Added: Johnathn Leiker - Date: 12.10.2021 00:25 - Views: 38707 - Clicks: 7960
Fears are growing for the fate of thousands of young girls in rural Mauritaniawhere campaigners say the cruel practice of force-feeding young girls for marriage is making a ificant comeback since a military junta took over the West African country. Aminetou Mint Ely, a women's rights campaigner, said girls as young as five were still being subjected to the tradition of leblouh every year.
The practice sees them tortured into swallowing gargantuan amounts of food and liquid - and consuming their vomit if they reject it. We had a Ministry of Women's Affairs. We had female diplomats and governors. The military have set us back by decades, sending us back to our traditional roles. We no longer even have a ministry to talk to. The latest, in August last year, saw General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz seize power after the elected president tried to sack him.
ren's rights lawyer, Fatimata M'baye, echoed Ely's pessimism.
The politicians are scared of questioning their own traditions. Rural marriages usually take place under customary law or are overseen by a marabou a Muslim preacher. No state official gets involved, so there is no arbiter to check on the age of the bride.
Leblouh is intimately linked to early marriage and often involves a girl of five, seven or nine being obliged to eat excessively to achieve female roundness and corpulence, so that she can be married off as young as possible. Girls from rural families are taken for leblouh at special "fattening farms" where older women, or the children's aunts or grandmothers, will administer pounded millet, camel's milk and water in quantities that make them ill.
A typical daily diet for a six-year-old will include two kilos of pounded millet, mixed with two cups of butter, as well as 20 litres of camel's milk. She suffers but is told that being fat will bring her happiness. Matrons use sticks which they roll on the girl's thighs, to break down tissue and hasten the process.
Other leblouh practices include a subtle form of torture - zayar - using two sticks inserted each side of a toe. When refuses to drink or eat, the matron squeezes the sticks together, causing great pain.
A successful fattening process will see a year-old weigh 80kg. By the age of 15 she will look 30," said M'baye. Historians say the practice dates back to pre-colonial times when all Mauritania's white Moor Arabs were nom. The richer the man, the less his wife would do - the preference being for her to sit still all day in her tent while her black slaves saw to household chores.
Ancient Berber quatrains laud tebtath stretchmarks as jewels. Even today lekhwassar fat around the waist is given lyrical pride of place and girls sent for fattening gain the stature of mbelha. They are taught to sit in the lotus position, speak softly, use utensils and to emulate the exemplary lives of the Prophet Muhammad's wives. Fattening of girls is practised beyond Mauritania, in northern Mali and rural Niger - areas conquered, along with half of present-day Spain and Portugal, by the Almoravid dynasty in the 11th century.
The practice of fattening also continues in Nigeria's Calabar state and north Cameroon. The resurgence of the practice in rural Mauritania is a depressing setback for campaigners after education and awareness campaigns were apparently having a tangible effect.
Ten years ago we ran information campaigns about the dangers of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The government even commissioned ball condemning fattening. Political scientist Mohamed el-Mounir, 38, claimed western influence had wiped out the allure of feminine fat.
These days girls watch fashion shows on television. Their role models are American actresses or Lebanese singers in sexy dresses. Girls do sport. Yes, Mauritanian men like slightly round women. But there is no way we want them obese. Health and development consultant Mounina Mint Abdellah, 51, said she was force-fed as by her mother's family. When I left school in it would have been unthinkable for me to go abroad to study. But now, 30 years later, my daughter is doing her master's degree in France.
We owe a great deal to the fact that all girls are now expected to go to school. These changes have had a tremendous impact on ancestral practices.
Fattening just seems out of date to a large part of Mauritanian society. But Ely and M'baye insist the fat "ideal" is back. Ely cites the life-threatening weight-gain practices of some grown women. A woman died in hospital in Nouakchott last week. I'm afraid this problem is still very much with us. The Observer Mauritania. This article is more than 12 years old. Campaigners in Mauritania accuse the new military regime of turning a blind eye to a cult of obesity among young girls being groomed for suitors. Mauritanian women wait to vote, but since a coup last year their rights are being eroded and old customs such as fattening for marriage are back.
Photograph: EPA. Alex Duval SmithAfrica correspondent. Reuse this content.Force feeding weight gain video
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