Entering Femininity: Reporting Rituals and Violations seminar at Asia Centre attempted to open the topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) for a Bangkok audience. Organised by Alexander Demetrianova, an Asia Centre Associate, the seminar discussed FGM as a violation of child’s and women’s rights by international law and health standards.
Worldwide more than 300 million girls and women are “cut” under different interpretations and in different severity. But in most cases, FGM is a very important ritual, ancestral knowledge and practice. It allows girls to gain a status in their community and further enables them to elevate to other positions in life of a woman – to marry and have children. So FGM more than anything else, defines femininity and women.
However, informed consent is in the absolute majority of cases not given by the very young, often infant, girls to be circumcised. Across Africa, parts of Middle East and even Southeast Asia, even much older women, who had been cut years ago, know only as much as their culture and tradition have taught them about female circumcision. It is an integral part of life, marriage, sexuality and community, but most advocates for female circumcision are not aware of the great health issues and harm it brings to women and girls. The session also featured a live Skype interview with multi-media journalist Gabrielle Paluch who shared her experience researching and reporting on FGM in Southern Thailand.
The Bangkok audience at the seminar concluded that in order to eradicate the cut and mutilation, communities and cultures need to re-examine and transform the way they understand femininity and role of women. To preserve women’s right to take informed decisions about their own bodies, there is a need to break the taboo and open FGM for further discussion. A critical discussion about this practice is a taboo in most countries where it is prevalent, hence Asia Centre was pleased to host this talk to discuss the topic.