Hope Lewis

Document Type



"Irua," or female genital surgery ("FGS"), involves the most private aspects of individual female physical and cultural identity. Yet, the health risks caused by FGS raised concern in cultures in which FGS is not traditionally practiced. There has been extensive dialogue regarding the implications of FGS for cross-cultural feminist approaches to human rights. This Article examines the controversy over FGS terminology as it reflects more complex debates over FGS as a violation of international human rights. It further assesses the reasons offered to justify Western feminists' participation in cross-cultural strides to address FGS through human rights law. In addition, the Article considers the concerns expressed in African feminist discourse regarding the elimination of FGS and acknowledges the tensions faced by African American feminist scholars who have analyzed human rights approaches to FGS. The Article concludes that discussions about black feminist human rights approaches to FGS must address the unavoidable conflicts associated with eradication efforts and seek to create opportunities for cross-cultural solidarity.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Female circumcision, Women's rights, Human rights, female genital mutilation, irua, female genital surgery, FGS, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Human Rights Law, Women

Original Citation

Originally published in Harvard Human Rights Journal, v.8 (1995), pp.1-55.