Revisting FGC

Approaching FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) or FGC (Female Genital Cutting) from a global view is not the answer. In many cultures in Africa, including Muslim, FGC is mothers doing “what is best” for their daughters. It is not the same as ISIS capturing girls and women so that they can produce soldiers and it cannot be compared to sex trafficking. We cannot stop this practice by insulting mothers.
Tanzania passed a law that banned FGM. What did the Maasai in my project area do in response? They started cutting their girls at age 7-8 instead of at puberty, so they could hide the cutting from the government. This is even worse for the girls, because it marks them for early marriage before they even get a good start in school. If they are cut at puberty, at least they have a chance, being older, to protest. Or they can escape being cut until they quit school. An alternative passage ritual to being cut has been developed, so that girls of puberty age become ‘a woman’ without being cut. But if they are already cut, this alternative passage ritual is unavailable to them because they are not pubescent.
We  call it FGC because it is a term that less accusatory of the parties involved in FGC. It is a term that is more likely to achieve the acceptance of the parties involved.
The NGO Tostan pioneered approaches against FGM in Senegal and found that they could accomplish eradication of the procedure at the community level, but it took engaging all the players, the imams, the cutters, the mothers, the men, the elders, and the mothers. And they had to get a buy-in from neighboring communities because their girls who are not cut cannot get married and their grooms would be from neighboring communities. Molly Melching, founder of Tostan, fought against a government ban of FGM, but the government proceeded with it anyway.
For more, see or blog Questioning FGC

Leave a Reply