Wednesday, 23 January 2008

are we inside or outside the box? or - are we the box?

This is outrageous to me and I don't apologize for saying it. It is one of the most demonstrable cultural practices where the only purpose is to suppress women.

I do agree with this view:
Nonetheless, as Western awareness of female genital cutting has grown, anthropologists, policy makers and health officials have warned against blindly judging those who practice it, saying that progress is best made by working with local leaders and opinion-makers to gradually shift the public discussion of female circumcision from what it’s believed to bestow upon a girl toward what it takes away. “These mothers believe they are doing something good for their children,” Guarenti, a native of Italy, told me. “For our culture that is not easily understandable. To judge them harshly is to isolate them. You cannot make change that way.”

In that vein I think we in the West cannot allow this to take place in our countries. It is the law of the land and should be enforced. If immigrants or citizens do not wish to abide by those laws, I think they should leave. This is a basic right - not to be altered physically, or abused as a child when you have no control. If women believe they want this procedure, then do it when you are old enough to make your own decision. But the greater challenge is to take away the idea of being socially unacceptable if you do not have the procedure done. In this vein we who are not Muslim can help I think - by education and the art of gentle persuasion. We should write about it, blog about it, and talk about it. If you are a woman it is your concern, if you are a husband, a father, or a brother - it is your concern. The world is a small place now and we are responsible for each other. Now more than ever, the well being of ourselves and our families depends on the well being of our neighbors.

This leads me to another train of thought - How much of what we do is because it is 'the right thing to do'? How much of that is conditioning? The mothers who take their daughters for genital mutilation are doing it so they will be accepted, so they can have a good marriage and a good life; not out of some tendency toward child abuse. They in turn would think us cruel for leaving our children in a day care situation, or with a nanny - anyone who is not family. How can we determine ethics outside of cultural conditioning?

I am NOT saying we can't condemn the acts of another culture as cruel because it is their 'norm', but I am saying it calls for a deeper understanding of motives. I don't believe you can change the mind of an individual or a culture by violence or force - we cannot enforce democracy or compassion. It's been tried, the Crusades anyone? And failed - Iraq comes to mind. We can see how to make those changes by observing our own cultures in last few decades. I can remember when wife beating, drunk driving, child abuse, and smoking were all pretty much "too bad but that's life". By making these issues unacceptable socially as well as legally, and bringing them to the harsh light of facts and scrutiny of the public, they are now taboo.

What makes us ethical? Fear? Goodness? Lack of imagination? Hope for a better future or afterlife? These are questions that drove Kant and Nietzsche cuckoo (I mean really, have you read Critique of Pure Reason or Beyond Good and Evil?) The Dzogchen tackled the subject in a non-sectarian manner of the Tibetan Buddhist, along with Socrates and Aristotle who were looking at these issues when the world was small.

I’m not at all sure there is a definitive answer, or that the point is to find a neat and tidy solution in a package where one size fits all, but rather that the answer is in the questions and that we continue the search, continue to question ourselves. Tricky business eh?

Soon I shall write of shopping! Ciao.


Rositta said...

I got physically ill just looking at the picture of those women standing around the bed knowing what they will do. Can we change it? Not in the countries where it is custom, can we change it here in the west, I sure hope so...ciao

jmb said...

It's not a problem with a simple solution. Even outlawing it in western countries does not prevent it from happening there, but in secret.

Although I see that obviously some who practise it have downgraded the procedure to more of a symbolic rite of passage, than a full scale cutting so it seems they do not believe it is the right thing to do themselves.

One day, hopefully, it will be no more.

Omega Mum said...

I reckon that we need not to be cowed by tradition in any country, ours or others. If we had been, Wilberforce would not have abolished slave trading, women would not have got the vote and children would routinely be sent up chimneys. And let's not forget that a lot of horrible things that are done to women, with the connivance of other women, are done to please men.....

Ian Lidster said...

Some of these practices and attitudes are so culturally ingrained that they are difficult to combat. A woman I know worked as a doctor in Pakistan a number of years ago and was dealing with a still youngish woman who was effectively dying from the number of preganancies she'd had over the years. My doctor friend approach her husband and told him that if she were to have another pregnancy she would likely die. He (an educated man, a lawyer, in fact) said that he had to make her pregnant becuase if she wasn't "she got very very ill and would bleed every month." She realized then what a hard-sell birth-control was going to be. Not the same subject, but it still shows a cultural attitude. Other than that, I have no answer other than to suffer the dismay that any of us do over such mutilations. Good post.

Anonymous said...

peopel do 'nt practices Female Genital Mutilation in Morocco.Only male.
Female genital cutting is today mainly practiced in African countries. It is common in a band that stretches from Senegal in West Africa to Somalia on the East coast, as well as from Egypt in the north to Tanzania in the south; see Map. It is also practiced by some groups in the Arabian peninsula. The country where FGC is most prevalent is Somalia, followed by Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Mali. Among ethnic Somali women, infibulation is traditional and nearly universal. Recent figures estimate that 90 percent of Egyptian women have undergone FGC. Egypt recently passed a law banning FGC.[24]

Map: Estimated Prevalence of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in Africa. Data based on uncertain estimates.Whilst FGC is widely practiced out in the open by Africans of all faiths, it is practiced in secrecy in some parts of the Middle East. In the Arabian peninsula, Sunna circumcision is usually performed, especially among Arabs (ethnic groups of African descent are more likely to prefer infibulation). The practice occurs particularly in northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan, and Iraq. In the Iraqi village of Hasira, a recent study found that 60 percent of the women and girls reported having had the procedure. Prior to the study, there had been no solid proof of the procedure's prevalence. There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest that FGC is practiced in Syria, western Iran, and southern Turkey.[25] In Oman, a few communities still practice FGC; however, experts believe that the number of such cases is small and declining annually. In the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, it is practiced mainly among foreign workers from East Africa and the Nile Valley.

The practice can also be found among a few ethnic groups in South America and very rarely in India (Dawoodi Bohra community[26]). In Indonesia, the practice is fairly common among the country's Muslim women; however, in contrast to Africa, almost all are Type I or Type IV, the latter usually involving the symbolic pricking of blood release.[27]

Due to immigration, the practice has also spread to Europe, Australia and the United States. Some tradition-minded families have their daughters undergo FGC whilst on vacation in their home countries. As Western governments become more aware of FGC, legislation has come into effect in many countries to make the practice of FGC a criminal offense. In 2006, Khalid Adem became the first man in the United States to be prosecuted for mutilating his daughter.

lady macleod said...

I still hold out hope that over time we can change it everywhere; but then again I'm an optimist.
Thank you for coming by.

Not a simple solution indeed! That's the truth.
Thank you for coming by.

omega mum
Indeed! and well said. I love Wilberforce.
Thank you for coming by.

Your example of yet another tragedy of ignorance is poignant, and reminds me there is much work to be done.
Thank you for coming by.

Thank you for your comments, and thank you for coming by.

Sparx said...

I had a long and thoughtful comment here but I found myself meandering. Any actions involving one person inflicting lasting physical change on another are in my books, very very wrong... I think that's where I was going. I have more to say but I may end up meandering even further...

Omega Mum said...

Award waiting for you.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Well done you for blogging about it, Lady M. Have you read Nawal El-Saadawi on this? I agree with you about the mothers who push their girl children into having this procedure - they want them to be accepted because they know what will happen if they are not - and I agree that the only answer is education.