Eric K. Silverman writes that the practice of FGM challenges ideas of inter alia cultural relativism and universalism. Those who protect the practice of FGM argue that if the West imposes their views on people of other cultures, this is a form of new colonialism, and those who try to eliminate the practice see their actions as the protection of human rights, he argues. Indeed, there are a plethora of cultures in the world, and many of these cultures have been suppressed in times of colonialism. No one can justify that their culture is 'higher' or better than someone else’s so that it gives them the power to change another's culture; all people within a culture follow their perceptions of a ...view middle of the document...
Culture and Choice
If everyone has the right to culture, women should also have the choice to change their own culture, as also mentioned by Holtmaat and Nabar. However, the issue is more complex than this, and cannot be resolved by simply giving women more power to change culture. Research by UNICEF shows that a very high percentage of women in African FGM practising countries support the practice. The question that then arises is whether it is just to try to change this practice if women support it, would that not be a kind of imperialism? Gerry Macky argues that “the women who practice infibulation are caught in a belief trap. The Bambara of Mali believe that the clitoris will kill a man if it comes in contact with the penis during intercourse. In Nigeria, some groups believe that a baby will die if its head touches the clitoris during delivery,” and she calls these “self-enforcing beliefs: a believe that cannot be revised because the believed costs of testing the believe are too high”. She further argues that the practice is seen as normal because many girls do not meet other girls who have not undergone FGM. Other data collected by UNICEF shows that there is a connection between women's acceptance of male dominance and women's support of FGM. For instance, the ratio of percentages of acceptance of wife-beating if a woman goes out without telling her husband, if she burns the food, if she argues with her husband or refuses sex and if she neglects her children is much higher if the women also support FGM. This shows that these women who support FGM might not actually consider themselves equal to men, and this can influence their opinion of FGM. If male dominance is very high and women reside with this because there is no opportunity for them to change this dominance or they do not know their rights, the reasons for their consent have to be examined in order to find out whether they truly wish for this practice and gender inequality to continue. UNICEF’s data shows, that women who are educated “are less likely to have circumcised daughters than women with lower or no
formal education”. This shows that if women are educated and are thus more aware of their rights, the practice of FGM is likely to decline. This implies that females who are not aware of their rights as human beings, and are suppressed, will be less likely to stand up against practices that enforce inequality. But this does not mean that these women truly support FGM and other practices that discriminate and suppress women. In order to find out whether women agree with these practices, equality of the sexes should be promoted in the form of education, so that their responses reflect their true thoughts that are not influenced by persistent discrimination.
The Rights of the Child and Culture
In article 21.1 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, it is stated that:
“States Parties to the present Charter shall take all appropriate measures to...