Female genital cutting also commonly referred to as female genital mutilation comprises of all procedures that culminate in a partial or total removal of the external parts of the female genitalia. In some other context female genital cutting refers to all other injuries intentionally inflicted on the female genital organs for any other reason other than medical procedures. As such, the practice is typically propagated and protected by traditional beliefs and facilitated by cultural circumcisers who are commonly associated with other roles such as childbirth. In some rare cases, medical professionals are forced to perform the procedure due to the belief that the process is safer when carried out in a hospital environment. However, under no circumstance can the process be considered safe mainly because female genital cutting is internationally recognized as a violation of girls and women rights and by extension a violation of human rights. In most societies where the practice is still propagated; traditional cultural practices exhibit extreme discrimination against women as the procedure is usually carried out against minors. Therefore, the female genital cutting can only be termed as an utter violation of the children rights regardless of the perspective adopted by its propagators. This essay assesses the understanding of this issue and also evaluates how feminists and queer activists especially from the western region can contribute to the eradication of this repugnant practice.
Over the course of the class readings and discussions, it was both sight opening and mind blowing how myths and misconceptions can cause people to dehumanize their fellow human being in the name of upholding misguided cultural practices. Also, it was through the class discussion that the dynamics surrounding FGC became apparent. According to Kassamali, FGC encompasses feminism, cultural relativism, rights of women and children as well as cultural hegemony and the female rights to healthy development. In fact, it was through discussions that the issue was clarified to be a deliberate attempt to curtail the female sexuality in some patriarchal societies. Moreover, it was previously easier to condemn and term nations where the practice is still propagated as utterly failed states. However after going through the theories that attempt to explain some of these practices, the complexity involved in making people who hold this cultural practices view the issue from a more liberated perspective became apparent. As described by Sunder, eradication of the practice involves tricking a balance between human rights, freedom of religion, and cultural beliefs and autonomy. In fact, convincing women to reject such culture for more advanced and less dangerous initiation practices require consolidated efforts from both feminists and activists as well as cultural and political good will from some section of the involved society.
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Evidentially, feminist and activists have a role to play in dealing with this issue, especially through productive engagement and coalition. In essence, this contentious topic of female genital; cutting brings together womens health activists, medical science, media as well as both national and international policy making organs with the intention of forming a coalition strong enough to eradicate the practice. Coming together of such groups will make it easier for the human right campaigners to condemn this barbaric act through the presumption that creating awareness of the harmful effects associated with FGC will help in separating the bodies from the cultural contexts that help in its propagation. Besides, anti-FGC discourse replicates a nature and cultural dualism that has been in the past soundly questioned by feminist in both cultural studies and science studies. At the same time, the anti-FGM discourse has also perpetuated a colonialist assumption through its universalization of particular western image of what would otherwise be considered to be normal body and sexuality in a quest to liberate girls and women from repugnant traditions that lead to violations of their human rights. The need for coalitions in dealing with the issues is best illustrated by the entanglement between body and culture in the feminist theories of the female body.
On the other hand, it is through activists movement that such traditional can be eradicated. Therefore, the primary role that activists are supposed to play in this coalition is to provide the relevant information to the traditional people in a language understandable to them. Moreover, the Western feminists might address the issue through community-based education programs and through an introduction of alternative rituals that substitute the cutting as a rite of passage Kassamali observed that some communities in Kenya and Tanzania carry out the practice just before marriage for example in the Gikuyu community the practice is immediately followed by the giving of the circumcised girl to marriage. This is because a circumcised girl is perceived to be mature based on their traditions hence capable of becoming someones wife. Consequently, unless the feminists in collaboration with activists come up with alternative practices that are acceptable to the communities as a sign of the rite of passage, the people might be tempted to go back to these human rights violation practices. Therefore, this means that ending the practice calls for a complex and radical cultural change as well as greater political commitment and financial resources.
However, there is a need for the western feminists to address the issue without resulting in complete reliance on beliefs that lead to the continuation of the practice. Similarly, feminist activism can still solve the problem without resulting to imperialist fantasies. As such any eradication attempt must be cognizant of the views held by the women undergoing the practice as well as those who depend on and perpetuate FGC. In addition to appreciating the social fabric that holds the practice together, it would also be ideal to avoid legislative approach since they are mostly perceived as neocolonialist rules or imperialist fantasies. For instance, terming the practices as child abuse will not carry the same weight and meaning as it would when applied to the western culture. Although it causes pain, such judgmental statement could be perceived as originating from cultural hegemony. Therefore, the best approach that the feminist of the West might use would be through creation of strategic African women groups that will educate their colleagues on why it is retrogressive to expose their children to such pain. Also, such groups would be better placed to explain to the perpetrators of the practice the health implications associated. Lastly, Western feminist groups can attach financial benefits to communities or governments that eradicate the practices. Although the approach may be viewed as coercive, it is likely to bear fruits as the groups reach for the rewards linked to compliance.
Evidentially, forming a coalition of activist and feminist with the intention of dealing with female genital mutilation is likely to face numerous challenges primarily because of lack of universal consensus on what human rights encompass. For instance, one group will view the issue as a rite of passage and seek to address it from that perspective while another will see it as an outright violation of human rights. This may be reflected in reference to the issues as either female circumcision or female genital mutilation. Similar some will not view the issue as a human right violation but rather as condescending and derogatory efforts directed towards legitimate cultural practices. Lastly, indirect involvement of the western feminist and activists appears be the most efficient way of addressing the issue that may not be met with much resistance as previous legislative approaches.