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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage in Tanzania

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

On August 31, Maryknoll lay missioner Liz Mach spoke at the Boisi Center. Mach works alongside the Catholic Church in Tanzania to address gender-based violence. She emphatically stressed that her work was to support local initiatives, not to impose Western values on African people.

Two cultural practices in Tanzania are of great concern, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. FGM is the partial or total removal of female genitalia and is considered a rite-of-passage in many Tanzanian communities. This interferes with fertility and childbirth and can lead to other medical problems. FGM is practiced both by Muslims and Christians in parts of Tanzania and is a cultural, not a religious, practice. FGM is often a precursor to child marriage. Though FGM and child marriage both are illegal in Tanzania, the laws are difficult to enforce. 

Mach noted optimistically that though the Church has encountered some backlash when fighting gender-based violence, their efforts have produced significant results.  Awareness and education is leading to cultural change, and opportunities are available for young woman seeking to avoid FGM or child marriages and continue their education.