5.1  Harmful traditional practices (HTPs)

Traditions are long-established patterns of actions or behaviours, often handed down within a community over many generations. These customs are based on the beliefs and values held by members of the community. Traditions are often protected by taboos, which are strong social prohibitions (or bans) relating to human activity or social custom based on moral judgement and religious beliefs. This means that traditions are not easy to change, because people adhere to these patterns of behaviour, believing that they are the right things to do. Ethiopia has both beneficial traditional practices (such as breastfeeding, relieving women from work after delivery, providing special care and a nutritious diet for a newly delivered mother) and harmful traditional practices.

Harmful traditional practices are those customs that are known to have bad effects on people’s health and to obstruct the goals of equality, political and social rights and the process of economic development.

Harmful traditional practices affecting young people in Ethiopia are very common. Among these, female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage, and marriage by abduction, forced marriage and polygamy are particularly important for you to understand because of their effect on reproductive health. Examples of other which we will not discuss here because they are not very much related to reproductive health include uvulectomy (excision of the uvula), bloodletting through vein puncture (called wagemt in Amharic), and milk tooth extraction.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 5

5.1.1  Female genital mutilation (FGM)