Nelson_ViolenceAgainstWomen - AIN I t may be the biggest...

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AIN It may be the biggest human rights issue in the world-and it is certainly one of the least discussed. Yet increasingly, women are finding ways to fight the mutilation, rape, beating, and murder that have been their lot. Toni Nelson Toni Nelson is a staff researcher at the Worldwatch Institute. A GIRL IS MUTILATED IN EGYPT I I t is not a ritual that many people would expect- much less want-to witness. Yet in the fall of 1994, the television network CNN brought the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) into liv- I ing rooms around the world, by broadcasting the amputation of a young Egyptian girl's clitoris. Coinciding with the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the broadcast was one of several recent events that have galvanized efforts to combat the various forms of violence that threaten women and girls throughout the world. The experience suffered by 10-year-old Nagla Hamza focused international attention on the plight of the more than 100 million women and girls in Africa victimized by FGM. In doing so, it helped spur conference delegates into 's 1 formulating an official "Programme of Actionn that condemned FGM and outlined measures. to elimi- nate the practice. Euphemistically referred to as female circumci- \,!,I , sion, FGM encompasses a variety of practices ranging from excision, the partial or total removal of the cli- /I$ toris and labia rninora, to inlibulation, in which all 1'' 1 the external genitals are cut away and the area is i! t* I/ Ii restitched, leaving only a small opening for the pas- 200 From WorM Watch, JulylAuguSt 1996, PP. 33-38. (0 1998 by the sage of urine and menstrual blood. Nagla's mutila- tion, performed by a local barber without anesthesia or sanitary precautions, was typical. Although thc physical and psychological consequences of FGM are severe and often life-threatening, the practice persists due to beliefi that emerged from ancient tribal cus- toms but which have now come to be associated with certain major religions. In Israel, for instance, FGM is practiced by Jewish migrants From the Ethiopian Falasha community; elsewhere in Afiica, it is found among Christian and Islamic populations.-But FGM has no inherent association with any of these reli- gions. Although some Islamic scholars consider it an important part of that religion, FGM actually pre- dates Islam, and neither the Qur'an, the primary source for Islamic law, nor the Hadith, collections of the Prophet Mohammed's lessons, explicitly require the practice. Justifications for FGM vary among the societies where it occurs (FGM is practiced in 28 A6ican nations, as well as in scattered tribal communities in the Arabian Peninsula and various parts of South Asia). But most explanations relate in some way to male interest in controlling-wo,men9s ern~tions and sexual behavior. One of the most common~explana- tions is the need to lessen desire so women will pre- serve their virginity until marriage. The late Gad- Alhaq Ah Gad-Alhaq, Sheik of Cairo's al-Azhar Islamic University at the time of the CNN broadcast, explained it this way: the purpose of FGM
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This note was uploaded on 12/09/2010 for the course SS IR242 taught by Professor Eckstein during the Fall '10 term at BU.

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Nelson_ViolenceAgainstWomen - AIN I t may be the biggest...

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