Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives

Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives

Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives

Female Circumcision: Multicultural Perspectives


Female Circumcision gathers together African activists to examine the issue within its various cultural and historical contexts, the debates on circumcision regarding African refugee and immigrant populations in the U.S. and the human rights efforts to eradicate the practice. This work brings African women's voices into the discussion, foregrounds indigenous processes of social and cultural change, and demonstrates the manifold linkages between respect for women's bodily integrity, the empowerment of women, and the democratic modes of economic development. This volume is one of the few attempts at systematic documentation of new perspectives on processes of change in diverse cultural and religious contexts. It does not focus narrowly on female circumcision as a set of ritualized surgeries sanctioned by society.


Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf

I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792

When the sign heralding the promising waters arrivesthe sighting of
flying fish beyond the prow of the boat
the crewman facing forward
ought to be the first to see them

Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark, 1992

Changing traditions and behaviors that have such long histories is not
easy. When one does not understand a problem it is not easy to appreciate
it. If you do not understand your health, you cannot appreciate the
problems of female genital cutting, and if you do not continue to educate
people they will not understand. All we are seeking is knowledge.
Knowledge will change people’s attitudes

Mansata, former female circumciser in the Gambia, 2000

Bolokoli, khifad, tahara, tahoor, qodiin, irua, bondo, kuruna, negekorsigin, and kene-kene are a few of the terms used in local African languages to denote a set of cultural practices collectively known as female circumcision. These practices, which are fervently adhered to by some ethnic and national groups, “are differentially embedded in specific institutional and social structures” (Kratz 1994: 346). In each context, there is marked variation in prevalence, in the type of surgery performed, and in the rituals associated with it. Even within the same geographic locality, the nature of the practice, its justifications, and the age at which it is performed differ vastly by ethnicity and class. For instance, among the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria, 90 percent of adults remain determinedly committed to the perpetuation of female circumcision, whereas in another section of the same ethnic group . . .

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