FGM or FGMo? Cross-cultural dialogue in an Italian minefield (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)


  • Mara Mabilia

    1. The author is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of Padua, Italy. Among her publications is Breast feeding and sexuality: Behaviour, beliefs and taboos among the Gogo mothers in Tanzania (Berghahn Books 2005).
    Search for more papers by this author


On 20 December 2012 the United General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In this article, Mara Mabilia aims to draw attention to the lives of immigrant women in Europe, and more specifically Italy, from some of the 30 or so chiefly Islamic countries of Africa, where what she prefers to call ‘female genital modification’ (FGMo) is practised. Her aim is neither to advocate the practice, nor to challenge the bans instituted in the West. Rather, her aim is, more broadly, to probe how women, having undergone these practices, live in host societies that interpret these chiefly as human rights violations through the prism of unacceptable violence. To condemn FGM should not imply condemnation also of the 100–140 million women that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates have undergone this practice.