Lack of Data and Dialogue on Female Genital Mutilation in Pakistan

Abstract

Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects women in many countries and carries significant socio-sexual and cultural implications such as affected female sexual pleasure and a strong association with traditions which are believed to form a cultural identity. This essay explored the lack of data and discourse regarding this practice among the Dawoodi Bohra community in Pakistan. Due to the Pakistani government’s lack of recognition and public dialogue on this issue, there remains no official laws, statistics, or empirical research about the ritual. Despite the rise of feminism and women’s empowerment in many contemporary societies, Pakistan has not initiated any FGM debate in the domains of government, political activism, or academia. Simultaneously, FGM remains secretive and taboo within the Dawoodi Bohra community. This overall lack of awareness has left little to no resources or methods to study FGM in the country. To help bridge this data gap, this essay investigated the religious and cultural significance of FGM among Dawoodi Bohras in Pakistan, discussing factors and justifications that perpetuate the tradition. A unique interplay of patriarchal and matriarchal power structures may be driving FGM in this population, resulting in continued violation of the bodily autonomy of female children and unclear negative effects on women (e.g., physical pain, sexual problems, and psychological trauma). This paper also contrasted universalist and cultural relativist theories of FGM and recommended a research approach characterized by increased cultural competence, sensitivity, and non-judgmental exploration. By pursuing well-designed, culturally sensitive research about FGM in Pakistan, it is possible to initiate productive public discourse and action without incurring shame upon women and entire communities

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