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Female genital mutilation and human rights

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The UN is clear in its condemnation of the practice, stating unequivocally that it violates the basic human rights of girls and women and denies them of their physical and mental integrity, their right to freedom from violence and discrimination, and sometimes even their lives. At the same time, however, the UN recognizes that FGM is deeply entrenched in many cultures in the world, and as a result, difficult to end without respecting these cultures’ values and systems of belief.How, then, does the condemnation of FGM by many international organizations such as the UN and WHO fit into cultural relativism? This paper will seek to reconcile these two seemingly contradictory ideas. How can these organizations condemn such a practice without alienating large groups of people? First, I will provide evidence that FGM does indeed violate the human rights of the girls and women who are forced to withstand it. Then I will illustrate how the concepts of cultural relativism fit into it, and how those interested in promoting the health and welfare of women and girls all over the world can use these concepts to eradicate it.As WHO states, FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women (Female n.p.). The UN states that FGM violates the rights of both children and women, and cites two major UN proclamations, the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The UN clearly states that FGM violates the CRC because it compromises the right to life, the right to physical integrity, the right to the highest attainable standard of health (including, with maturity, reproductive and sexual health), as well as the right to freedom from physical or mental violence, injury or abuse (Lewnes 15). It is also a violation of the child’s right to development, protection, and full