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Anti-FGC Views and Sentiments in Africa Monday, October 30, 2000.

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Presentation on theme: "Anti-FGC Views and Sentiments in Africa Monday, October 30, 2000."— Presentation transcript:


2 Anti-FGC Views and Sentiments in Africa Monday, October 30, 2000

3 Helpful resource this week n Martha Nussbaum, “A Response to Yael Tamir’s ‘Hands Off Clitoridectomy’” n http://www- aum.html

4 What is coming... n Today: Anti-FGC sentiment in Africa n This Wednesday (11/1): Alice Walker’s film, “Warrior Marks” n Next Monday (11/6): Detailed analysis of several anti-FGC campaigns in Africa: what “works”, what does not n Next Wednesday (11/8): FGC in the United States: issues of law, policy, and practice

5 African women’s rights movements n Emerged in many African countries starting in 1920s n Rooted in educated, urban middle class women n Committed to “uplifting” poor women n Connected to strong anti- colonial sentiment n Egyptian Feminist Union (1923) led by Huda Shaarawi; Sudanese Women’s Union (1942), led by Fatima Ibrahim

6 Sudanese Women’s Union struggles n Right to vote (1956) n Health u access to safe drinking water u basic access to information and clinics n Education u literacy u access to education n Family u rights to initiate divorce u against polygamy and child marriage u rights of inheritance and landownership u restriction of FGC

7 Early criticism of FGC by SWU n 1950s: Series of articles in “Woman’s Voice” : “The intent of infibulation is to restrict women’s freedom. It is to teach them to regard themselves as inherently inferior to men, as in need of being controlled by them. Through enforced chastity, women learn to see themselves as untrustworthy, and they become obedient to men.” n Not linked to call for abolition

8 SWU calls for end to infibulation of infants (1957) n To the Secretary of the Sudanese Medical Association: n “Especially recently, pharaonic circumcisions are performed on infant girls...We appeal to you to take whatever measures you see fit to stop this practice and save innocent children.”

9 Why no early call for total eradication? (1) n Understood this would be impossible to enforce: practice deeply embedded u Ibrahim: “When the government tries to be ‘modern’ and abolish [it], we see these rashes of new circumcisions”

10 Why no early call for total eradication? (2) n Association of “eradication” with colonialism u Ibrahim: “If our movement had focused on eradicating female circumcision when it started, people could have been very suspicious of our motives” n History of British efforts to ban FGC u Brits try to ban FGC in Kenya in 1925-1935: strategy to increase population u Tried in Sudan in 1946 to “civilize” the place u Tried again in Kenya in 1956: strategy to identify Mau Mau sympathizers

11 Why no early call for total eradication? (3) n Holistic approach: “Female circumcision is a symptom, not a cause, of female oppression in our country… For many years, we did not emphasize female circumcision, because there are more pressing problems facing women in our society. Of course we recognize that circumcision is a problem, but we wanted to give women the weapons in their hands to fight with. That is why we have emphasized education and the ability to work outside the home, more than circumcision.” n Fatima Ibrahim

12 All three of these concerns continue to influence African women’s perspective on anti-FGC n Awareness of the cultural depth and complexity of practice n Suspicion of outsiders’ anti-FGC crusades n Holistic view: FGC is one piece in much larger, more compelx puzzle of female subordination and inequality

13 The new international anti-FGC movement n UN Decade of Women (1975-1985) n Growth of second-wave feminism in Europe and US: mobilization of international pressure n publication of Hosken Report (1979) n publication of El-Dareer report (1982)

14 The El-Dareer Report n Woman, Why Do You Weep? n Intensified anti-FGC sentiment among urban women in Africa n Frightening statistics (based on survey of 3000 women): unnerving reports of bleeding, shock, infection, abcesses, cysts, obstetrical complications, death n Terrifying first-person accounts (examples)

15 Growth of middle class-based anti-FGM in Africa since 1980s n Dozens of groups sprang up throughout Africa in 1980s, supported by governments n Example: Association for Promoting Girls’ and Women’s Advancement in Gambia (APGWA), started by teachers and small businesswomen n Worked in towns and villages to educate women on risks of FGC, legal rights, vocational training, general women’s health

16 Receptivity to anti-FGC Campaigns at the Grassroots n Lots of resistance n Headway in some places n 1997-1998 Yoruba study u survey of 1027 women with daughters u 13% refused to cut daughters, due to campaigns u Why?

17 Traumatic personal experiences n All cut women can relate stories of fear and pain n Among these 13%, researchers found over half had stories of serious physical complications (their own or close family member)

18 Living where some men are willing to marry uncut women n 5% of women in “rejectors” of FGC are in-marrying Ijebu (group that does not cut) n Similar to openness to anti-FGC among Bambara (Gambia) who can marry neighboring Wolof men

19 Schooling n Of 360 women sampled with 6th grade or less, only 8% refused to cut daughters; n Of 656 women sampled with some high school, 16% refused to cut daughters n Possible connections: ability to read health brochures, willingness to challenge tradition, accept “expert” opinion, trust one own’s judgment

20 Living in larger towns and cities n Of 738 urban Yoruba women, 23% said they didn’t want to cut daughters; n Of 298 rural Yoruba women, only 2% said they didn’t want to n Possible connections: the larger the town, the greater access to high school, more exposure to non-cutting ethnic groups, lightening of pressure by gossip and ostracism, & better access to wage labor

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