Female genital cutting (FGC), a practice that is now widely considered a violation of human rights, is a harsh and brutal reality for a significant portion of females around the world. Although it has come under scrutiny from feminists, the UN, and countless IGOs like the World Health Organization since the 1960s, another major debate has shuffled this issue to where it is today–is FGC an infringement upon medical or human rights or, more specifically, an issue of gender inequality? In the early 1980s, FGC was categorized as an issue of health which granted interventions “apolitical” permission based on the idea that every individual had the right to health. In other words, by applying medical precedence, FGC interventions functioned as neutral acts and were free of political jurisdiction. Boyle points out that “by placing FGC within this framework, international actors did not appear to be singling out African nations for reform [and] health rhetoric permitted a compromise between rights and sovereignty” (302).
Although I acknowledge that the purpose of Boyle’s article is to present a history of debates surrounding FGC, I question the broader attitudes towards FGC in the context of politics and sovereignty. And although I do advocate for state autonomy and cultural sensitivity, I still question the quality of attention given to the real issue at hand–females, even infants, being mutilated. Indeed, Boyle does illustrate the introduction of gender equality as a focal point within the FGC discussion and delivers us to a more modern approach to FGC. However, IGOs and NGOs still face issues with state power. Where do we draw the line between political power and human rights? Can we even rank these two issues against the other?