Addressing FGM with Cultural Sensitivity and Community Involvement

By: Jacinta David Miller

It is important that we move to end the act of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting within the United States, as well as "vacation cutting" (the practice of sending young girls overseas to undergo FGM). However there is a prominent need to ensure that the approach taken in addressing FGM/C should be handled with great cultural sensitivity and in partnership with communities. 

A recent article published in the Sahiyo Newsletter articulates the need for approaching FGM/C with cultural sensitivity. Citing the example of a recent federal intervention in Michigan’s Dawoodi Bohra community after an investigation into a Detroit Doctor’s practice of FGM lead to several arrests and the involvement of local Child Services. The author emphasises the need to engage and educate communities rather than put in place divisive punitive measures that merely act to isolate the community. This approach focuses on changing the normative perceptions of communities that practice FGM whilst still respecting inherent cultural sensitivities. This approach ensures the ability to prioritise the well being of young women and girls in a way that refrains from demonizing an entire community. 

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Ignorance to the reason and intentions that families hold for practicing FGM/C or reducing the act to an archaic and outdated cultural practice has the potential to exclude the very communities from conversation and involvement. Without engaging and creating an open dialogue to educate and inform there is a risk of persecuting and tearing apart the families of the very people that need help. Indeed there is an emphasised importance on the need to work with rather than against communities.

For further information on FGM/C and to discover ways as to how you can get involved: Join us on Friday May 26th at Garibaldi Plaza in Washington Square Park. This will be a special cultural event hosted by the USA/ Mali Charitable Association of New York focused on the community coming together to end FGM/C. Our President, Jaana Rhenstrom, will be speaking at the event on the medical implications of FGM/C. There will also be an additional host of Malian and other cultural activities.