Female Genital Mutilation: A Discussion of International Human Rights Instruments, Cultural Sovereignty and Dominance Theory

By Trueblood, Leigh A. | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Female Genital Mutilation: A Discussion of International Human Rights Instruments, Cultural Sovereignty and Dominance Theory


Trueblood, Leigh A., Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


"African women, now and throughout history, have developed analyses and strategies for action to take control of our own lives in those areas that we have collectively determined for redress."(1)

I. INTRODUCTION

The foundation of international human rights law is the principle that every State has an obligation to respect the human rights of its citizens.(2) Additionally, the international community has a right and responsibility to protest if there is a violation of this obligation.(3) Inherent in this principle is the concept that there are, in fact, universal human rights.(4) However, most of the rights enumerated as "universal" are based on Western values, and can be traced directly to the experiences of France, England, and the United States rather than Islamic, Eastern, and African cultures.(5) Many international law scholars acknowledge "the meaning of human rights depends upon the specific cultural context."(6)

Another tenet of international law is the concept of State sovereignty.(7) The concept of sovereignty means a State is "subject to no higher power."(8) Sovereignty not only refers to a States physical border, but also to its choice of political, social, economic, and cultural systems.(9) Connected with the doctrine of sovereignty is the concept of Nonintervention.(10) Nonintervention means that one State should not interfere with the internal relations of another State out of respect for its sovereignty.(11) Therefore, according to basic international law principles, States should respect the politics, religions, social structures, and cultures of other States and refrain from interfering with such sovereign rights.

This conflict between international human rights and the doctrine of cultural sovereignty is ongoing and controversial. Critics of international human rights law argue that "the international community utilizes treaties to loosen sovereignty's rule of restraint."(12) Some of the most controversial treaties involve the rights of women and children encompassing all aspects of a woman's life, which differs according to culture.(13)

Today, this conflict exists between societies that practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the numerous States and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that protest the practice.(14) In addition to the existing political conflict between States, there exists an immense cultural conflict where victims of FGM support the practice.(15) There is abundant legal support against the practice including the United Nations Charter,(16) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(17), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.(18) However, there is also legal support for the practice based upon the concept of cultural sovereignty.(19) Thus, the conflict centers on the fine line between respecting one's fundamental human rights and the recognition of a State's cultural sovereignty.(20)

This article addresses the conflict between the recognition of international human rights and the principle of cultural sovereignty through an analysis of the cultural, social, and political implications surrounding FGM. Section two introduces the torturous practice of FGM, including the reasons given to justify it, as well as the resulting complications and effects. Section three addresses and evaluates existing international legal instruments that protest FGM. Section four considers the arguments of both FGM proponents and opponents. Section five addresses enforcement mechanisms of international law concerning FGM, and proposes solutions to rectify these issues. In a day and age where it should be commonplace for society to respect women of all cultures and for all women to have the opportunity to make meaningful choices in their lives, the conflicting issues raised in this article show the difficulty women face daily, simply to obtain their freedom.

II. DEFINING THE PROBLEM OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION

Female Genital Mutilation is a general term for a variety of surgical operations performed on girls and women primarily in twenty-eight African countries and among some minorities in Asia. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Female Genital Mutilation: A Discussion of International Human Rights Instruments, Cultural Sovereignty and Dominance Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.