Excision and Migration : Between “Legality” and “Loyalty” in the Transmission of a Traditional Practice in Migratory Context

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Michela VILLANI , Institut Universitaire de l'Histoire de la Médecine et de la Santé Publique, Lausanne, Switzerland
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is forbidden in many countries of the North (Europe, Nord-America) and of the South (Africa). However, this traditional practice is still transmitted from generation to generation by women.

If medical and pathological consequences of FGM are well-known, the social and symbolic implications in the intergenerational process of transmission of the practice and especially in the migratory context are poorly understood. The social and symbolic universe of the countries where sexual mutilations persist, implies that women who are not excised are considered "dirty " or "obscene". Non-excised women are stigmatized in their sexual identity and within African community. On the other side, young women living in a migratory context are confronted with other sexual models and may starting to feel a sexual disability. Communication around the practice of excision is almost absent in the families where women and girls are nevertheless excised. The perpetuation of the practice is intrinsically connected to the gender system stakes and in particular to the unequal status between women and men in some of these societies (Zimmerman, on 2011). Introduction to sexuality can become one moment of distance between the parental and family standards and the social standards of the local society (Andro, Lesclingand, Pourette, on 2010).

This qualitative survey involves both social sciences and biomedicine. To seize the representations and the narratives on practices connected to sexuality and to health, a series of semi-directive detailed interviews have been conducted with ten African women living in Switzerland and have undergone FGM. On one hand, transmission of FGM on the second generation of immigrants in the migratory context, is the way for keeping memories and traditions alive. On the other hand, teenager’s sexual socialization becomes a ground of resistance against the western colonization, which takes place in the field of the sexuality.