Community perspectives on female genital cutting (FGC): comparing men and women's views in the Boston immigrant community
ESC Congress Library. Shahawy S. May 4, 2016; 126926; A-100
Sarrah Shahawy
Sarrah Shahawy
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Abstract
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Objectives
Female genital cutting is an important cultural practice among Somalis and those from other African countries like Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. There is a significant influx of immigrants and refugees from these countries into Western ones like the United States. A growing body of literature indicates that women who undergo FGC are at increased risk of adverse obstetric, gynecologic, and psychological effects. While current literature has focused on women’s views of the practice, our study aims to compare men and women’s views in these communities on the effects, current status and future of the practice.

 

Method
A total of fifty individual interviews among men and women living in Boston, USA, originating from countries where FGC is practiced, were conducted using an open-ended questionnaire to explore their attitudes on the practice of FGC, its effects on their personal, family, and community lives, and on current and future trends in their countries of origin. Convenience sampling was used and interviews were then transcribed and qualitatively coded for reoccurring themes.

 

Results

The majority of participants were Muslim and married, with all the female participants having undergone FGC themselves. Preliminary themes arising from the interviews indicate a general disapproval of the practice of FGC among Boston immigrants and refugees, often associated with a recognition that the practice is largely cultural, not religious, and that it has harmful consequences to women’s health, sexual satisfaction, and quality of life. Most participants denied that FGC is practiced by immigrants in the United States and believed that the incidence of the practice is decreasing in their countries of origin due to successful educational campaigns by governments, religious organizations, and community and health workers. Most participants felt that their views in the diaspora community could have an effect on changing views in their countries of origin and most of the male participants felt that men in the community had a significant role to play in stopping the practice.

 

Conclusions

These results indicate that both men and women in the diaspora might share negative attitudes towards the practice of FGC. The changing views in the diaspora could potentially play a significant role in changing views and practice in Somalia and other African countries, as members of the diaspora across many countries have the potential for power and influence in their homeland if their views are voiced.

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