De-Bunking Female Genital Mutilation

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BY NATTY BERNSTEIN

The American moral compass stems from an established ideology, through laws and society, of what is “wrong” and what is “right.” To an outsider, Female Genital Mutilation seems like a horror that is both patriarchal and violent; it can be this way at through Damaris Monty’s horrifying story of her experience as an 11-year old victim in Tangulbei, Kenya. However, the problems with Female Genital Cutting are not inherent. This issue, like many others, is not one that can be described with blanket statements. Some procedures are done to children, but not all. Some are done via force, but not all.  Some are done by men, but not all. The Women’s Health website contrasts many other organizations in actually illustrating the varying reasons for the practice citing rationale ranging from rite of passage and hygiene to ensuring virginitiy and condition of marriage. The shaming of the practice is even evident in the linguistic approach, with the popularized name Female Genital Mutilation differing drastically in connotation compared to Female Circumcision or Female Genital Cutting (FGC). Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropologist who studied the Rendille in Kenya, gains first hand knowledge of the practices of some of the women when taking part in a wedding whose first ceremony is the circumcision of the bride. Through her experience, she brings an understanding of the reasons for the actions of the women, acknowledging the importance of cultural acceptance and tradition in continuing the practice. Not all places that practice FGC do it through patriarchal, non-consensual methods, though this is the narrative we are fed in order to ensure our blind and faithful opposition.

 

While I am not endorsing Female Genital Cutting, I am calling into question the unequivocal criminalization of this practice. The route to change is not through entering somewhere new and demanding change; that is colonialism. More specifically, it is colonial Feminism, an approach that is frequently taken by white women towards women of color and women from non-European Non-western countries. Rather, there must first be an understanding of the reasons that this practice occurs and why it is culturally significant, mirroring Duncan’s approach. In the meanwhile, the best thing to be done is to ensure the safety of the practice by providing sterilized and new equipment as well as ensuring the procedures are done by trained officials. While changing the anti-sex, anti-woman culture that sometimes surrounds FGC is important, so is understanding and acknowledging different cultures and their importance to people.

 

 

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