Young men against female genital mutilation/cutting in Somaliland: Discursively negotiating violence, gender norms and gender order


ADIH Session of Wednesday January 22, 2020

Presenter: Dr. Maria Väkiparta from University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts Doctoral Programme in Gender, Culture and Society

Title: “Young men against female genital mutilation/cutting in Somaliland: Discursively negotiating violence, gender norms and gender order”

As a second presentation of the 2020-year ADIH session, Dr. Maria started with the presentation of her PhD awarding thesis for participants who came from wider range of institution than our regular attendants. The issue being socially significant but not much covered, community members and institutions working on the issue joined the event and made their contribution significantly during the discussion. The discussion was based on the presentation that used the following abstract as a base.

In Somaliland, the prevalence rate for female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) renders it nearly universal. An overwhelming majority of girls undergo the most radical type of FGM/C, locally referred to as pharaonic cutting. Yet, there is some evidence on a shift towards less radical types, locally labelled sunnah cutting. Amongst international institutions, researchers and activists engaged in preventing FGM/C, the practice is increasingly conceptualised as a human rights violation and as a form of gender discrimination. It is now argued that challenging stereotypes about gender power structures will pave the way for abandoning the practice. Simultaneously, researchers and activists urge men to voice their opinions about the practice. This research provides a deeper understanding of the engagement of young men in the prevention of FGM/C, but it also critically examines men’s engagement. Focusing on discursive practices, I examine how young men engaged in preventing FGM/C in Somaliland discursively negotiate violence against women, gender norms, and the gender order. I also explore whether these negotiations are on the one hand, consistent with those goals related to deconstructing the patriarchal gender regime and, on the other hand, consistent with locally prevailing masculinities. My study is guided by critical studies on men and masculinities and by a critical discourse analysis, through which I address the complex and often hidden workings of power and ideology in discourse. To do so, I collected data via semi-structured individual interviews with 19 university students (15 men, 4 women) who volunteered in a project to advocate against FGM/C in Somaliland. The interviewees employed four interlinked discourses: the righteousness discourse, the health discourse, the hierarchical difference discourse, and the masculine responsibility discourse. These discourses challenge some forms of violence against women, while legitimating others.

They (re)produce prevailing masculinities and hierarchical gender order in many ways, but there are also discursive elements that renegotiate prevailing gender norms, particularly idealised womanhood. The findings of this study contribute to theories associated with female genital cutting as patriarchal violence, feminist theories on the workings of power and ideology within a discourse, and theories on men and masculinities. More practically, these findings can inform the design of programmes to prevent FGM/C, which should remain consistent with the deconstruction of patriarchal structures and practices that uphold FGM/C.

During the discussion some of the key question where regarding the confusion on defining the practice as prescribed by religion or cultural appropriation, cutting, mutilation vs cutting and also the missing intergenerational communication gap. The participants also stated their appreciation for the interest of the researcher and also her determination to bring back the resource to the community which she said ill help in translating it in to local languages.  She further indicated further research areas with in her research domain that will help in mainstreaming the issue and have a practical impact on the over all empowerment of women by saving them from this violence perpetuated through the patriarchal ideological and structural units of the community. The event had 60 attendants with 16 of them being female. It is interesting that 24 of the attendants where new to the academic platform which makes our outreach wider.

Short Bio of the Presenter

Ms. Maria Väkiparta (PhD) defended her doctoral dissertation ‘Young Men Against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Somaliland: Discursively Negotiating Violence, Gender Norms and Gender Order’ on December 13th, 2019 at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is engaged in FGM/C prevention also through her work at a Finnish non-governmental organization, which works to prevent FGM/C in Somaliland and Kenya.

If you need a full program you can watch it our YouTube channel “dhaxalreeb”




The Hargeysa Cultural Center was opened in August 2014 in Hargeysa, Somaliland. The Center was established by Redsea Cultural Foundation (RCF). Since its establishment, the Hargeysa Cultural Center has become an important feature in Hargeysa’s cultural landscape. The success of the center owes much to the respect that RCF has gained from its work on running the annual Hargeysa International Book Fair, which, now in its eighth year, has become one of the most admired cultural events in the region.

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