Patriarchs and Proxy Perpetrators? Men and Female Genital Mutilation

Patriarchs and Proxy Perpetrators? Men and Female Genital Mutilation

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 - 2:15pm
Board Room, Kirdar Building, Middle East Centre, St Antony's College
Professor Hilary Burrage (Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics)
Dr Soraya Tremayne (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA)
MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars


Serious attention to the influence and understandings of men regarding FGM is long over-due.  Men may find it convenient not to know much about the practice, and women may not welcome ‘interference’ in one of their few areas of apparent dominance.  Yet it seems men in, e.g., Egyptian society take pride in their role as family protectors and providers.  How, we might ask, could this paternalism be translated into a focus on eradicating FGM?



Hilary Burrage is a sociologist who has studied and researched female genital mutilation for many years.  She is the author of two award-winning books – Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation, and Female Mutilation, both with global cover of the subject - and many papers, chapters and web-posts on FGM and related harmful practices (see ). 

Whilst also working in practical ways to support #EndFGM, as a writer Hilary conceptualises FGM and other harmful practices as patriarchy incarnate, the intended physical imposition by (some) men of their will onto the bodies of women and girls. Such a perspective helps us see the power relationships which underlie gendered harmful practices, and to make clear the costs to some and economic gains for others which shape, and arise from, these practices.  An economic framework helps identify the points where we can best exert influence and persuade powerful decision-makers to stop FGM.

Earlier in her varied career, Hilary was a Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care.  She is now Adjunct Professor, Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics, Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University, Chicago.  Hilary is British and lives in London.