"Why does female genital mutilation persist? Examining the failed criminalization strategies in Africa and Canada"
Sally Effie, Ogoe
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Female genital mutilation is an important human rights and health issue in both Canada and Africa. The Canadian government has made efforts towards eradicating this practice by making it a criminal offense, a “remedy” popularly used in Africa as well. Despite the efforts made by governments, law enforcement, along with international human rights organizations, female genital mutilation persists among African immigrants living in Canada and is still practiced by some in Africa. Using international and government laws and policies, documents, case study reports and articles, this thesis questions why the criminalization of female genital mutilation has not reduced this practice among Africans and immigrants living in Canada. Using qualitative case study research methodology as well as the theories of cultural relativism and feminist human rights, this thesis suggests that cultural practices are resistant to change, even among families who move to societies where the practices are legally criminalized and socially rejected. As such, the strategy of eradicating this cultural practice through criminalization has been largely unsuccessful because of strong social forces as exemplified in myths, cultural reasons and the medicalization of female genital mutilation. This thesis concludes by proposing the need to address the status of females among groups who perpetuate this practice and adopting other measures to supplement the laws which are already in place.