FGM Summary

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University of Ottawa
Social Sciences
Ari E.Gandsman

Thesis: “What about female genital mutilation?” is presumed an obvious counterargument to cultural pluralism and a clear limit to any feelings of tolerance for alternative ways of life. (Page 218) Main Argument 1: female genital alterations are not incompatible with sexual enjoyment; and that the claim that untold numbers of girls and women have been killed as a result of this “traditional practice” is not well supported by evidence. (Page 219) Relatively few methodologically sound studies exist on the consequences of female genital surgeries on sexuality and health. (Page 227) It would be instructive, however, to compare these rates with rates of infection and bleeding for other types of less controversial Third World surgeries. (Page 229) These judgments seem precipitous and fundamentally misinformed to many anthropologists who study gender, initiation, and life stages in Africa. (Page 220) In other words, the standard alarmist claims in the anti-FGM advocacy literature that African traditions of circumcision have “maimed or killed untold numbers of women and girls “ and deprived them of their sexuality may not be true. (Page 228) Main Argument 2: Even women with a secondary school or college education are circumcised. (Page 222) Not only the uneducated, rural, or poor women of Africa promote the gender identity of their children and grandchildren and celebrate their coming of age in this way. In many African ethnic groups, even high status , highly educated members of the community remain committed to these ceremonies. (Page 230) “Early studies have revealed that education and economic status have no influence on the practice of female circumcision, and the present stud supports these findings.” (Page 230) The customary practice of female circumcision turned out to be highly resistant to either coaxed or forced change. (Page 230) Pages 231 – 235 Main Argument 3: Most African women do not think about circumcision in human rights terms or as a human rights violation. Women who endorse female circumcision argue that it is an important part of their cultural heritage or their religion. (Page 223) In places where the practice of female circumcision is popular, including Somalia and the Sudan, it is widely believed by women that these genital alterations improve their bodies and make them more beautiful, more feminine, more civilized, and more honorable. (Page 224) Adolescent girls who undergo the ritual initiation look forward to it. The ordeal can be painful, but it is viewed as a test of courage. (Page 227) Main Argument 4: The practice of genital alteration is a rather poor example of gender inequality or of society discriminating against women. (Page 226) The practice is also a poor example of patriarchal domination. (Page 226) Men have little to do with these female operations, may not know very much about them, and may feel it is not really their business to interfere to try to tell their wives, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers what to do. (Page 227) Main Argument 6: Virginity, domes
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