In early September, 2005, the United Nations co-sponsored a conference entitled “Our Challenge: Voices for Peace, Partnerships and Renewal”. The conference assembled representatives from more than 2,000 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) from all reaches of the world. As the representative of the IHEU-Appignani Center for Bioethics, I presented at the workshop Words, War and Emotions- Communication Strategies to Bridge Cultural Differences. The presentation focused on the ethical question of genital mutilation - a practice common throughout Africa and parts of the Middle East. In some cultures genital mutilation, the removal of part or all of a woman’s genitalia, is considered a rite of passage to adulthood and a form of purification with a strong religious connotation. While cultural relativists are tempted to accept the practice as a culture-specific rite, human rights campaigners condemn it as a serious breach of the rights of women to self-determination. The situation is clearly alarming as genital mutilation can result in infertility and also death, not to mention excruciating physical pain and suffering. Genital mutilation complements the already dismal picture of a region dominated by disease, poverty, gender inequality, and injustice. Read more about the conference proceedings here.
[thanks Ana Lita!]