Waris Dirie and the campaign to stop FGM

Supermodel and actress Waris Dirie was a victim of female genital mutilation.  She is now an activist, seeking to outlaw the procedure and hoping to educate communities in the dangers of the practice.  This video from the Desert Flower Foundation can be found on YouTube.

The one area where I disagree is that I believe FGM can be considered a cultural and religious practice.  Culture can be defined as simply as common practices in a social group.  And, religious leaders over the centuries have interpreted religion differently – the Shafi’i school of Islamic law, for example, has encouraged FGM.

That is not to say that culture and religious belief should be set in stone – clearly, FGM is brutal and wrong.  The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is Chinese foot binding.  Foot binding mutilated girls for life and was a widespread cultural practice, even in the early 20th century.  The history of foot binding goes back to the 10th century.

There were outspoken critics who wrote articles, educated communities, and spoke to the press in the late 1800s.

In 1912, the government finally banned the practice.  Numbers declined significantly in the 1920s as women’s rights became a worldwide discussion.

By 1949, the only cases of foot binding were scattered in the most rural, small communities.

The same can happen for FGM – so, please, talk about it.  The more people are aware, the more likely things will change.




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