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Cultural Rights or Human Rights: The Case of Female Genital Mutilation

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The Women's International Conference in1995 in Beijing proposed the idea that women's rights be considered within the category of general human rights. Our concepts about human rights are rooted in the liberal traditions of a relatively homogeneous Western culture. In recent years, however, this culture has become increasingly heterogeneous. As a result of this greater diversity of beliefs and subcultures, some interesting challenges to these liberal traditions have arisen. An example of where such challenge elicits particularly divergent views is the issue of female genital mutilation, where the social and cultural rights of various subgroups appear to conflict with concepts concerning the human rights of an individual. Thus, this issue challenges a number of beliefs, including aspects of multiculturalism and feminism. In this article, I first examine the problem of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) within the context of multiculturalism, with particular emphasis upon feminism of women of color. Additionally, two opposing positions within the liberal multicultural approach—that of Kymlicka versus that of Kukathas—are then examined critically, and several rapprochements are offered. A final section focuses upon the implications of these issues for feminist women of color.

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Kalev, H.D. Cultural Rights or Human Rights: The Case of Female Genital Mutilation. Sex Roles 51, 339–348 (2004).

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  • female genital mutilation
  • human rights
  • women rights