Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



Female genital cutting/circumcision, the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, is a common practice in many parts of Africa. To those who perceive female circumcision as a legitimate rite of passage, the practice is culturally approved and steeped in tradition. The negative reactions and harsh judgments of Westerners who then seek to eradicate the practice are seen as ethnocentric. On the other hand, opponents of female genital cutting emphasize that the practice is a ritualized form of violence and a detriment to women’s health. The practice deprives girls and women of the basic rights to physical wellbeing and bodily integrity. This thesis will provide a cross-cultural overview of the ethical debate on this controversial subject, including both the justifications for the continuation of the practice and those advocating its cessation. I will discuss the different factors that support the persistence of the practice and then formulate a culturally sensitive plan of action for the eradication of female genital cutting/circumcision. Ultimately, I assert that female circumcision is really genital mutilation and a violation of basic human rights with severe physical and emotional consequences.