It seems the men in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania consider women nothing more than animals. The new military junta (that seized power last August from a democratically elected president) is reviving a hideous practice that women’s and children’s rights activists there had worked very hard to try and eliminate- the torture of rural girls, as young as 5, by force-feeding them in order to fatten them up for marriage.
The traditional practice of leblouh, whereby a young girl is forced to eat a ton of food to prep her for marriage, is akin to fattening a pig for slaughter. Although it’s commendable that Mauritanian men have no problems with overweight women, actually forcing young girls, starting at the tender age of 5, to become obese is criminal. Apparently 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.
Though the tradition dates back to Berber times, and is also linked to wealth (the fatter the wealthier) it’s obvious they are fattening up young females so as not to appear so childlike, which does NOT negate the fact that they are still children.
Apparently these girls are shipped off to “fattening farms”, during their school holidays, where inordinate amounts of food and liquid are shoved down their throats, so they can eventually look nice and round and womanly for prospective husbands. If they vomit, they are forced to eat that, as well.
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.
Fatimata M’baye (children’s rights lawyer) says
“The girl is sent away from home without understanding why. 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.”
Not only are they forced to overeat, they are also tortured by having 2 sticks shoved into a toe which is then squeezed together if the girl is willful enough to refuse the food or drink.
Success is when a 12-year-old girl weighs 176lb (80kg).
Activist Aminetou Mint Ely, of the Association of Women Heads of Households, says
“In Mauritania, a woman’s size indicates the amount of space she occupies in her husband’s heart. We have gone backwards. We had a Ministry of Women’s Affairs. We had achieved a parliamentary quota of 20% of seats. 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.”
Apparently, the practice is not only popular in Mauritania, but in parts of Cameroon, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria.
Enlightened men don’t think of women as property, then again, these men are obviously far from evolved.