Thanks to my guide Patrice Lassalle, I was invited to lunch in a small village near Man, in the west of the Ivory Coast.
I knew from Patrice that this village practiced “excision festivals”. Uncomfortable, I ask about the actuality of this “practice” and our host answers, just as embarrassed, that “this bullshit is over”. He immediately changes the subject and nobody in the car dares to go further.
Her son-in-law later gives us the details: It is following a wave of HIV contamination that the young girls refused to be excised. And the rite of passage was not replaced.
In Abidjan, a waitress from the region confirms the information and the social pressure induced by the rite: the young woman who has just reached puberty is treated like a queen for a week, has the right to participate in the “talks”, and is asked to marry.
If she refuses, she remains a child. In fact, the exile remains inescapable. Despite awareness campaigns, men’s attitude does not change.
Will the rite resurface when HIV is defeated? I fear so, because many men seem to suffer from manhood anxiety (they obviously swallow stimulant powders at any age) and will do anything to “encourage” their wives’ fidelity.