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Custom of Female Genital Cutting Is No More

Apr 05, 2007 — Categories: ,

The 2,000-year-old, nearly universal practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in Guinea, West Africa, has been abandoned by the village of Lalya and 149 other connected villages. No longer will young girls have their clitorises removed nor will they be forced into early marriage.

The 2,000-year-old, nearly universal practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in Guinea, West Africa, has been abandoned by the village of Lalya and 149 other connected villages. No longer will young girls have their clitorises removed nor will they be forced into early marriage. Why is this news important?

Dr. Diane Gillespie reported on this action after she attended the ceremony and celebration in Lalya in December, 2006 (Seattle Post Intelligencer, Jan. 21, 2007). This action on behalf of women and girls in the villages is the result of the work of a group called Tostan (which means “to share and spread knowledge;” www.tostan.org). Using a community organizing model in the local languages and engaging all sectors of the villages, Tostan supported the community’s efforts to radically change long-standing customs. The declaration read in part: “We have joined together to make the solemn and deliberate decision to put an end to the practices of FGC and child/forced marriage, in order to guarantee and protect our girls’ rights to health, to physical integrity and to ensure the respect of their human dignity . . .”

This news is important to all of us because it reminds us that change is possible, even change of age-old customs. If a community can educate its members that human rights for girls and women are in the best interest of the entire community, then behaviors can change. The lifting up and affirming of these rights can take the place of accepted, destructive, harmful practices.

What if our religious leaders identified violence against women and children as fundamentally contrary to a) God’s will, b) basic human rights, and c) the wellbeing of the whole community? What if our churches, synagogues and mosques were places of education and training about these values? Might we one day declare that rape, battering, and sexual exploitation are not acceptable norms in our societies? Might we one day do so to protect our girls and women and uphold their integrity and dignity?

Perhaps change can come sooner than we think.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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