Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is an ongoing practice among many primitive peoples of the world. Rooted in religious doctrine and mysticism, this practice is a form of abuse against women, for it deprives them of attaining full sexual pleasure. Both the United States and the United Nations are powerful political entities that can do something about this problem. The United Nations, as part of its pledge to uphold principles stated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) document, has been at the forefront of efforts to curb this practice. The United States, on the other hand, has also chipped in with funding and lobbying efforts to eradicate FGM. But these efforts have not been sufficient to significantly reduce the occurrence of FGM. The rest of this essay will foray into the successes and failures of the US and the UN in protecting victims of FGM and also in preventing it.
The United Nations has brought up the issue of FGM under its broader program for women’s health. In the United Nations assemblies in Vienna (1993), Cairo (1994) and Beijing (1995) women’s issues were deliberated upon. Most nations of the world then committed themselves to act and promote healthy reproductive practices for women and also to upkeep the rights endowed them by the UNDHR. Also during these meetings, major UN agencies and programmes have pledged their support to Governments in meeting these commitments. (Germain, 1998, p.22)
But when one looks at the United States’ record on alleviating FGM globally, it has acted counter to United Nation programmes. This detrimental tendency was especially acute during the Bush Presidency, where some of the the Republican party’s Christian fundamentalist roots had an effect on the American government’s policies. As early as the first month since his inauguration in 2001, Bush exerted pressure on humanitarian organizations across the world into downplaying abortion rights. Since his Administration’s priorities were to promote Christian fundamentalist values, it took a reactionary approach to women’s rights in general and their reproductive rights in particular. (Prescott, et, al., 1999, p.45) Since FGM falls under these categories, issues pertaining to it were either neglected or left unacknowledged. Since FGM is usually performed on babies and girls, the Bush Administration’s hostile attitude to children’s rights indirectly undermined progress on FGM awareness and prevention programs. For example,
“He then stripped the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) of 12.5 percent of its budget, withheld $3 million from the World Health Organization’s Human Reproduction Program and is now earmarking $33 million–almost exactly the amount he took away from the UNFPA–to augment domestic abstinence – until-marriage “sex-ed.” He dispatched his emissaries to throw colossal tantrums at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, the World Summit on Sustainable Development and, most recently, the Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference, bringing all three negotiations to a near-halt over objections to no-brainer public health concepts like “consistent condom use” for HIV prevention and “safe abortion” where it is legal. Together, joined by the Vatican, these culture warriors fought to purge the world of comprehensive sex education for adolescents, restrict STD – prevention and contraceptive information to heterosexual married couples, and redefine “reproductive health services” to exclude legal abortion.” (Block, 2003, p.18)