Wrestling with Contradictions: Human Rights and Traditional Practices Affecting Women

39 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2008  

Kristin L. Savell

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: July, 24 2008

Abstract

This article examines the role of international human rights norms in the criticism of traditional cultural practices, in particular, the practice of female genital cutting (sometimes referred to as mutilation). It argues that the typical culture-based arguments advanced to defend, and the gender-based arguments advanced to condemn, female genital cutting fail to adequately grapple with the complexities of this practice and, in the case of the latter, are of dubious utility in effecting change within practicing communities. The author suggests that human-rights norms can play a useful role in promoting cultural change by informing a meaningful cross-cultural dialogue and critique of the practice, provided that the commentators involved are prepared to re-examine their criticism and strategies in view of changing cultural norms and conditions.

Keywords: women's rights, female genital mutilation, international human rights, cross-cultural dialogue, cultural sensitivity

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Savell, Kristin L., Wrestling with Contradictions: Human Rights and Traditional Practices Affecting Women (July, 24 2008). McGill Law Journal, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 781-817, 1996; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/85. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1175729

Kristin L. Savell (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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