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social norms

Why Do Harmful Norms Persist? Female Genital Cutting in Burkina Faso: Guest post by Lindsey Novak

This is the fifteenth in our series of job market posts this year. 
 
For better or for worse, social norms have profound influence on many of the decisions we make—from political to personal. These norms can be particularly influential when it comes to making decisions surrounding child rearing, including the decision parents make to participate in the practice of female genital cutting (FGC). Parents living in communities that practice FGC—located primarily in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia—decide whether or not their daughter will undergo FGC based on social pressure and the perceived costs and benefits of adhering to or deviating from the social norm.
 
The practice has no known medical benefits, and it is associated with a wide range of health complications, both physical and psychological. Women who undergo FGC are more than twice as likely to experience birthing complications (Jones et al., 1999), and are 25 percent more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases (Wagner, 2014). In addition, women who have undergone FGC are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Dorkenoo, 1999;  Behrendt & Moritz, 2005). These health complications make working in and outside of the household more difficult.