War on FGM must focus on social, peer pressure

A strident or judgemental approach to the Female Genital Mutilation crisis was bound to drive the practice underground. While the horrors of the worst forms of cutting are bound to provoke outrage or revulsion, communities not practicing infibulation or Type II FGM — the two most destructive forms — can continue to justify cliteridectomies on minors by making them safer to perform.

When we last had to address this problem, it was following the incident where several girls fled a school to get circumcised. Then we noted that dealing with social pressures from the age-group is central to winning the war against FGM. Only when there is a significant number of girls in each age group avoiding the circumcisers’ knife and going on to lead a happy life within the society will the battle be won. If girls are ‘saved’ from the knife but later have difficulty finding husbands, those in later age groups will seek out the procedures, even where parents are not forcing them to. With the rise of nurses and midwives offering the services, we are likely to move from unsanitary cutting of minors without their consent to clandestine FGM with ‘acceptance’ from girls involved.

The war on FGM is likely to be a long one. As an early goal, ridding society of the traditional circumciser is not insignificant. The ceremonies at which they retire do much to change attitudes. The push to stop minors or adults being cut without consent is next. With time, fewer girls will want the cut if larger parts of their age groups turn their back on it.