Law and culture in a global context: Interventions to eradicate female genital cutting

Elizabeth Heger Boyle, Amelia Cotton Corl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Female genital cutting practices (FGCs) provide a contemporary lens into the relationship between law and culture in a global context. In this discussion, we take both legal and cultural pluralism seriously to illustrate how laws and cultures interact to create or resist change. We consider law and culture at the international, national, and community levels. The literature shows how "insiders" who speak the language of "outsiders" can quickly lose their legitimacy at any of these levels. We also discern that the impact of law is notably more effective in the global North than in the global South although laws in all countries are typically adopted with little input from FGC-practicing communities. The greater effectiveness of laws in the North occurs because they tend to be accompanied by changes in informal social control mechanisms. In the global South, when trusted organizations work with communities to increase overall living standards as well as combat FGCs, they tend to be highly effective in reducing the practices. Ultimately, to determine the impact of international and national laws, scholars need to look at development efforts as well as anti-FGC statutes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010


  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Female circumcision
  • Female genital mutilation
  • International law
  • Legal pluralism

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