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Old 11-06-2006, 11:45 AM   #46
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I don't think it matters what their intention is.

If you intend X to happen (FGM in the name of cultural ritual), but Y (mutilation, suffering, torture, take your pick) is certain or substantially certain to flow from your act X, for all intents and purposes, you intended Y to happen as well.

And I don't think that's strictly a legal interepretation either; it reads well in a common sense context as well.
Of course the intent matters if your goal is to eradicate the practice. I agree with you that the result is the same, and believe me I find this pratice as horrible as anyone here.

But if we all agree that it needs to stop, one has to look at the best way to do it. And the stricktly legal/punitive/accusating way simply does not work. Anyone who has worked extensively on this issue on the ground will tell you. The goal is not to punish everyone who is doing it (because that would mean essentially punishing entire communities here), but make the people really understand the consequences of what they are doing.

It's a cultural practice, a very important and widespread one. If you don't try to change the culture itself, you won't get anywhere. And the only way to positively change a culture is first to be respectful and understanding of it, and to make people realise for themselves why they should change some of their practices. If you can convince them that it is really harmful and there is no good reason to do it, they will stop doing it.

But really from what I have observed, people here in Africa are SO sick of so-called educated and well-meaning Westerners/white people coming and telling them they need to do this and that and treating them like primitive/barbarian people, that sometimes they will completely block off even genuinely good advice (such as the need to stop FGM) from anyone coming from the outside. So if you come up and say 'this is torture/inhumane/disgusting/barbarian', when talking about something they consider as an integral part of their cultural rituals, you will fail, that's just a fact.

The big international campaigns condemning FGM have not done that much good, although I recognize they are useful in making the issue known and get people to talk about it. But on the ground they have made little difference. The successful ones have been the ones such as TOSTAN which take a culturally sensitive and non-accusatory approach.
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:45 AM   #47
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So should human rights end at national borders?
No, but obviously the US can't criminalize and prosecute citizens of the Gambia. I think this practice should be illegal, period. How to go about that is the million dollar question...
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:48 AM   #48
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Economic development of these regions coupled with the rise of middle classs pushing for human rights reforms?
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:53 AM   #49
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So should human rights end at national borders?
Of course not, but the approach taken must change depending on what kind of abuse you are taking about, and where it is taking place.

Human rights abuses perpetrated by totalitarian governments cannot be compared to abuses that are done by normal, well-meaning, uneducated people. You can't treat millions of poor African women trying to ensure a good future for their daughters (because that's what they think they are doing!) like criminals the same way you would Saddam Hussein or Milosevic!
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Old 11-06-2006, 11:56 AM   #50
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Of course not and you cant stop crime by making laws against it.
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:05 PM   #51
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No, but obviously the US can't criminalize and prosecute citizens of the Gambia. I think this practice should be illegal, period. How to go about that is the million dollar question...
I agree that it should be made illegal everywhere. The question is more what to do with people who will do it anyways (like it is the case in several African countries where it has been made illegal). But when it is made illegal, such as in Senegal recently, it sends a necessary strong message that the government disagrees with the practice, and it's a crucial first step.

But it must be accompanied by other 'softer' measures. For example in West Africa, the women who do it (they are called 'exciseuses' in French) have a special status within the community, since they are doing something that is seen as a very important 'coming into adulthood ritual'. It's literally their job, so if suddenly you treat them like criminals, put them in jail, or even just leave them hanging with no new occupation, you are creating new problems, on top of putting off the whole community.
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