’s is a polygamous family. She resists her daughter having female genital mutilation (FGM), colloquially called “cutting.”  She is horrified that a relative secretly ‘cut’ her youngest daughter. The mother has been steadfast in her refusal of cutting since her children were born. Now, under the pressure of impending marriage, even the bride to be elder daughter wants her mother to capitulate. The mother still refuses though, causing the bride to social ridicule. Collé’s ostracism and beatings are her reward for redefining the cultural moral high ground.
Gradually winning a few other village women over, they often gather at the radio where new thoughts are introduced by journalism and music. The men in the village are not oblivious to the radio’s support of women’s rebellious acts. The glory of Moolaadé is that the fight against female genital mutilation arises from the same culture from which the horror comes. Collé fights to change the archaism within her own community. Medicine has been served well when recognizing “The people with the problem very often hold within them the solution.”
Desert Flower is a film adapted from the book of the same name by Somali born writer and human rights worker, Waris Dari.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.