Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting and the Text This Week

Sometimes the two aspects of my internship at Saint Peter's Church and the Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC) connect in interesting ways. On the church side of things, throughout the week I've been struggling with how to preach this Sunday's lectionary text from the Hebrew Bible, Hosea 11: 1 - 11. While the selected text itself puts forward a compassionate, even motherly image of God, its written in the context of a wider book that uses a patriarchal metaphor of God as a pious husband and Israel as an adulterous wife. Although I haven't yet come to any conclusions, I do think such strong patriarchy does need to be confronted.

From the UN side of things, I recently wrote the following post concerning the practice of female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) for Ecumenical Women, and briefly touched on what some faith communities are doing to confront the idea as a social norm. Additionally, the Lutheran World Federation program in Mauritania is working to combat the practice, which you can read about here. While FGM/C is primarily confined to Africa and the Middle East to a lesser extent, the issue serves as a helpful reminder about what social norms need to be confronted while preaching in an American society that still allows and even condones violence against girls and women in a variety of forms.

Earlier this month the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) released a follow-up publication to its first statistical report on female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) in 2005. The report in its entirety can be found here: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change. While concentrated across a wide swath of African and (to a lesser extent) Middle Eastern countries, FGM/C takes place in a variety of forms for a variety of reasons around the world.  In some countries such as Guinea, Mali and Somalia, well over 90% of girls and women of reproductive age have undergone the practice, according to the report.

In many countries, especially in rural areas, FGM/C is performed by traditional practitioners (primarily older women), but in some countries like Egypt it is frequently performed by trained health professionals.  In nineteen out of twenty-nine countries where FGM/C is concentrated, the majority of girls and women think it should end. While often viewed as a manifestation of patriarchal oppression, rates of support for the practice among boys and men in many countries are roughly equal to that of girls and women according to the report. FGM/C is linked to variety of both short and long-term medical complications such as severe pain, prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

Ethnic grouping greatly determines why girls and women undergo FGM/C, with some reasons including social acceptance, beauty, preservation of virginity and a perceived association with religious beliefs (although no religious Scripture requires it). While prevalence of FGM/C amongst younger generations of girls and women is decreasing and many countries have outlawed the practice, faith communities have a major role to play in combating this form of violence against girls and women, especially in areas where it is a deeply entrenched social norm. For instance, some faith communities have removed the cutting aspect from associated rites of passage for young women while retaining the positive aspects of the ceremony overall.

To learn more about female genital mutilation/ cutting and what UNICEF is doing to end the harmful practice, you visit UNICEF's page on the subject here.

God's peace,

Dustin currently serves as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

No comments:

Post a Comment