The Double-Edged Sword: Using the Criminal Law Against Female Genital Mutilation in Canada

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The Double-Edged Sword: Using the Criminal Law Against Female Genital Mutilation in Canada

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The salient issue for most human rights activists working from within the communities where female genital mutilation (FGM) has been prevalent is not whether, but how, to eradicate the practice. This essay focuses on policies adopted in one country of immigration – Canada – in order to explore the complex positioning of women within diasporic communities. The author’s interest lies in the approach that emphasizes the procedural aspect of citizenship and promotes the participation of members of various identity groups in the political, social, and judicial institutions that shape the national community. This article considers questions such as: What are the risks and the benefits of using the legal system of the host country to redress one particularly stark manifestation of gender inequality within the diasporic community? Who is in the best position to make this assessment? What does the evidence to date suggest? The theoretical conundrum is clear: negotiating intragroup power relations within marginalized communities through resort to an apparatus of the state may help redress inequalities, but may simultaneously push the group as a whole further to the margins.

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  • Macklin, Audrey. "The Double-Edged Sword: Using the Criminal Law Against Female Genital Mutilation in Canada" in R. Abusharaf, ed., Female Genital Mutilation: Multicultural Perspectives  (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), p.207-223.