FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
Violence against Women
IDENTIFICATION of the POPULATION:
While the population for this study is women worldwide, since gender violence is a matter for all women, that particular focus for this research is the topic of Female Genital Mutilation. Certain cultural pockets both in Africa and the Mid-East have practiced what is know culturally as female circumcision, but also now referred to as of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), usually by those who do not practice it. There are variations as to how and who performs these surgeries; frequently they are preformed without anesthesia and by unlicensed surgical practitioners, often by midwives or other family members. It is a tradition that usually goes back many generations and its origins are often quite difficult to discern. In fact it predates both Islam and Christianity as evidenced by a Greek papyrus in found in Egypt dating from circa 163 BCE (Lane & Rubinstein). While many cite it as a religious practice there is often little or no references to the procedure in any original religious text such as the Koran. (Muslim Clerics) This practice is touted as a rite of passage for women who vary in age from eight to fourteen and includes the removal of the clitoris and labia and sometimes entails the suturing of the vaginal cavity as well, leaving only enough room for urination. The latter surgery is undone upon marriage often proving that the wife has remained a virgin until that time, one of the primary purposes of the ritual.
This practice is so deeply imbued in many cultures that it is simply the norm:
Circumcision is often cited as a necessary prerequisite for marriage, and there are numerous additional explanations for the practice…. Perhaps the most important rationale for female circumcision is that because it is such an ancient and commonly practiced tradition, reduced or infibulated genitals are simply considered normal. Indeed, when Sudanese or Egyptian villagers have discussed the custom with female Western researchers, they have been shocked to discover that the female researchers have not themselves been circumcised. (Lane & Rubinstein 31)
These practices are often physically harmful and many cultures are seeing them as increasingly appalling with reference to the rest of the world and to women’s human rights in particular. However, the practice continues not only in other countries, but here in the United States as well. Many immigrants who practice this cultural ritual feel even more strongly that it be preformed on women who are in other countries in order to keep them safe.
Doctors in countries where this practice usually occurs in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, have tried to mitigate complications from unlicensed practitioners by using hospitals to perform the operation more safely, but this has also met with much criticism:
The procedures are increasingly being performed by physicians, who often claim that they are minimizing the harm that would potentially result if the procedure were performed by traditional operators. Arab and African feminists strongly condemn the medicalization of female circumcision, which they believe will promote its continuation rather than its abandonment. (Lane & Rubinstein 31)
It is important to remember that most societies that practice FGM view it as natural as removing someone’s appendix was in the early to middle twentieth century. They even feel that the appearance of the woman is greatly improved by the procedure. By allowing hospitals to perform the surgery, this further promotes the feeling of legitimacy. Couple that with an apparent religious affiliation and, depending on other cultural mores, this can be a difficult hurdle to overcome:
In Kenya, women’s decisions to have their daughters circumcised are associated with various individual and community-level characteristics, such as education, media exposure and ethnicity, according to an analysis of data from a national survey.1 Overall, 38% of women reported experiencing genital cutting, and 46% of circumcised women already had or planned to have their daughters circumcised. (Rosenberg 151)
In regards to the case study presented, Nawal is certainly feeling great pressure from many of her older family members to have her daughter go through this procedure. And although touted largely as a matrilineal decision, the males certainly want to promote FGM as a means of control over their female offspring and to assure that the women they marry have remained virgins. As a healthcare professional I would have to emphasize the risk to the daughter and evaluate Nawal’s own cultural perceptions regarding it. Residing in the U.S. For five years and having a thirteen-year-old daughter probably means neither are U.S. citizens, which could mean that returning to the Sudan is a possibility and also may influence this decision. However, after five years of exposure to this culture there may be a window of opportunity to have her see FGM in a new light and that would certainly be the avenue a healthcare professional should traverse when dealing with this situation. After all, the studies on this topic have shown that.”..the likelihood that a mother would decide to have her daughter circumcised decreased as her level of education and exposure to media rose.” (Rosenberg 151) Therefore, the more educated a mother is regarding this procedure and the more exposure to other cultural norms they have, the less likely they are to force their daughters through this archaic and controlling ritual.
From a best practices point-of-view, what is the best way to address the elimination of this cultural violence against women? Many issues have to be resolved before even broaching the subject on a national level. While the global community seems in accord with outrages against this practice, actually convincing the cultures that perpetuate it is a daunting task.
LITERATURE REVIEW: SYNTHESIS and ANALYSIS
FGM OVERVIEW, PERSONAL STORIES & DANGERS:
MAGDA was 13 years old when her mother and a group of female neighbours held her down while a local doctor circumcised her. “All the women were holding my arms and legs… I was crying and screaming… It was a hideous and painful experience, she recalls. (Ezzat, 1994, p. 35)
This is certainly a generalized experience for women who have undergone the ritual “coming of age” process know politely as female circumcision but globally as Female Genital Mutilation. Through this experience women are expected to become more cooperative members of their society by curtailing the possibility of any overt sexual desire or experience so as to assure their virginity and future promise of a good marriage. It has been the topic of the political scene for several decades as well as the art world.
Deep Cut,” is a play by Karim Alrawi who explores the issue from a more creative perspective and addresses not only the process but the need for asylum to be granted to women wishing to escape the process in their won countries. One character in the play, Dr. Andrew Hepburn, one is of the opinions that he believes in a prime directive, such as the one espoused on “Star Trek” and violated on almost every show, and feels that no culture has the right to interfere with another for any reason. Another character, Dr. Chan, is there to challenge that notion. He was tortured after his involvement in the Tiananmen Square protests, and he is appalled that Andrew’s belief in his prime directive would have prevented the Americans from coming to his aid. (Pressley, 1996, p. 15) This, creatively stated, is the crux of the current social and political issue.
Alice Walker also took up the crusade in her novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy, in which she describe the psyche and experience of her main character faced with undergoing the tradition. In a panel discussion of the book and the topic Gloria Steinem also adds the gender perspective on the issue:
female genital mutilation is a demonstration of patriarchy at its worst, a metaphor for the “psychic mutilation” that women suffer everywhere at the hands of their male “oppressors.” Just as African patriarchs have fashioned a brutal practice that would ensure the virginity of their brides, the “spirit-killing regimes of male dominance” in the West rob women of their “reproductive rights” by seeking to outlaw abortion, by insisting on unnecessary mastectomies and Caesarean births, by demanding a kind of subservience that kills the rebellious high-spiritedness of little girls, and so on. (Eichman, 1992, p. 52)
Those voices with a culture, like this man from Egypt, have this to say:
It is all a part of men’s everlasting attempts to maintain the upper hand and – in consequence the patriarchal class system,” says Al-Saadawi. “I would not have married my wife if she had not been circumcised, said an employee in the ministry of electricity. To him a uncircumcised woman is a “reflection of an immoral background and future.” (Ezzat, 1994, p. 41-42)
Female genital mutilation is practiced in some Asian and North and Central African countries, as well as by immigrant groups (mainly Muslim) in some Western countries as well. According to the World Health Organization’s report of 1996, FGM is still practiced in 28 countries. According to Amnesty International, the practice of FGM is performed on more than 2,000,000 women out of whom 600,000 are in Africa. (Kalev, 2004, p. 339) Rarely does FGM simply involve a symbolic small cut on the hood of the clitoris, as it misnomer Female Circuscision would imply. More often it involves clitoridectomy. This is anatomically equivalent to amputation of the penis. Clitoridectomy is often followed by a more drastic procedure termed infibulation, in which the external genitals are completely excised and the labia is sewn together, leaving only a small opening for drainage of menstrual blood and urine. This is later cut open after marriage for sex and birth. (Brant, 1995, p. 284)
FGM is often performed on girls under age 12 without anesthesia using crude tools. There are frequent medical complications, including infection, hemorrhage, and even death. In contrast to male ritual circumcision, two of the consequences of female genital surgery are the diminishment of a woman’s sexual pleasure and the drastic alteration of her sexual functioning so that she remains chaste before marriage. In addition, should a woman become pregnant, genital surgery may result in severe complications during vaginal delivery (Brant, 1995) Women who have undergone female genital mutilation have a higher risk for adverse obstetric outcomes than women who have not, and the risks seem to be greater with more severe mutilation, according to the first large-scale prospective study of the effects of female genital mutilation on maternal and neonatal outcomes. (Melhado, 2006)
Female genital surgery is practiced in a cultural context and has complex social, political, and religious significance. Justifications and explanations for the practice include ensuring the virginity of a woman before marriage, inducing chastity for divorced women or women whose husbands are away, birth control, initiation into and celebration of womanhood, hygienic reasons, and religious requirements (Brant, 1995, p. 284)
These and other beliefs will be discussed in grater detail later in this report, however it is necessary to note that culture and its habit over time override what many may feel, who do not have such an inheritance, any understanding of its ethical implications. Furthermore, the implication of not having this preformed are dire if one remains in the culture. Women who refuse or escape the process are relegate to the lowest class of female citizens and fall under other rules. For instance inn some parts of India, sexual abuse is institutionalized in the practice of offering teenage girls as Devdasis; girls who are then sexually exploited; most of them end up as prostitutes.
Thus, the war against women starts in the womb. Females who survive against the odds are relegated to second-class status, where they endure human rights violations through domestic violence, sexual abuse, and dowry deaths. Bride burning persists in India despite laws against many of these practices, which are committed on cultural and religious grounds. (Kawewe & Dibie, 1999, p. 382)
Female genital mutilation has been occurring in cultures worldwide for many centuries, however it is only in the past decade or so that it is being discussed more publicly and chastised mostly by those in the Western world. Cultural norms such as sexual slavery, where even religion often mandates it — especially in India and West Africa — also has been occurring for centuries.
Yet only recently are these customs being brought into the light of a global community. But even those in Western Cultures have their issues. Andrea Parrot is an expert in cultural practices and the risks encountered in attempting to change them and feels it is important to recognize the demon within each of our cultures:
The United States is not immune from cultural abuses, which include rape and domestic violence. “Violence against women happens all over the world,” Parrot says. “But it is manifested differently and in part determined by cultural issues: what is considered acceptable, what is not considered acceptable, how women are viewed, what men can get away with, and whether men are militarized or not.” (Wilensky, 2003, p. 12)
In fact she recounts a story of missionaries in Uganda who had discovered the practice of FGM and in an attempt to stop it approached the elders of the community and pleaded with them to desist. Instead, the elders were so outraged that outsiders telling them what to do that, the following years the FGM ritual was preformed three fold as many times. “Parrot describes this response as a community’s reaction to outsiders’ aggressive attempts to change their culture.” (Wilensky, 2003, p.14)
In this light it is important to remember that those who practice FGM feel themselves as honorable, upright, moral people who love their children and want the best for them, just as those who oppose it. That is why they practice the ritual. (Mackie, 2000) This is the full part of the dilemma between global human rights and individual cultures. Mangan poses it as the following set of questions:
If cultures are to be allowed to dictate the terms of their own self-determination, to what extent must individual rights be compromised? Conversely, human rights should provide ‘a recognized vocabulary to frame political and social wrongs’ — but at what expense to the vitality and expression of the culture?…. To what extent are women’s rights recognized or rendered accessible within a human rights framework in their own culture? (Mangan, 2006, p. 61)
There has certainly been headway made and the work of the global community has not been in vain. There has been growing criticism within those cultures where it has been prevalent. Many governments have now officially banned it, such as the Sudan as early as1945 and then Kenya in 1982.
There have also been consciousness-raising programs coordinated with the help of nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations. Even where the custom persists, it may be performed among the same people in certain areas and not in others. Though it remains widespread, there is growing opposition to it. (Renteln, 2004, p. 52)
However it is relevant to note again that the negative attitude toward these practices has always come from outside the cultures of these people and it will always pose a tremendous obstacle to change. “Many practices and cultural norms around the world, such as female genital mutilation, sexual slavery, and feticide/infanticide of female babies, are perceived as wrong by outside cultures,” (Wilensky, 2003, p.12) but within the cultures they are the norms.
In the United Nations1995 annual assessment of social and economic progress around the world, the Human Development Report noted that “Gender-specific violence is almost a cultural constant, both emerging from and reinforcing the social relationships that give men power over women.” (Nelson, 1996, p. 33). At that time surveys in ten countries, which included Colombia, Canada, and the United States estimated that as much as thirty percent of women have been “physically assaulted by an intimate male partner. More limited studies report that rates of physical abuse among some groups in Latin America, Asia, and Africa may reach 60% or more.” (Nelson, 1996) So this misogynistic tendency has been present in all cultures and not just those of emerging nations.
There are also gender preferences in all cultures that manifest in one form or another. In many of the emerging nations it is a simple fact that men are more highly prized than women,.
The preference for sons, common in many cultures, can lead to violence against female infants and even against female fetuses. In India, for example, a 1990 study of amniocentesis in a large Bombay hospital found that 95.5% of fetuses identified as female were aborted, compared with only a small percentage of male fetuses. (Nelson, 1996, p. 34)
So you see that even before they are born, violence against women is perpetrated by the culture.
Furthermore there are purely economic reasons behind this “value” difference between girls and boys. A woman without living sons has almost no economic status or value and a woman who cannot produce sons may be divorced, cast out, and have no means of feeding herself except begging and prostitution. Or she may simply be killed. “Only by increasing the value of females as something more than merely the bearer of sons, through enhanced social, political, and economic power for women, can we effectively and efficiently address the problem of human population expansion” (Spahn, 1997, p. 1310).
Some believe that cultural practices have their beginnings in some Darwinian Evolutionary behavior. That somehow this is tied to a biological fact of existence rather than simply a cultural or political issue:
But for a cultural behavior, presumably not genetically transmitted, which is enforced by the group through a system of rewards and punishments, it becomes fairly clear why individuals choose to conform and how a new generation would acquire the behavior. Can the evolutionary success of such a behavior be judged by the differential rates of population growth of groups that do it and groups that do not? (Gruenbaum, 2000, p. 42)
It then becomes incumbent upon the global community to discover why this is so prevalent an find a working corrective dialog between the individual culture and the global community that will accomplish some for of unification of ideals.
One survivor of FGM and now a staunch opponent of it professes the same disbelief from within the Kono culture, Susan M. Okin
It is difficult for me…to accept that what appear to be expressions of joy and ecstatic celebrations of womanhood in actuality disguise hidden experiences of coercion and subjugation. Indeed, I offer that the bulk of Kono women who uphold these rituals do so because they want to — they relish the supernatural powers of their ritual leaders over against men in society, and they brace the legitimacy of female authority and, particularly, the authority of their mothers and grandmothers. (Shweder, 2000, p. 209)
It is crucial that every opportunity be exploited to capture even the most minimal comparison of cultures so that a dialog can be formed, “…and must, capitalize on the moments of mutual minimal recognition, the necessary empathy which unites us as human beings” (Mangan, 2006, p. 67). This lies at the center of creating global human rights pollicies and, “…invoking questions of cultural sovereignty, appropriate international and intercultural norms and the place of women’s rights in culture” (Mangan, 2006, p. 56)”
HUMAN / WOMEN’S RIGHTS:
There is a logical contradiction between the demand for universal human rights and simultaneous acceptance of the autonomy of each culture to determine its own ethical standards. The determination of universal human rights based on the individual’s freedom is itself contrary to the conception of man and his position in society of many cultures. (Kalev, 2004, p. 349)
Herein, again, lie the crux and the difference between global or universal human rights and what we might term “cultural human rights.” It is obvious that within the culture practicing FGM it is a part of the natural order of things and part of the right of citizenship within that culture to practice it. It is as sacred as a religious ceremony, even though it may have no direct connection to any religious mandate or dogma. In actuality there is no religious mandate for FGM. Furthermore it is not performed in all Muslim communities and there is little or no reference to it in any religious text. It is purely a cultural tradition that has been imposed by a male-centric society who fear their women “running wild.” Other reasons or explanations for the practice include, “… initiation into womanhood, preparation for the pain of childbirth, and prevention of women’s temptation toward adultery” (Kalev, 2004, p. 340).
Uncircumcised women are considered wild, and female genital mutilation is believed to help control their emotions and sexuality…. Another man in San Jose, California, circumcised his three-year-old daughter and also defended his actions on the basis that his child was wild. He stated: “She liked to play outside too much. She had friends who were boys…. [T]his will tame her.” In fact, in many areas where the procedures are routinely performed, uncircumcised women are treated as social outcasts who are unworthy of marriage. (Spahn, 1997, p. 1314)
The backlash for non-conformity to this ritual is often severe as has been referred to previoulsy in this text.
Certainly from a Western perspective would seem to be self-evident that this practice is not only a violation of human rights but indeed a horrific violation women’s rights. The fact that it still persists despite decades of outrage is a testament to the imbedded and far-reaching male domination of women within these cultural communities. “… As [far as] Western feminists are concerned, the practice must be outlawed. An adult woman accepting the practice voluntarily is seen as comparable to a battered wife who stays with her husband: she is misguided and acts out of fear” (Kalev, 2004, p. 343).
There certainly has been some progress legislating against FGM, in the Middle East and particularly in Egypt there is slow but steady progress. However, even though it has been officially outlawed by Egyptian national law, “…FGM/C nonetheless continues to be practiced, especially among poor and uneducated families who fear losing control over their daughters and compromising their morality and marital prospects” (Chavkin & Chesler, 2005, p. 28). It is this aspect where Human rights and education combine to help produce more grassroots efforts within the community for change.
Creating value, as previously stated, in women may be part and parcel making them a more educated commodity. While there is also initial resistance to women being educated and independent in most of these communities, this may have to change in order to help eliminate the practice of FGM. What may be essential is the creation of a, “… policy to encourage female literacy and secondary education, enhanced economic opportunities for women, especially access paid work in the market economy and to owning their own farm land directly instead of through male intermediaries” (Spahn, 1997, p. 1299).
LAWS and LEGAL REMEDIES:
Egypt’s actions against female genital cutting exemplify the typical outcome in the 14 countries in which a majority of women are circumcised. 16 in Egypt, 97% of women have been circumcised; and 88% of women either think the practice should continue or have no opinion about its continuation (82% and 6%, respectively). (Boyle & Preves, 2000, p. 716)
It is one thing to legislate rules and another to transform behavior. As any psychologist or sociologist will tell you, behavior modification is the most difficult barrier to cross in dealing with a patient and the same is true when dealing with individual member so a culture. A patient performing self-immolation can be told that it is wrong, can see their injuries, yet they will persist in the behavior until the source of the behavior is altered. This can take months, years or may never happen. The same is true when attempting to simply legislate a problem away, the cultural will out. Regarding FGM, governments in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries can legislate against it, but even the legislators are part of the culture that accepted it in the first place and this can be an insurmountable obstacle.
Legislation has been underway for many years, see the table in Appendix I for some of the countries and adoption of legislation times. But this is violence nonetheless and needs to be addressed. United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was cerated to help address not only legislation, but policy and education in this area:
Violence obliterates women’s self-esteem, destroys their health, denies their human rights and undermines their full involvement in society,” says Noeleen Heyzer, Director of UNIFEM. “More than one third of women in the developing world are victims of domestic violence. UNIFEM is working to break the silence of violence in women’ lives. We are bringing it out into the open and demanding accountability and action.” (“Shattering the Silence of,” 1998, p. 15)
An examination of the practice and policies of FGC also provides an interesting scenario in the realm of international culture attempting to create national policies. FGC, “… has generated many debates precisely because the issue juxtaposes the ideals of sovereign autonomy and local representation against an international definition of human rights. Due to the resulting moral quandary, national laws relating to the procedure are highly controversial” (Boyle & Preves, 2000, p. 704).
In lieu of rigorous, systematic, and substantiated analyses, many of the studies on female circumcision in Africa settle for hearsay anecdotes that are embellished with speculative and titillating editorials. Typically, the anecdotes do not only capture the worst-case scenario, they also blur various forms and motives of the practice. (Nnaemeka, 2005, p. 191)
Some researchers and members of the cultures under siege by what they feel to be the largely American and largely Feminist push to eliminate FGM feel that they are also operating from their own cultural bias and from a lack of valid information. The overall implication is that this is just another cause celebre that is intent on simply wiping out cultures that are different than their own. (Nnaemeka, 2005) Rite of passage perform a significant role in the acceptance and inculturation of an individual, indeed even to the ultimate survival of that individual within their own society (Nyangweso, 2002). This is also true in mixed communities as well, such as in Australia where it has also become a hotbed of contention after arrival of refugees and migrants mainly from northern African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia. While respect for individual culture is the key here, the world is becoming a global community and this must eventually come to and end.
Recalling Andrea Parrot’s retelling of the fiasco experienced by missionaries in Uganda attempting to simply tell the elders of the community to stop FGM, having unintended consequence of acutely tripling the amount of FGM preformed, she also recalls a more functional solution:
group of Ugandan women spoke with female leaders in the community — the very people doing the circumcising. The Ugandan women persuaded the leaders, who then talked with the men of the community. Any effort to change this practice would only succeed if the men could be convinced to marry uncircumcised women. By working with the village elders, the Ugandan women accomplished their goal. An alternative rite of passage that did not involve cutting was proposed. Those who developed the plan came from within the community. (Wilensky, 2003, p. 18-19)
Legislating either within or without will simply not have the same effect as a concerted grass roots effort brought up within the community. By first acknowledging the importance of the complex ritual and then proposing an alternative, these women were successful. There is a valuable lesson here as Parrot states:
Policymakers are beginning to understand that in order to change harmful practices, those suggesting the change need to embrace the culture, not denigrate it,” Parrot says. “The places where people are having success, they are having success through finesse, not through decree, not through the law.” (Wilensky, 2003, p. 18-19)
In this respect the evaluation of the outcome is discovering that FGM has been eliminated or replaced as a rite of passage in the countries in which it is now preformed. While creating stronger and better enforced legislation is also key, evaluating the culture as a whole and changing beliefs through education and policy reform are necessary contingent outcomes of this struggle.
SUGGESTED IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES:
AS previously noted, the success of this campaign relies in grassroots efforts by women and men within their own communities. They will need a great deal of support from organizations such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women and others to accomplish this. Education and training are those things that can be provided from the outside world, but using that information to transform the inner world of their culture is ultimately in the hands of the individuals who live there.
Boyle, E.H., & Preves, S.E. (2000). National Politics as International Process: the Case of Anti-Female-Genital-Cutting Laws. Law & Society Review, 34(3), 703-738.
Brant, R. (1995). Case Vignette: Child Abuse or Acceptable Cultural Norms. Ethics & Behavior, 5(3), 283-292
Chavkin, W. & Chesler, E. (Eds.). (2005). Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality, and Women in the New Millennium. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Eichman, E. (1992, August 3). The Cutting Edge. National Review, 44, 48-59
Ezzat, D. (1994, January). A Savage Surgery. The Middle East 35-49
Gruenbaum, Ellen. “2 Is Female “circumcision” a Maladaptive Cultural Pattern?.” Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Ed. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000. 41-53.
Kalev, H.D. (2004). Cultural Rights or Human Rights: The Case of Female Genital Mutilation. 339-351
Kawewe, S., & Dibie, R. (1999). United Nations and the Problem of Women and Children Abuse in Third World Nations. Social Justice, 26(1), 78-89
Lane, S.D., & Rubinstine, R.A. (1996). Judging the Other: Responding to Traditional Female Genital Surgeries. The Hastings Center Report, 26(3), 31-44
Mackie, Gerry. “13 Female Genital Cutting: the Beginning of the End.” Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Ed. Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000. 253-280.
Mangan, R. (2006). Rights and Wrongs: Intercultural Ethics and Female Genital Mutilation. 56-69
Melhado, L. (2006). Risks of Adverse Obstetric and Perinatal Outcomes Increase with Severity of Female Genital Mutilation. International Family Planning Perspectives, 32(3), 154-171
Muslim Clerics: Female circumcision not mandated by Koran.” (2007) Contemporary Sexuality. 41-page 9-10
Nelson, T. (1996, July/August). Violence against Women. World Watch, 9, 33-48. Nnaemeka, O. (Ed.). (2005). Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge: African Women in Imperialist Discourses. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Nyangweso, M. (2002). Christ’s Salvific Message and the Nandi Ritual of Female Circumcision. Theological Studies, 63(3), 579-590
Patrick, I. (2001). Responding to Female Genital Mutilation: The Australian Experience in Context. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 36(1), 15.
Pressley, N. (1996, April 19). ‘Deep Cut’ Needs a Sharper Production. The Washington Times, p. 15.
Renteln, a.D. (2004). The Cultural Defense. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rosenberg, J. (2005). In Kenya, Community Traits Affect Women’s Decisions on Daughters’ Circumcision. International Family Planning Perspectives, 31(3), 151.
Shattering the Silence of Violence against Women. (1998, Spring). UN Chronicle, 35, 15-28
Shell-Duncan, B. & Hernlund, Y. (Eds.). (2000). Female “Circumcision” in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Shweder, R.A. (2000). What about “Female Genital Mutilation”? And Why Understanding Culture Matters in the First Place. Daedalus, 129(4), 209.
Spahn, E. (1997). Feeling Grounded: A Gendered View of Population Control. Environmental Law, 27(4), 1295-1321.
Wilensky, J. (2003). Effecting Cultural Change. Human Ecology, 31(2), 12-22.
National Anti-Female-Genital-Cutting Legal Policies
Ordered by Year When First Adopted
Percentage of Women
Anti-FGC Legislation, Regulation, or Bureaucratic Action
United Kingdom negligible
The Netherlands negligible
Child abuse law.
90% of Health law (no criminal law);
women in NGO & government educational the north campaigns.
United States negligible
Local bans beginning in 1991;
national ban 1996.
Existing laws applied.
Child abuse law.
Amendment to existing Criminal
Code & Youth Offenders Act.
National criminal law; five arrests in 1998; local NGO & governmental education campaigns.
Law adopted by transitional government and signed by president makes FGC theoretically prosecutable as a form of assault; active and sustained public education campaigns. Strong opposition to elimination.
Djibouti as high as Penal Code prohibition; no convictions thus far; UNFD campaign.
Burkina Faso as high as Penal Code prohibition; education plan; sensitization campaign.
Ordinance against; awareness
Health Ministry decree; NGO & government educational campaigns; enforcement of decree.
Two presidential decrees ban FGC, but legislation was voted down in 1996. Prohibited in government hospitals and clinics.
Cote D’Ivoire as high as Law Concerning Crimes Against Women enacted in December;
NGO campaigns. Strong opposition to eradication.
The Council of Ministers approved legislation to ban the practice of FGM, and submitted it to the National Assembly in December
National law, but no prosecutions; seminars.
Government officials have called for elimination. Some local government officials have convicted and imprisoned persons who mutilated young girls; educational seminars.
Government cooperation with NGOs; action plan; no formal law. (Boyle & Preves, 2000, p. 717).
Female Genital Mutilation
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