Negotiating Female Genital Cutting as a Difficult Characteristic in Kurdish National Identity

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Abstract

Based on fieldwork among Kurds in Norway, this article explores how participants described the presence of female genital cutting (FGC) in Kurdistan as a difficult topic to address in public. Perceptions of how FGC should be addressed ranged from acknowledging and directly confronting it to silencing and rejecting it as a Kurdish practice. The participants associated FGC with a “traditional mindset” and perceptions of female sexuality that did not readily fit into new ideologies of women’s liberation. Based on literature on how to manage a “difficult” characteristic in national identity construction, we argue that the participants’ negotiation of “modern” and “traditional” aspects of national identity is one strategy for dealing with FGC. FGC has the potential for spoiled national identity. However, we find reason to suggest that a condemnation of the practice based on women’s liberation may strengthen the aspects of Kurdish national aspirations that are grounded in human rights and gender equality.

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