United Nation's Resolution on Elimination of Female Genital Ritual: A Legitimate Response to a Human Rights Problem or What?

Posted: 6 Mar 2014

See all articles by Obiajulu Nnamuchi

Obiajulu Nnamuchi

Centre for Health, Bioethics & Human Rights

Date Written: March 4, 2014


A recent United Nation’s (U.N.) Resolution, “Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations,” urging all countries to enact legislation outlawing female circumcision or female genital ritual (FGR) signals a disturbingly new frontier in the polemic surrounding the ancient cultural practice. Never before has the apex global institution lent its imprimatur to a project whose foundation is profoundly muddled in uncertainties and murkiness. That the Resolution received an instantaneous and near-universal acclaim as a necessary protective weapon against supposed assault on the human rights of women is not news. After all, aside from essentially validating extant legislative frameworks in several countries, the proclamation fits seamlessly with decades-long agitations of activists, scholars and media pundits of one stripe or the other. What is absurd – indeed, the real news – is continued neglect of calls for a rethinking of the criminalization fervor currently gripping the world, for a reassessment of the evidence trumpeted by abolitionists as justificatory of their unbridled interference in what practising communities revere as a sacred cultural rite. Relying on the premise that claims regarding harmful impact of FGR, the fulcrum upon which eradication forces depend for their activism, cannot be substantiated, this paper argues that prohibitory regimes based thereon, whether at the U.N. or country level, is per se a violation of the human rights of the women purportedly sought to be protected. Human rights (including, in this case, its self-appointed “apostles”), cannot, as a popular Igbo maxim admonishes, become “outsiders who wept louder than the bereaved.” This is the prism from which this paper analyzes the on-going supranational crusade to suppress FGR. It is a critique of extant FGR legal and policy regimes, an instance of which is the U.N. Resolution, as unrepresentative of legitimate advancement of human rights.

JEL Classification: I12 , I18, J71, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Nnamuchi, Obiajulu, United Nation's Resolution on Elimination of Female Genital Ritual: A Legitimate Response to a Human Rights Problem or What? (March 4, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2404776

Obiajulu Nnamuchi (Contact Author)

Centre for Health, Bioethics & Human Rights ( email )


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