Cultural change after migration: Circumcision of girls in Western migrant communities

Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 2016;(32):15-25

Cultural change after migration: Circumcision of girls in Western migrant communities

Johnsdotter S, Essén B

ABSTRACT

This paper reviews the current knowledge on cultural change after migration in the practice of female circumcision, also named genital cutting or mutilation. Explorative studies show trends of radical change of this practice, especially the most extensive form of its kind (type III or the ‘Pharaonic’ type). The widespread interpretation that Islam would require circumcision of girls is questioned when, for example, Somalis meet other Muslim migrants, such as Arab Muslims, who do not circumcise their daughters. The few criminal court cases for circumcision of girls that have taken place in Western countries corroborate the conclusion that substantial change in the practice has occurred among migrants. In this literature review, an absence of reports is identified from healthcare providers who have witnessed circumcision after migration. Concurrently, a substantial knowledge exists on how to take care of already circumcised women and girls, and there is a system of recommendations in place regarding best practices for prevention. There is a great potential for healthcare providers to encourage this development towards general abandonment of circumcision of girls. The challenge for the future is how to incorporate culturally sensitive efforts of prevention on the one hand, and the examination of suspicious cases of illegal circumcision on the other. We recommend using – in a cautious way – the existing routines for identifying child abuse in general. Experiences from African contexts show that failure to generate significant change of the harmful practices/tradition may be due to the lack of multidisciplinary collaboration in different sectors of the society. In Western societies, the tendency toward abandonment of the practice could be reinforced by professionals who work toward better inclusion of men and women originally from countries where circumcision is practised.

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