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A DEMOGRAPHIC PARADOX: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING IN NORTHEASTERN AFRICA

Gendered Perspectives on Reproduction and Sexuality

ISBN: 978-0-76231-088-3, eISBN: 978-1-84950-256-6

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 30 June 2004

Abstract

Ritual female genital practices, widespread throughout Africa, are essential to gender identification and often are a pre-requisite for marriage. More severe forms of the practice, which are common in parts of Northeastern Africa, are also believed to enhance a woman’s childbearing capacity. Here, we critically review the gender- and class-based theories that explain the origins and persistence of female genital practices and the factors that precipitate social change. We also critically review evidence of the association of certain forms of the practice with various health, demographic, and social consequences. Our review exposes several methodological limitations of existing research that preclude population-based inferences about the medical and social implications of these practices and suggest that existing policies targeting such practices draw more on concerns over human rights than on scientific evidence about their sequelae. This review nevertheless exposes a potential contradiction between local justifications for and consequences of certain forms of the practice. Namely, despite an intended function of female genital practices to enhance a woman’s marital capital, certain forms may ironically lead to marital instability and dissolution through their negative effects on the health and reproductive capacity of women. We conclude with recommendations for research to examine the salience and implications of this potential paradox for women in Northeastern Africa.

Citation

Yount, K.M. and Balk, D.L. (2004), "A DEMOGRAPHIC PARADOX: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF FEMALE GENITAL CUTTING IN NORTHEASTERN AFRICA", Texler Segal, M., Demos, V. and Jacobs Kronenfeld, J. (Ed.) Gendered Perspectives on Reproduction and Sexuality (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 199-249. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1529-2126(04)08007-5

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited