November 03, 2009
By Barbara Crosette
For a couple of decades, a small, underfunded nonprofit organization in New York called Equality Now has bolstered community groups in Africa that are making steady progress against the painful and destructive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). But there is concern that an Equality Now-led campaign that has cost an unknown number of advocates their lives is meeting new resistance not only in traditional societies but also among Western anthropologists and other cultural apologists who put a higher value on a harmful practice than on the well-being of girls. Taina Bien-Aimé, Equality Now's executive director, calls it a "rites or rights" dilemma.
The United Nations has taken a surprising lead in publicly advocating for an end to the practice, in which a girl or woman's clitoris and sometimes surrounding vaginal areas are cut away to make her "more marriageable.