Fgc and human rights Essay

FGC conflicts with the impression of ‘human rights ‘ in multiple ways. Several good known publications, such as the Hosken Report ( 1993 ) and Warrior Masks ( Walker 1993 ) , generated international indignation and calls for intercession to eliminate the practise of FGC on the footing that it is a misdemeanor of adult females ‘s ( and kids ‘s ) rights. A figure of international declarations have implicitly or explicitly denounced FGC as a misdemeanor of human rights, such as The Beijing Platform for Action ( 1995 ) , The International Conference on Population and Development ( 1994 ) and The Convention on the Elimination of all signifiers of Discrimination Against Women ( 1979 ) . It has been argued that FGC constitutes a misdemeanor of the right to life, the right to freedom from cruel and degrading intervention and the right to bodily unity as set out in Articles 3 and 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( 1948 ) on the evidences that the practise is non medically necessary and that it is potentially life threatening ( Slack 1988, Hayes 1972, Hosken 1993 ) . Slack ( ibid ) besides argues that the bulk of adult females and kids do non hold the chance to decline FGC and, furthermore, that any traditional practise which harms persons is a human rights misdemeanor and should be stopped. Furthermore, it is often claimed that the ‘real ‘ purpose of FGC is to rarefy ( and control ) female sexual desire and therefore prevent illicit adulterous sex ( Hayes 1975, Lightfoot-Klein 1989 ) . That adult females ‘s gender should be regulated by anyone other than the adult female herself gives rise to FGC as a farther violation of cardinal human rights ( Walley 1997 ) .

However, expostulations to FGC on the footing of human rights are inextricably linked to wider arguments refering the nature of ‘universal ‘ human rights and their potentially exclusionary nature ( Van de Kwaak 1992, Zabus 2001 ) . These prompt two cardinal inquiries for analysis. The first inquiry concerns the fundamental law of apparently ‘universal ‘ values which are employed to warrant intercessions in such practises. Of peculiar involvement is whether an credence of culturally-specific traditional practises, such as FGC, is compatible with rules of gender equality and the cardinal rights of adult females and kids ( Teigen and Langvastbraten 2009 ) . The 2nd inquiry concerns the plausibleness of an nonsubjective analysis of traditional patterns from differing epistemological point of views. Both inquiries are mired in conflicting values paradigms such that a consensus appears elusive. As we shall see below, the same job besets… .

Defense mechanism of fgm on the evidences of cultural rights.

The practise of FGC has often been defended upon evidences of a given cultural or spiritual group ‘s right to traditional cultural practises. Notably Jomo Kenyatta saw the infliction of a British colonial prohibition of FGC as an onslaught on Kikuyu cultural unity and self-government to be resisted ( Stanlie 1999 ) .

Some African Feminists such as… have argued that although they would wish to see an terminal to FGC, they reject western feminist intervention on the footing that western feminist resistance to such practises is constituted within an inexplicit post-colonial cultural hierarchy, which contributes to the subordination of African adult females ( Shell-Duncan and Hernlund 2000 ) . Western impressions of gender equality and simplistic deceits and misinterpretations of gendered power kineticss in African societies may in some instances serve to demonise the civilization of ‘Other ‘ ( Spivak 1981, Phillips2005 ) . That western-notions of cosmopolitan values may hold subordinating effects for both work forces and adult females challenges the justification for intercession in such practises.

Arguments against cultural rights.

However it can be argued that all civilization is implicitly gendered in favor of male laterality and the subordination of adult females. Calls for the saving of gendered practises such as FGC are frequently articulated through a discourse of cultural rights and postcolonial opposition ; nevertheless by presuming homogeneous values of any given group, such discourses potentially silence discordant voices, in peculiar those of adult females ( … ) .The fact of male laterality in most, if non all, civilizations ( Ortner 1972 ) means that work forces occupy the hegemonic political Centres from which cultural representations may be defined and legitimated and in bend subordinate the voices and subcultures of adult females ( Phillips 2005 ) . Whilst admiting that the human rights docket may good hold emerged from a patriarchal and ( station ) colonial societal order, the rights docket is non alone in this regard. All instruments and establishments of societal policy can be argued as topic to the same paternalistic and patriarchal underpinnings ( Nussbaum 2007 ) . The defense mechanism of FGC as cultural right may be tantamount to the legitimisation and continuance of culturally specific practises which subordinate adult females ( Okin 1999 ) .

Cultural and single rights need non be in struggle.

Phillips suggests that gender equality and cultural rights need to be understood as interconnected, instead than in resistance to one another. Impressions of justness are formed in peculiar historical contexts and hence an unequal mention point as to what values and norms ought to be. Pulling on Benhabib ( 2002 ) , civilizations can non be conceptualised as delineable wholes, congruent with population groups. Alternatively civilization and individuality are practises originating out of duologue between groups across ‘imagined ‘ boundaries ( Benhabib 2002, Hekman 2006 ) . Thus it becomes ill-defined as to who may or may non lawfully talk for and step in in any given civilization.

Nussbaum ( 2007 ) posits ‘capabilities ‘ as a addendum to a rights based attack to intercession in potentially harmful cultural practises. The capablenesss approach posits “ functional capablenesss ” as indispensable facets of human life, such as length of service, bodily unity, emotional, affectional societal and mental development and the ability to prosecute in practical ground and pick ( Charlesworth 2000 ) . The accent is non merely on the result of bodily unity for illustration, but on the ability to accomplish or continue it if one so wishes. Whereas a rights model might province that everybody has the right to bodily unity and therefore FGC is a misdemeanor of this right ; a capablenesss attack would reason that everybody should hold the capableness to retain bodily unity and to do determinations which may compromise it if they so wish ; go forthing the option of FGC unfastened.

Capability want occurs in a assortment of ways, e.g. through deficiency of fiscal resources, political subjugation deficiency of instruction or false consciousness. In recognizing that penchants are formed and picks made within differential power dealingss and capable to dominant cultural values ; an person ‘s ability to organize their ain penchants becomes a critical homo capableness. Therefore the focal point is non on make up one’s minding whether FGC is or is non universally acceptable, but alternatively set uping the conditions under which ‘authentic ‘ consent or refusal may take topographic point. Nussbaum ( 2007 ) condemns the pattern of FGC, as a signifier capableness want, in the hazards it presents to wellness, sexual operation and adult females ‘s liberty ; underscoring that FGC is carried out on immature misss without their ( reliable ) consent. However inexplicit to Nussbaum ‘s statement is the thought that adult females can non genuinely consent to prejudiced practises that diminish their capablenesss. The built-in danger remains of presuming that African adult females ‘s determination to take part or recommend for the practise of FGC must be unauthentic in some manner. Although the capablenesss approach seems to bring forth a more flexible infinite for persons to joint and gain their involvements for themselves, generalizing value opinions from functional capablenesss to more specific Acts of the Apostless such as FGC would look to fall foul of the same premises and paternalism which we hoped to avoid by interrupting off from a strictly normative rights based analysis. Furthermore, bordering adult females ‘s consent to FGC as a determination between equality and inequality hazards papering over the wider context in which determination devising processes occur ; debaring off from a generalized analysis of patriarchate to center on FGC as a remarkable manifestation of gender inequality. In the ‘developing ‘ universe where short term endurance might take precedency over the long term wagess of greater gender equality, a more nuanced attack might seek to place the fortunes in which the practise of FGC might be of strategic value in extenuating against the twenty-four hours to twenty-four hours challenges of utmost poorness.

Benhabib posits that a construct of humanity need non presume an essentialist ontology, but alternatively “ communities of conversation ” ( Benhabib 2007 p.245 ) in which what determines who and who are non members of a community is the subject of conversation, the undertaking at manus and the job that is being debated.

The survey of a practise which one can non specify as their ain is of no value.

Can an outsider even understand the practise of FGM?

Western dianoetic traditions which identify FGC as form for sexual subjugation ( for illustration Hosken ‘s ) , have been criticised, as ethnocentric and reductionist. Such reviews view western denouncements as paternalistic and implicitly racialist. It has been argued that Hosken ‘s accent on an false relationship between FGC and sexual pleasance is constrained by western impressions of gender and overlooks the wider societal and economic footing of adult females ‘s general subjugation ( Abusharaf 2001 ) . Smith ( 1992 ) contends that because western feminist theories were developed by white western adult females they tend to universalize and enforce characteristics of western societies, and are unable to hold on the heterogeneousness of African adult females ‘s subjectivenesss and the culturally specific inter-sectionalities with other manners of societal stratification, such as race, ethnicity and category. Whilst FGC may increase the value of adult females in the societies in which it is practised, they are at the same time regarded as inferior by western looker-ons ( Van de Kwaak 1992 ) . Stamp ( in Stanlie 1998 ) argues that western women’s rightist and academic discourses low-level African adult females by cabaling with sexist colonial representations of African adult females as inactive ‘Others ‘ ; victims of oppressive practises and constructions that merely western adult females are able to comprehend and therefore salvage them from ( Spivak 1981 ) . However such ideology Fosters ethno-centrism and fails to detect the complexness of the subjectivenesss and experiences of African adult females ( Stanlie 1998 ) . Such a position challenges the rigidness of culturally specific impressions of right and incorrect and disputes whether a full apprehension of FGC can be gained from within the framing premises of the epistemology of the perceiver ( Guning 1991/1992 ) .

To return to Luke ‘s ( 1974 ) 3rd dimension of power, such impressions of reliable determination devising and echt involvements are debatable in that they assume the being of a surpassing point of view outside of the kingdom of power where people ‘s existent involvements can be through empirical observation defined. The methodological jobs implicit to placing echt involvements, do non needfully intend an absence of substantial involvements.

Foucault ‘s position emphasizes that cognition is capable to the kingdom of power in which it is defined ; doing a transcendent and important point of view appear elusive. Such a impression would propose that where to put the spliting line between ‘insider ‘ and ‘outsider ‘ perceptual experiences of a practise is apparently arbitrary. Benhabib ( 2007 ) argues that cultural groups and their associated patterns are neither homogeneous nor hermetic, but constituted of heterogenous elements which intersect within and across perceived cultural boundaries. Whilst a foucauldian position might connote topics empty of reflexiveness, Benhabib posits that the dynamic nature of societal norms and civilizations is in fact enabled by the flux and merger of different civilizations and epistemic positions. Social histrions at the same time take part in and detect their societal environments and dispute normative point of views as contact between different cultural systemst epistemologies.


The cosmopolitan rights model is debatable in that it is capable to differing cultural readings as to what unalienable rights ought to dwell of. Under conditions of patriarchal cultural hegemony, cultural rights, where the greatest patriarchal dividend can be reaped, are bound to take precedency over adult females ‘s rights ; nevertheless intercessions ( non least by former colonial powers ) into practises safe-guarded within a cultural rights discourse are likely to be combative and resisted.

It is my position that the presence of such values struggles and ardent positions sing FGC, highlight it as an country of survey, due to, instead than despite the methodological and moral complications. Valuess conflicts built-in to scholarly analysis can possibly come closer to a declaration and surrogate positive alteration in societal practise through ‘inter-cultural ‘ duologue as opposed to the attempts of dominant values systems to widen and universalize themselves. As opposed to the simplistic duality of cultural relativism ‘s stepping down of duty and the possible moral imperialism of universalism, attempts need to be extended to spread outing democratic dialogic processes to values struggles. This requires opening up infinites for the positions and experiences of junior-grade voices. Furthermore an analysis of traditional practises must be informed by an apprehension of the macro relationships between western and non-western civilizations. If western perceptual experiences of non-western civilizations are framed within a negative racial political orientation informed by colonialism, any analysis must try to unknot its possible power effects and incorporate a self-aware review of one ‘s ain civilization. Whilst westerners may comprehend FGC as morally unacceptable, there are facets of western civilization which appear as culturally disputing to non-westerners. It is my position that analyzing and denouncing the cultural patterns of another demand non needfully be an averment of moral domination or cultural imperialism and may in fact shed visible radiation on the subordinating practises of one ‘s ain civilization. The analysis of FGC amongst the Afar to follow will supply both an analysis of the direct motives and impacts of the practise every bit good as its state of affairs in patriarchal societal order.

Spivak ( 1982 ) posits an analysis of FGC across planetary gender hierarchies. Spivak inquiries the premise that FGC is entirely imposed on African adult females, proposing that FGC is a metonymy for the general societal and economic subjugation of adult females. FGC is conceived of as the ‘symbolic repression of female gender ‘ , which through the objectification and control of adult females ‘s generative organic structures, ( rhenium ) produces patriarchal power. Aside from the historical practise of FGC in the West, Gunning ( 1991/1992 ) high spots decorative surgery, anorexia and binge-eating syndrome as current western cultural practises which may pull a parallel with FGC, in that they are culturally specific manifestations of patriarchal societal order, which produce uncertainnesss environing female individuality and are located in a wider battle for gender equity.