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Patricia A. Broussard

Patricia A. Broussard , The Importation of Female Genital Mutilation to the West: the Cruelest Cut of All
, 44 University of San Francisco Law Review 787 (Spring 2010)(225 Footnotes)

Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development and peace.

THE RECENT WIDESPREAD IMMIGRATION of African and Middle Eastern people and the importation of their traditions and practices into Western societies have given Westerners a firsthand view of cultural practices once shielded by distance, silence, and a bit of disinterest. Such is the case with Female Genital Mutilation (“FGM”). Prior to its importation, most Westerners had not heard the term female genital mutilation and certainly did not know what its impact has been on girls and women in the countries that practice it.

Having “discovered” FGM, the West has become conversant with the justifications for FGM, including religion, assertions of male dominance, and outdated notions of cleanliness and marriageability. However, many of these justifications are either outdated or based on half-truths. The main proposed solutions to what has become known as [p788] the “problem” of FGM are education and punishment of the perpetrator, usually the person performing the cutting. However, the importation of the practice of FGM to the West has shifted the conversation to identifying the new culprits and punishing them in an appropriate manner. Western countries that had been secure in their condemnation of those African and Middle Eastern countries that had allowed FGM within their borders are now faced with having to address this complex problem on their own soil. Mothers who have sought the safety of a nation that prohibits FGM nonetheless choose to return their female children to their native countries to be “circumcised,” which begs the question--is that not the cruelest cut? Society must now balance punishing the mother, who was herself once a victim, yet is now complicit in the act, with addressing the strong socio-cultural imperatives that perpetuate this cycle of torture. Should the mother, herself once a victim, be subjected to punishment for her complicity in the act? Or, is the cultural imperative so strong that it compels a mother to deliver her daughter to the tortures of female genital mutilation?

This Article will explore the phenomenon of the importation of the practice of female genital mutilation to the Western world and the legal steps some countries have taken to ban it from their borders. This Article will also attempt to identify the culprits in perpetuating FGM and proffer some solutions.