Female Genital Mutilation is not a Legitimate Cultural Practice

15 03 2009

For people who have ever argued or heard the argument that FGM is a cultural practice that people have no right to intervene in, here are two quotes for you that I have found on Jezebel:

“Dr Guyo Jaldesa sees the consequences every day. ‘Instead of a normal vagina, these women just have scar tissue,’ he says. ‘This causes all sorts of problems. It is basically torture for the women to have sex. One of the purposes of female genital mutilation is to make it terribly painful and unpleasant for women.’ When he gets married, ‘the man has to prove his virility by forcing open the closed scar tissue. If he fails to perform this the man is ridiculed, but it can be very difficult. So often the man will use objects – like a knife or broken bottle – causing even more terrible damage to the woman.'”


“Agnes leans forward, her hands bunched into fists. ‘These girls don’t think [mutilation] is wrong because a white man told them so. They know it’s wrong because it’s their body.’ With that, Agnes sits back, and looks out, towards the girls playing in the yard, free at last.”

This second quote is especially powerful. It encapsulates the fact that all arguments about “respecting culture” go out the window, when it produces barbaric practices such as FGM. And that last part, “because it’s their body,” could apply to so many issues (abortion, sexuality, economic freedom etc.) in which people try to encroach on a woman’s control over her own body, and her own life.

I highly recommend that you read the rest of the article; it highlights other deplorable atrocities committed against African women in order to keep them subordinate to and dependent on men.



One response

23 03 2009
Lorraine E.

My response to any sort of “but it’s their culture” argument:

The argument that FGM (or anything else) is acceptable because it’s “tradition” or “culture” is unsound. Basically, the argument goes:

1. Opposing FGM means being intolerant of someone else’s culture.
2. It’s wrong to be intolerant of other people’s culture.
3. Therefore, opposing FGM is wrong (1,2 MT)

It’s easy to see, however, that (2) is false, because if it were wrong to be intolerant of other people’s culture, it would be wrong to be intolerant of slavery, which was an important cultural phenomenon of the American South up until the first half of the nineteenth century. Countless other examples in history, literature, and our imaginations can be found in which cultural relativism gives similarly incorrect results. Cultural values therefore form a poor basis for morality.

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