Fighting to Make the Cut: Female Genital Cutting Studied within the Context of Cultural Relativism

Cassman, Rachelle | January 1, 2008

The painful and enduring practice of female genital cutting (“FGC”) can be better understood through the lens of cultural relativism. This article begins with a description of the term cultural relativism, which represents the notion that cultures should be analyzed and understood independent of one’s own culture, bias, and judgment. Then, an explanation and summary of FGC is presented, including its alleged, yet misguided, link to religion as well as various myths supporting its perpetuation. The author then discusses the perspectives of FGC proponents and opponents (namely, Westerners), as well as the proponents’ reaction toward the Western stance. Next, a list is presented of international and local laws, codes, and courts that have addressed FGC. The author continues the discussion with a description of success stories of various cultures and regions that have eradicated FGC followed by an analysis of alternatives to the practice that would eliminate the negative physical consequences of FGC while maintaining the positive cultural value associated with it. The article concludes with a realistic solution for the eradication of FGC that takes into consideration the significance of cultural relativism.