Female Genital Surgeries: Rethinking the Role of International Human Rights Law
Human Rights Law Commentary, Vol. 3, 2007
24 Pages Posted: 8 May 2008
International human rights frameworks strongly condemn female genital surgeries (FGS) and countless Western interventions to 'eradicate' the practice have been attempted. Despite these legal efforts, few success stories have emerged. A Senegalbased non-governmental organisation, Tostan, has modelled an innovative approach which employs a grassroots basic education programme that has led to hundreds of public declarations by communities choosing to abandon the practice. This article explores the history of the international response to FGS and the legal underpinnings of the success of the Tostan programme, and concludes that Tostan unconventionally employed international human rights law in three ways. First, Tostan incorporated human rights principles into its basic education programme. Second, Tostan invoked the power of the international community to publicly and legally support the communities' grassroots efforts. Finally, Tostan eliminated the culturally offensive effects of legal interventions which employ top-down criminalisation of the practice and condemnation of practitioners.
Keywords: international law, female genital surgeries, female genital mutilation, female circumcision, senegal, human rights, traditional practices, women's rights
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