The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

This, by the way, is the difficult and real work of reducing harm and eroding the support of a practice like FGM. It will not be stopped by the shallow and callous bravery of armchair neo-colonialists who demonstrate their commitment by signing a petition.

Legal bans mean little. The force of law does not immediate encompass the power of worldview. This is the long haul. This is the real task. It seems to be taking shape here in community organizing, sexual education, and the recruitment of allies. Now, undoubtedly, there may be some criticisms to be made here, and some might be impatient with this kind of gradualist approach.* But how many genital mutilations have you successfully stopped lately?

Last time out, I took some unholy flak for being some kind of moral weakling, unable to face up to just how wrong FGM is. My point is that my personal opinion matters very little. The ways in which we choose to deal with cultural change do matter. And the simplistic and colonial fantasy of a objective solution has only made things worse.

That’s not irony. It’s our moral culpability.


*For one, the article notes how reformers have to reassure folks that circumcision is not necessary to prevent homosexuality. I’m not entirely willing to bracket my communities right to exist, but I’m at least willing to discuss the relative levels of harm involved. I’d rather see the beginning of a more comprehensive sexual education model than find a sticking point. There is no obligation to view the currently effective as the long term goal.