Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 4: Men, Women and Power

In the twentieth century female genital mutilation was a matter rarely discussed in polite Western society. Its immutable centrality in various traditional communities, even nations, was barely acknowledged in the more modern ‘developed’ world, where the very large majority of people had no idea that FGM is a fact of life for others, even sometimes a few others amongst their own compatriots.

The onset of the twenty-first century, however, has seen things change. FGM has started to be recognised as an issue in most cities in the Western world. People in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and, for instance, Australia have begun to ask how it is that such a bewildering and disturbing ‘custom’ can have become a feature of their own communities and society.

Two factors in particular stand out as partial answers to this question.  

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 7: Prevention: Formal Approaches

The available instruments of enforcement in eradicating female genital mutilation are both formal and informal. Whilst the prevention of FGM is self-evidently a matter for the legal authorities, this is by no means the only way in which upholding the law is – or should be – enforced.

Despite occasional attempts by some proponents of specific approaches to make the issue ‘either/or’, the effectiveness of any one prevention strategy is likely in the end to be enhanced (or just occasionally to be hampered) by the others.

The tools of enforcement include community engagement, education via schools, clinics and other public facilities, working with the transport and migration authorities, media programmes, briefing of professionals and ultimately the legal process itself.

Even all these strategies cannot, however, ensure prevention, especially when the fundamental meanings of FGM are still perceived differently by different elements of the practising communities, the preventative public and and voluntary services, and the general public.

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Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation Chapter 9: Prevention: Information and Education

The most obvious opportunity to tackle FGM, alongside health and medical contexts, is in schools.  Almost every child attends school, whatever her or his background, and even in 2015 the Department for Education, and Ofsted (the Inspectorate) remain influential.

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