The fight against excision has been at the centre of debate among feminists since the 1980s. Regardless, the practice is still very much alive today in countries such as Mali. Why is the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) advancing at such a slow pace? This master thesis uses this open question as an entry point to studying the fight against FMG in Mali. The study builds on fieldwork done in 2004. With the aim of finding out what characterises the fight against the FGM in Mali, the study looks at the strategies preferred by the Malian government and other actors involved such as for instance Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The research found that the fight against FGM in Mali is marked by coordination, consensus dialogue and negotiation. Mali has not (yet) introduced a law targeting FGM specifically, but has instead chosen to sensitise the Malian population through what is seen as appropriate methods in the Malian context, where the practice of FGM is a complex issue.
To illustrate the difficulties of introducing a law against FMG in a society where pluralism of norms make law enforcement a challenge, the study uses Sally Falk Moore’s (1973) semi-autonomous social fields to show how different norm upholding processes in society impact on the decision to excise or not. The strategy of sensitising targeted groups within society can be sees as an indication of important semi-autonomous social fields contributing to the reproduction of norms underpinning the practice of FGM. Through the sensitisation process, the activists involved in the fight against FGM can be seen to negotiate with groups in society who play a central role in the reproduction of norms, such as for example religious leaders.
This element of negotiation between the activist involved in the fight against FGM and the different actors who support the practice was found particularly interesting. The study therefore uses the concept of “Nego-feminism” found in Obioma Nnaemeka’s article: “Nego-feminism: Theorizing, Practicing, and Pruning Africa’s Way” to interpret the field work findings, and through the analysis the study concludes that the fight against FGM in Mali can be interpreted as a case of négo-féminism.