Ceremonies Only for Girls

One childhood transition celebrated only for girls was the thousand-year-old practice of foot binding in China (Gates, 2001, in press; see also Kroeber, 1948/1963). There were regional variations in its prevalence. Girls aged approximately 7-12 years were subjected to this torment, which could last for as long as 4 years. Although the practice of binding a daughter's feet may appear to have had an esthetic purpose, it served to prevent a young woman from a life of performing strenuous and degrading labor and from being sold into servitude.

In numerous traditional societies, ritual genital mutilations are performed on adolescent initiates. Yet the most complex and radical of these operations, infibula-tion, is performed on younger girls, aged 4-10 years, among a number of societies in northeastern Africa, including Sudan, where the practice has been outlawed since 1945 and is opposed by governmental and religious authorities. Nevertheless, infibulation continues (Boddy, 1989; Hayes, 1975; Hicks, 1996), perpetuated by grandmothers, in the belief that the operation is needed to assure the initiate's sexual purity on which, in turn, the honor of the family is based. For the participating women, it is a joyous celebration, and their clapping, singing, and drumming drown out the screams of the mutilated child.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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