Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery – A Harmful Practice? The Production of Harmful Practices Within the UN SDG Context

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: This research will study how the phenomenon ‘harmful practices’ is represented within the United Nations’ new framework: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to reveal which practices are included and excluded from the goal. This framework has presented itself as being culturally diverse in its formation, strategy and application. In an attempt to capture this notion as a political goal and measure progress towards it, the UN has expanded its use of targets and indicators. The goal of ‘gender equality’ has incorporated a mandate to eliminate ‘harmful practices’ – target 5.3 - into its definition. This target is monitored through its two indicators, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. At the same time as FGM is being internationally recognized, monitored and challenged, a western cultural practice has been emerging. Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS) shares significant medical overlaps with FGM procedures. Therefore, this research will investigate whether FGGS conforms to the UN definition of a harmful practice. Through a postcolonial and radical feminist perspective, this thesis finds that the criteria of ‘harmful practices’ within the UN SDG context is wide-ranging in its definition but narrow in its application. It suggests that these criteria are sufficiently broad to recognise FGCS as a harmful practice, and explores potential reasons for its non-recognition. In that sense, the SDGs might claim to be culturally diverse and inclusive in its form of language but the implementation shows a narrow understanding of ‘harmful practices’.

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