Female Genital Cutting: An Overview and a Challenge Monday, October 16, 2000
At the end of class today... n Please hand your paper in to your TA: place in the box with his or her name on it n Third paper topics will be distributed Wednesday n Web-page is up-to-date
Three objectives today n Introduce you to some basic facts about the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) n Get you to realize that it is hard to be a “neutral bystander” n Clarify why getting women’s point of view is so crucial
The numbers n One of the most common bodily operations in the world n 132 million women today have undergone FGC n 2 million per year
Where the practice occurs n Epicenter: Sudan (90%); Somalia (98%); Eritrea (95%), Egypt (97%) n Less extreme forms: Chad (60%), Ethiopia (85%); Kenya (50%); Senegal (20%); Nigeria (50%) n Indonesia & Malaysia n US and Canada: 25,000 n France and England: 40,000
The Continuum of FGC n Mild sunna (5%), in, for ex., Indonesia, Nigeria n Sunna (10%) n Excision (70%) n Infibulation (15%), in Sudan, Egypt, etc.
Who does it, who undergoes it n Circumcisers (no anesthetic), biomedical doctors (anesthetic) n The strongest supporters: mothers n Age range: –4-8 (becoming female) –12-15 (becoming a woman) –17-20 (getting married) –First pregnancy (becoming a mother)
The anti-FGM movement n Starting during the UN Decade for Women (1975- 1985), n the World Health Organization, UNICEF, etc. began to call n FGC a violation of universal human rights
Argument 1: FGC is torture n FGC (without anesthetic) is extremely painful, sometimes associated with continued pain n Activists claim FGC violates 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CATCID): –“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person by or with the collusion of an agent of the government”
Argument 2: FGC violates children’s rights n Common for FGC to be applied to women under 18; testimonies of girls and young women n Activists have invoked the 1959 UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child: protect against “all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation” n Hillary Clinton in Beijing, China (1995)
Argument 3: FGC violates right to health n Medium-run complications –10% of excisions; 20-25% of infibulations associated with serious medical complications, esp. when performed under non-sterile conditions –Septocemia, tetanus, urinary tract and pelvic infections n reproductive complications –obstructed labor –excessive bleeding in childbirth –maternal and infant mortality n UN Working Group on Traditional Practices, 1986: Claims that FGC imposes unacceptable health risks
Argument 4: Women’s Rights n FGC as violence against women: –Beijing document equates FGC with battering, rape, sexual abuse, forced prostitution n FGC as discrimination against women: –activist claim FGC intended to keep women subject to men –claim FGC violates 1981 UN Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women -- CEDAW) n Key issue: claim that FGC eliminates women’s sexual pleasure (Dareer’s study)
U.S. Policy n Since 1995, State Department requires for Human Rights Report evidence of anti-FGC bans or legislation n Since 1996, Treasury dept. opposes loans to countries without programs to eradicate FGC (e.g., Burkina Faso) n Since 1996, INS recognizes flight from FGC as form of political persecution
The reaction by African women n Resentment of outside efforts to eradicate FGC: question of culture, not human rights –Elder in Uganda –Businesswoman from Sierra Leone n On-the-ground reality –Legislation nearly impossible to enforce –Education not stopping practice –New pro-FGC movements among young women
The need to learn about what FGC means to the women who support it n In light of such failures, need to learn: What does FGC mean to the women themselves? n From their point of view: –How do they interpret the pain? –Do they see it as child abuse? –Do they regard it as an “unacceptable health risk”? –Do they feel their sexual lives have suffered? n Need to assess what US gov’t is doing –Should US citizens try to reduce/eliminate FGC? If so, how?