Women’s Business? Reassessing the Role of Men in the Perpetuation and Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Bettina Shell-Duncan, University of Washington
Amadou Moreau, Global Research and Advocacy Group, Senegal
Katherine Wander, Binghamton University, State University of New York (SUNY)
Ylva Hernlund, University of Washington

There exist two dominant but conflicting views on the role of men in the perpetuation of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). One paints men as culprits, with FGM/C viewed as a manifestation of patriarchal oppression of women, while the other portrays men as relatively uninvolved in a practice described as “women’s business.” Data from a three-year mixed methods study in Senegambia do not provide unequivocal support for either of these divergent perspectives. Contrary to the “women’s business” viewpoint, it is not uncommon for men to participate in the decision-making regarding FGM/C. Moreover, while the patriarchy argument suggests that men should favor continuation of FGM/C, our data show that 50% fewer fathers, as compared to mothers, supported continuation, and when men were involved in the decision making process, it was more likely that girls remained uncut. This suggests that men can play an important role in supporting efforts aimed at ending FGM/C.

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Presented in Session 59: Female Genital Mutilation