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Female Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights or Cultural Imperialism?

Abdulmumini A. Oba, University of Ilorin

Abstract

Many have discussed female circumcision from the perspective of cultural relativism. This paper places the discourse in the context of Western cultural imperialism. The definition of female genital mutilation (FGM) by the World Health Organization (WHO) is questioned as being partial and amounting to cultural profiling. The paper interrogates the case against female circumcision and reviews anti-female circumcision treaties and legislations at international and domestic levels across the world.

A case of cultural imperialism against the West is argued by questioning the non-inclusion by WHO of some western practices such as `female genital surgeries' or `female genital cuttings' in its definition of FGM. Other female bodily mutilations such as breast augmentation should be indicted too. Again, the failed Seattle compromise emphatically illustrates the cultural imperialism inherent in the campaign against female circumcision. The campaign against female circumcision is diverting focus from third world's pressing social and economical travails which arise from the exploitation and manipulation of its economy by the West. Criminalization of female circumcision is counter-productive - the fight against FGM must be based on credible facts and enlightenment.

Suggested Citation

Abdulmumini A. Oba. "Female Circumcision as Female Genital Mutilation: Human Rights or Cultural Imperialism?" Global Jurist 8.3 (2008): 1-38.