The FGM discourse, western repressive actions, and suffering
Sara Johnsdotter (Malmö University)
Paper short abstract:
FGM is condemned at the global level by WHO and western state governments. Criminal laws and police action are in place for both prevention and punishment. What are the ramifications for individual girls and women in western host societies?
Paper long abstract:
Here I discuss the wider context in which FGM ('female genital mutilation') is condemned at the global level by actors such as WHO and western state governments. It has evolved into being an object of a global prohibition regime that is sustained by criminal laws and police action. What are the ramifications of this for individual girls and women in western host societies? On the one hand, female genital cutting in girls implies pain and suffering, and in some cases trauma; on the other hand, the governmental efforts to prevent and repress the practice in western host societies may also lead to suffering and trauma. My data consists of all documents regarding suspected FGM in Sweden that have been drawn up by the police authorities since 1982, the year of the FGM ban (122 notifications to the police and/or criminal investigations, resulting in three court cases). These documents give a reason to challenge the dominant discourse about widespread but hidden criminal activities in immigrant groups. We need to critically discuss that state actions, which intend to protect girls from FGM, may actually lead to unnecessary traumatic experiences for those involved - both for those who have been through cutting and those who have no traces of cutting.
Understanding "FGM" and sexual violence in diaspora: women's journeys through re-creations of identity and discourses on trauma