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I'm a high school student from Austin High School and in our World Studies class we were told to choose a specific region and or topic to focus on for our intro to Africa research paper. My friend and I chose FGM, because we felt that it was a pressing issue, that unfortunately is not discussed openly with anyone at the highschool level.

One of our objectives to address is "Why do we feel the need to draw cultural dictations about Africa's traditions?" Obviously, the health issue is one that we intend to discuss, but I feel the need to get more information to back up this objective. Would you be able to help me find some cites and /or report that could guide us to a more successful understanding of FGM? Thank you.

Thanks for your note to FEMINIST.COM--and for taking the initiative to educate your classmates about Female Genital Mutilation. Before embarking on your project, I think it's important to know that genital mutilation happens around the world, not just Africa. There are even cases cited in the United States. Also, there are several different kinds of genital mutilation--there are cuttings (clitoridectomies) and then sewing ups. You should see Alice Walker's book Warrior Marks, which includes diagrams as well as more information about the practice and prevalance.

When talking about it as a tradition--it is both an African tradition, but also a Muslim tradition--thereby, supposedly linking to culture and religion. The argument against intervention into traditions has been the argument against stopping FGM, however, if there was a tradition that was equally harmful to boys, I would imagine that this argument wouldn't be used. Also, there are many women and men who are extremely "traditional" and who oppose this practice. So I think the larger question is why do societies allow traditionally sexist and harmful practices to continue in the face of so many people speaking out against it? There are many women who flee their countries escaping FGM--and those numbers alone have forced it to become a human rights issue. However, because human rights don't yet fully include women's rights, human rights groups have been slow to fully take up this cause. There are several organizations who are helping to do so, Equality NOW, FORWARD, the Global Fund for Women, and others. I suggest contacting these organizations for more information as well as the above mentioned book.

I hope that helps.


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