Women’s Rights and Cultural Claims: Female Genital Mutilation in Germany and France

In: Negotiating Boundaries in Multicultural Societies
Anja Titze
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Since the 1960s, countries like France and Germany have seen a massive influx of immigrants from Africa and Southeastern Europe. Most of the immigrants feel committed to different standards and values then those of the majority. Women’s rights may reveal the complexity of the multicultural settings in a very insightful way. Immigrant women often have their own cultural beliefs as they belong to distinct communities. Due to legal pluralism, normative conflicts may arise when immigrant women claim recognition for particular cultural practices which are perceived by the mainstream population of the host country as a grave violation of women’s rights. This chapter turns the attention to female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM) and shows how the state law has changed over the time dealing with this cultural practice. First, I focus on the empirical dimension of multiculturalism in France and Germany. In both countries, FGM is practiced, although there are no reliable numbers on girls and women who were circumcised or who are at risk to be circumcised. Secondly, I compare the legal provisions concerning FGM in both countries. In France, there is no specific provision for such acts, but there are useful penal norms to prosecute and condemn circumcisers and parents. In Germany, the situation is quite similar, but there exist two draft laws against FGM. The third part is empirical and explores the implementation of legal provisions. Taking some illustrative cases, I show that women’s rights may be and are implemented against certain cultural practices, i.e. FGM.

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