A recent TrustLaw article brought up the fact that as countries put laws against FGM into place, it is being driven underground and the age at which it is carried out is decreasing dramatically. “It’s done when they are under one year before they can speak and tell someone outside the house they have been subjected to FGM,” Burkina Faso’s Minister for Women’s Advancement Nestorine Sangare says.
Clearly this is an example of the way in which laws alone cannot put an end to deep-rooted social and cultural practices and ideas. People often take girls abroad, to countries where the practice is legal or where the penalty is mild, or bribe local leaders to turn a blind eye.
To eradicate FGM, the reasons for performing it need to be addressed, and laws properly enforced. This is why FGM must be seen as part of a wider context, of women’s inequality and economic dependence on men. It has to be recognised as income-generating, just like child marriage, and alternative sources of income have to be developed. Ideas about female sexuality and gender roles need to be changed, so that communities no longer see FGM as a means to keep women ‘pure’ and ‘clean’ and to ensure their desirability as wives. So let’s celebrate new laws, but not see them as the goal in themselves, only as one of the means of ending FGM