Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights Framework Vs. Cultural Relativism Framework

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Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights Framework vs. Cultural Relativism Framework




Prevalence/Incidence of FGM1


Place of residence3

FGM and human rights4

Conceptual literature (universals vs. relativism)6



Prevalence/Incidence of FGM

Estimating the prevalence of FGM has been a difficult task. It is imperative to estimate the prevalence of FGM to understand the extent of the phenomenon and the number of women and children at risk. Turone report in (2011), was the first effort made to estimate prevalence of FGM at a national level. The report shed light on the prevalence of FGM in 28 countries. However, it was perceived that this report was based on subjective evidence. Decades later there is still not enough research and data on the presence of FGM in the Middle East and Africa. FGM to a certain extent is a universal phenomenon that impacts the lives of women and children (Turone 2011).

In West Africa the prevalence for FGM differ from 99% in Guinea to 5% in Niger, in North Eastern African prevalence of FGM differs from 97% in Egypt to 80% in Ethiopia. However the rate of prevalence for FGM in South Eastern African is lower i.e. it is 32% in Kenya to 18% in Tanzania. To reiterate, as UNICEF summarizes, Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) occurs throughout the world. WHO estimates between 100 million and 140 million girls and women alive today have experienced some form of the practice. It is further estimated that up to 3 million girls in Sub Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan are at risk of genital mutilation annually. This illustrates the urgency of eradicating a practice that affects the lives of millions of women and children (Tostan 2012).


The consistent patterns in the research done by UNICEF suggest that normally women who are Muslims face the problem of FGM than the non Muslim women. Religion has a strong relationship with FGM, possibly the strongest. A study conducted in Tanzania found the likelihood that women had undergone FGM was significantly higher among Muslim women. In a Sudanese study carried out by (Tostan 2011). FGM was found to be almost universal in both provinces that were predominantly Muslim 99.6% in Shendi and close to 90% in Haj-Yousif. Finally, when logit regression is performed, although no variable has a significant net effect on the near universal FGM rates in Shendi, for both Haj-Yousif and Juba, controlling for all of the other factors, Muslim women are still more likely to be subjected to FGM in both the predominantly Muslim and predominantly Christian provinces (Thomas 2012).

This study is consistent with UNICEF in finding that Muslim women in the Middle East and Africa are at a much greater risk of FGM than women of other religions. Overall, the pattern in the research done by UNICEF suggests Muslim mothers are significantly more likely to subject their daughters to FGM. UNICEF asserts, Muslim women are more likely to have circumcised their daughters than woman of other religious affiliations. A study of ever-married women in 3 provinces of Sudan found that 71% in Haj-Yousif, 64% ...
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