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 8: Prevention: Communities

Female genital mutilation is a complex business. It involves deeply entrenched beliefs, real and resolute social and economic forces, human agency of a particularly intimate nature, brutality and secrecy. It is also held by large numbers of those involved, and perhaps also by the recipient of the action, to be in the best interests of the person who experiences it.

These are not easy issues to unpick, and the path towards understanding and arresting the practice is further complicated by the gulf between the traditions and beliefs which engender and enable, even ennoble, FGM, and those which proclaim it without exception to be abhorrent abuse.

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