Mind, Heart, and Soul in the Fight against Poverty

By Katherine Marshall; Lucy Keough | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
Fighting Female Genital
Cutting
Religious and Traditional
Leaders’ Roles in Combating
Genital Cutting in Senegal
and Uganda

Sometimes called kene-kene or khitan, female genital cutting (FGC) has been practiced on an estimated 130 million women and girls living today, with an additional 2 million at risk of undergoing the procedure each year.1 FGC is practiced almost exclusively in Africa and the Middle East. Mediation between the active international campaign aiming to eliminate the practice, and the far more traditional individuals and communities who can decide to cease the cutting of girls, has been critical to successful eradication efforts.

The rationale for eliminating FGC is clear—the UNFPA qualifies the practice as “unnecessary bodily mutilation”—and its practice is condemned by numerous international conventions. The theoretical argument for its elimination is also quite solid. In what is considered the primary piece of scholarship on FGC, sociologist Gerry Mackie compared FGC today to foot binding in nineteenth-century China. Mackie traced the origin of both practices to the desire of elite men to control the fidelity of women in polygynous societies (where men may have several spouses

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