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Last updated: 26 February, 2008 - Published 16:22 GMT
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Forum: Is scarring still an acceptable ritual?

Jean-Michel Clajot photographed children in Benin undergoing the ancient practice of scarification.

Scarification ceremony in Benin

Is there still a place in our society for these practices?

A child having the blood washed off his head after a scarification

Two men administer scarring to a child

A man holds up the tools used for scarification.

A child with bleeding scarification cuts.

Are facial and body markings still necessary in modern society?

Should we keep up old traditions or do we need to need to move with the times and do away with them?

Would you let your child go through a scarification process?

Join the Focus Forum

To take part in the debate simply fill in the form on the right. A selection of your comments will appear below.

 Leave us alone, it is our religion

Chernor Jalloh, Madrid, Spain:

I am outraged at seeing deep cuts inflicted on this child by his parents. It is high time these parents stopped such inhumane acts, which they claim to have inherited from their forefathers, and wake up to reality. Africa has got a lot to offer, instead of committing atrocities on their children. Action must be taken by the government and NGOs to curb these old and unacceptable traditions

Mbajbojojo, Refern, Swaziland:

Leave us alone, it is our religion

Collins Kepa, Ottawa, Canada:

Why? Our continent is rich in so many things. What are we lacking to educate our people? Any African leader there to answer?

 I call this an inhumane activity

Adamu Tanko, Fred Gombe, Nigeria:

This practice should be discouraged. I call this an inhumane activity! UNICEF and the United Nations must do something about it in order to save the lives of many children in Benin

Bill Dhieu Manyang, Juba, Southern Sudan:

Many countries have different cultures or practices that are associated with their way of life. It may take time to leave these practices behind. My country has more then 600 ethnic groups and only education about issues such as scarification will stop them from doing it

Milton Kurewa, Harare, Zimbabwe:

It is criminal to say the least. These kids have a right to choose whether they like it or not, but they are denied that chance. On another sad note, tribal marks fuel tribalism

Odongo Bakar, Kampala, Uganda:

A human being is God's creature and is here to represent who God is to the rest of the creatures and has power over over them. It is unlawful to God and to my mind it is a punishment and they should look for another alternative, not a human being

 Not only is scarring barbaric but it is a devastating tool

Sena Nani, Tarkwa, Ghana:

Not only is scarring barbaric but it is also a devastating tool that goes a long way towards strengthening tribalism in Africa, hence our war ridden-continent. People must stop subjecting our innocent brothers and sisters to such a wicked act, done in the name of tribal identity. Children activists should educate our people in Benin of the health hazards involved in scarification

Ibrahim Umar, Maiduguri, Nigeria:

Unethical, inhumane and contrary to any religion in the world. As such it is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience

Franklin Lambert, Banjul, Cameroon (Nigerian):

If I were this little boy, when I grew up I would sue all the people who did this to me. It is not fair to cut a human being in this way

Muazu Abdullahi, Kano, Nigeria:

This is a criminal act against children and a violation of human rights

Jaafar Adamu, Dengi, Nigeria:

This is really barbaric and should be treated as a crime against humanity

Mustapha, Brikama, Gambia:

I could not believe my eyes when I saw these pictures. I asked a work colleague if such cruel traditions still existed. This is indeed against all fundamental rights of science and above all, against the health of the individual. I appeal to those people to please stop this meaningless act

 This practice has no positive consequences and should be stopped

Ayuk Manyo, Douala, Cameroon:

This practice is in no form beneficial to any society. The scarification act often leads to infections, excessive bleeding leading to death and even suicide in some cases for children who just cannot bear the scars on their faces. This practice has no positive consequences and should be stopped. God made man in his image, and I do not see any reason for man to purposely scar himself for any reason

Vincent Ruzindana, Kampala, Uganda:

This is outdated and shows a sign of backwardness

Ibrahim Liman, Maiduguri, Nigeria:

This is a pathetic and inhuman act. Africa, please stop it

Sanya Musia, Kampala, Uganda:

This is torture to the kids and ought be done away with. There is no need for branding human beings in this century

Emmaniel Ukeje, Nigeriaenugu, Nigeria:

In my opinion this is horrible and should not be allowed to take place in the modern world. The concerned government should ban such an act immediately

Stephen Boman, Kaduna, Nigeria:

Scarification is brutality to mankind, abuse to the child and a violation of rights

Seidu Mustapha, Tarkwa, Ghana:

This is not right. Human right activists in that country should do something about it. They must also accept Christ Jesus as Lord and saviour

Kofi Annan Frimpong, Washington, USA:

O mama Africa when are we going to get common sense and put an end to our so called traditions and cultures. It is heartbreaking to see images like this in the modern age

 I feel that it is an outdated practice that should be discontinued

Idris Abdullahi, Minna, Nigeria:

I am a Nigerian and I carry two tribal marks on both cheeks. I have four children, all without tribal marks. I feel it is an outdated practice that should be discontinued. It exposes the child to danger. I feel embarrassed carrying my tribal identity all over the world

Rev. Paul Bala Samura, Freetown, Sierra Leone:

I cried when I saw a young boy being mutilated in the name of custom or tradition. My body shivered and my hair rose when I saw the so-called scarring. Any form of human mutilation is demonic and thus should be replaced immediately. I am wondering why this barbaric way of life still exists in Africa and some other parts of the world. What frightened me most was the age of the child undergoing that mutilation. That boy is so young to be subjected to that kind of barbaric custom. Next, the instruments used for the scarring were unsterilized and had the potential to infect the innocent boy. Oh Africa, when are we going to embrace modernity?

Paul Mensah, Accra, Ghana:

It is a lack of literacy. People should know the difference between wickedness and customs

 Why would a father inflict a cut on his own child?

Naregh Agelaga, Abuja, Nigeria:

Sometimes I wonder whether what we Africans call tradition is not simply barbarism and illiteracy. Why would a father inflict a cut on his own child? Why not let the child grow up to decide whether or not they want to be scarred. Where are the child right activists in Africa?

Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon:

One look at the picture of the toddler with blood coursing down the side of his scalp and cheek while he apparently whimpered at the sight of the ominously looking blood stained apparatus made me grimace with anticipated pain. I can see it took three people to tie him down and it is my guess that the toddler doesn't cherish this practice. But before I issue any condemnation, I would like to examine another possibility. What if this is part of some inherent African ceremony or ritual? Before circumcision was sanctioned by the international community as one of the accepted means of curbing the spread of HIV/Aids, communities that carried out the traditional rituals were often castigated for conscripting young boys into acts against their wills. African tradition has much to offer and scarification as a form of tribal identification could be appreciated by this toddler in future. However, in an age where tribal lineages have been abused to serve as tools for corruption and in some cases ethnic cleansing, I think scarification as a form of identification has its drawbacks. But given that cultural identities are what makes us stand out, we should see which one to preserve and which one to discard

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