Is banning female genital mutilation enough?

Female genital mutilation is banned in Somalia after enacting a new constitution. An article from the UK’s online website The Guardian describes that many activists welcome the new measure. However, some of them think this is not enough, specially when approximately 96% of women in Somalia undergo extremes forms of female genital mutilation.


The most common type of female genital mutilation in Somalia is type 3, also known as infibulation, which involves the removal of all or parts of the external genitalia including the clitoris, both labia; minora and majora. The process also involves the stitching or narrowing the vaginal opening. According to the article, “Globally, an estimated 100-140 million girls (92 million in Africa) live with FGM/C. Another 3 million are at risk of undergoing the procedure annually.”

These girls are lied to, and usually forced to summit to this kind of mutilation. Imagine being told you are going to visit a family member, or go to a birthday party, as you walk into an unsanitary place to mutilate your genitals. Most women have to be circumcised in order to get married, and on their wedding night it is the husband’s honor, let’s say, to undo the stitching.

Fatima Jibrell, a women’s advocate says”The fact that the new provisional constitution outlaws the circumcision of girls is a welcome development, but this will require education, awareness-raising and strong legal provisions. Without this, the provision will be little more than ink on a piece of paper,” I completely agree. Female mutilation is not only necessary for a woman to get married, but it is also demanded by the male dominated culture.

Opponents of the ban say that women will be unable to get married, and as a result, the males in the society will be unable to find their wife. Another argument I heard, mostly from other classmates is that it is their culture, and who are we to tell them to stop mutilating their females, after all we circumcise males in the United States. However, I don’t buy this argument. For a while, I had no comeback, since they had a point, it is their culture, so we must have cultural relativism. However, last week my philosophy professor, Barbara King gave me an idea for a comeback.

She mentioned something about cultural relativism and ethnical relativism. Cultural relativism is good to  have, some Latin American counties eat crickets or worms, the US do not, American might say it’s gross, but are fine with it. It is the country’s cultural food. Ethical relativism regards right and wrong. There are some acts that are wrong regardless of culture. Such as murder, genocide, slavery, and in my opinion female genital mutilation as well. Female genitalia mutilation is not done for the well-being of the girls themselves, but for males. In fact, the effects of female genital mutilation can be tremendous. “Risk of severe bleeding, infection and infertility are some of the side-effects of the procedure, as are obstetric complications including postpartum haemorrhage and infant mortality. Research suggests that girls who have undergone FGM/C are more prone to mental disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”

So next time you hear, “but it’s their culture!” you should say, only for the males.


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