The inequality context of the paradox around female sexuality
Gender inequality is the norm among all ethnic groups in Mali with a variation, in the nature and areas of discrimination, due to differentials in the life style and social values that are emphasized in individual behaviours (Rondeau 1994). Inequality among generational groups is common to all components of the Malian society. Age is a definite determinant of gender roles and relations. In particular, wom-
Paradoxes of Female Sexuality in Mali
en’s age and family position, as mothers in-law or grandmothers, provide them with substitutes in their domestic obligations, greater decision-making power and more participation in public affairs.
With regard to sexuality, the elderly watch both men and women closely. Couples’ decisions on having children, using contraception or circumcising their offspring are greatly influenced by their own parents and older relatives. Gatekeepers, such as the magnonmakanw and bolokoli-kelaw, are traditionally old women aged 60 years and over. Their main collaborators are aunts and grandmothers who are the usual decision-makers concerning nuptial ceremonies and excision. Together they constitute the hardcore group sustaining these practices. For example, they often prompt or vigorously influence parents to carry out excision. There are even some cases in which girls have been circumcised, in spite of their parents’ rejection of these practices, by some older relatives in the name of tradition. Women not men are in the forefront of nuptial and FGM practices.