Hence, what we learn the American government, especially during the Bush reign, has acted in a manner that is counter-productive to the programs initiated by the United Nations. Since FGM is said to increase the chances of HIV infection, the American government’s opposition to condom use (a position derived from its Christian fundamentalist allegiance) has not helped in controlling FGM occurrence. The American government’s obsession with abortion issues and its insistence on abstinence as the chief mode of contraception have thus undermined efforts by the United Nations in trying to reduce instances of FGM victim-hood.
Since most victims of FGM are young girls (although the full extent of FGM manifests only when they become sexually active), it is instructive to read UN and US responses to the issue under two categories – women’s rights and children’s rights. On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly passed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which endowed basic rights for all children across the world. A total of 191 countries have agreed to accommodate its provision into their local legal systems and have created Children’s Charters. (Prescott, et, al., 1999, p.45) But it is interesting to note that the United States is yet to ratify the Children’s Convention, showing its lackadaisical attitude to UN initiatives. Under the broad framework adopted by the Children’s Convention prevention of FGM and counselling for victims of FGM are provided for. It also deals with other aspects of children’s health and well being:
“The Children’s Convention covers all children below eighteen years of age, recognizing legal rights whose respect is incumbent upon parents, families, and governments. It forbids discrimination based on caste, color, creed, or gender in safeguarding children’s rights. Under the Convention, every girl and boy, irrespective of territorial boundaries, enjoys freedom of expression and the right to access information. Governments are to safeguard children’s religious freedom, their freedom of thinking, and their right to mix with others. Child rearing is recognized as the primary responsibility of parents, but governments must extend a helping hand when needed. Children are not to he treated as the personal property of parents, and they are not to be abused.” (Innaiah, 2003, p.47)
The UN Children’s Convention rightly recognized the role played by religions in perpetrating FGM. But since major political institutions including the government of the United States are heavily influenced by religious doctrine, it is difficult to safeguard children from abuse. “Religious influence is strong; even at the UN. For example, the Vatican has co-opted UNICEF, convening a recent conference at which religious leaders shed crocodile tears over children’s plight but took no substantial action. Child abuse rooted in religion was described in sanitized language as a “cultural crisis.” (Innaiah, 2003, p.47)