Attitudes towards female genital cutting after migration from Somalia to Sweden
This is a summary of the PhD thesis Continuity or Change? Improved Understandings of Attitudes Towards Female Genital Cutting after Migration from Somalia to Sweden (Wahlberg 2017). The main aim with the studies was to expand the understanding about attitudes towards female genital cutting (FGC) held by Somali men and women in Sweden, to thereby identify potential factors that impede or facilitate the cessation of FGC.
Do people’s attitudes towards female genital cutting (FGC) change after they migrate from a country where the practice is common, to one where it is not?
- The vast majority of Somali immigrants, including newly arrived, opposed all forms of FGC that cause anatomical change.
- Pricking –which includes no removal of tissue– had some support.
- Among the established Somalis (>4 years of residency in Sweden) 75% reported that they wanted their daughter to remain untouched, while 23% said they wanted their daughter to be pricked. Anatomically changing the daughters’ genitals was preferred by 2%.
- Among the newly arrived Somalis 53% said they wanted their daughter to remain untouched, while 39% expressed that they wanted their daughter to be pricked. Anatomically changing the daughters’ genitals was preferred by 7% of the newly arrived.
- Odds of supporting FGC decreased with increased years of residency in Sweden. This suggest that living in Sweden facilitates a change in attitudes.
- A majority of men preferred marriage with an uncircumcised woman, also presumed by most women. This suggests that a convention shift towards no FGC is taking place.
Factors associated with the support of pricking:
- Participants who were older and originated from rural areas had higher odds of supporting the continuation of pricking, compared with participants who were younger and from urban areas.
- About one-third did not define pricking as a form of FGC.
- 18% said they thought pricking was acceptable to do within their religion.
- 33% did not perceive pricking as a violation of children’s rights.
- 11% stated that a young, unmarried woman should have at least pricking to be respectable.
- There were higher odds of supporting pricking among those who thought that pricking caused no long term health complications.
Swedish Somalis’ post-migration perceptions of the circumcision of girls and boys:
- The view on female circumcision was for some re-negotiated, and by many seen as something that is not required hence can be adapted or abandoned. The propensity among Somali immigrants to support FGC is influenced by expectations about what others prefer.
- Male circumcision was however seen as an unquestionable required practice.
- Core values of 'follow Islam', 'do not harm', and 'uphold respectability' are renegotiated among Somalis after migration to Sweden, resulting in an increased conceptual split between circumcision of girls and boys: while MC is perceived as an unquestionably required practice, FGC is viewed as a practice that can be adapted or abandoned.
Wahlberg, A. 2017, Continuity or change?: improved understanding of attitudes towards female genital cutting after migration from Somalia to Sweden, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
Wahlberg, A., Johnsdotter, S., Selling, K.E., Källestål, C., Essén, B. (2017), Baseline data from a planned RCT on attitudes to female genital cutting after migration: when are interventions justified?, BMJ Open, vol. 7, no. 8, pp. e017506.
Wahlberg, A., Johnsdotter, S., Ekholm Selling, K., Källestål, C., Essén, B. (2017), Factors associated with the support of pricking (female genital cutting type IV) among Somali immigrants - a cross-sectional study in Sweden, Reproductive health, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 92-10.
Wahlberg, A., Johnsdotter, S., Ekholm Selling, K., Essén, B. (2019), Shifting perceptions of female genital cutting in a Swedish migration context, PloS one, vol. 14, no. 12, pp. e0225629.
Wahlberg, A., Wahlberg, A., Essén, B., Essén, B., Johnsdotter, S., Johnsdotter, S. (2019), From sameness to difference: Swedish Somalis' post-migration perceptions of the circumcision of girls and boys, Culture, Health & Sexuality, vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 619-635.