E. Devaluation of Women Contributes to FGM in the West

Women simply are not valued in many societies. This devaluation contributes to the atrocities that are committed against women around the world on a daily basis. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee gave some startling facts about the value of women: “In many societies baby girls are denied food, drowned, suffocated, abandoned, or their spines are broken simply because they are born girls. . . . The inequalities between women and men have persisted and major obstacles remain, with serious consequences for the well-being of all people.”

This is the legacy of many of the women who make up the pool of immigrants who have made the West their new home. This legacy follows them and many times dictates the behavior which would make it permissible to subject their daughters to FGM.

If women believe their only value is what men and the culture say it is, then they will act to fulfill that belief. Thus, an uneducated, poor woman who does not know her own value, but believes it to lie between her legs, will also submit her daughter to the knife to guarantee her daughter some status. It becomes irrelevant if the act takes place on a woven mat in a small Ghanaian village or if it takes place on the South Side of Chicago.

Female genital mutilation has come to the West because it exists in places where very little has been done to eradicate it. The only real surprise is that it did not arrive in the West sooner than it did. Or, maybe it has been on our shores longer than we realize, but we were just too disinterested to notice.