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Publication - Dr Foluke Adebisi

    Where the Rubber Hits the Road

    The Limitations of the Universalism vs Cultural Relativism Debate Impacting FGM Control in Nigeria

    Citation

    Ipinyomi, FI, 2015, ‘Where the Rubber Hits the Road: The Limitations of the Universalism vs Cultural Relativism Debate Impacting FGM Control in Nigeria’. NIALS Journal of Law and Gender.

    Abstract

    The tension between universalism and cultural relativism is especially tested by the FGM debate. The solution seems clear, promulgation and enforcement of FGM legislation. However, the FGM debate suffers especially from stagnant attitudinal paradigms which affect the language and perceptions on both sides of the debate, ignoring the core values of population and the essential end of human rights, resulting in continued rhetoric and intractable positions. The FGM debate is coming to global attention due to sharp rise in immigration and African economic naissance. This article explores issues such as; the anti-woman ‘pro-culture’ reasoning behind FGM, neo-imperialistic rhetoric behind eradicationist arguments, the acceptance of male circumcision, and the support of FGM by women and the human rights lacuna these create. It then suggests a behavioural and perception shift in preconceptions of culture, human rights and the function of state, society and the international community. This is because the tension between universalism and cultural relativism suggests that to engage with human rights theory, and entrench a human rights regime that will resonate with the Nigerian population as well as recognise the specific rights of women and girls, cognizance has to be taken of individual, local, national and international aspirations and values. This will ensure that individual human dignity is not sacrificed to either cultural intractability or self-serving neo-colonial rhetoric.

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