Changing attitudes towards female genital mutilation. From conflicts of loyalty to reconciliation with self and the community: The role of emotion regulation

Bruxelles Woluwe

Afi Agboli, Fabienne Richard, Mylene Botbol-Baum, Jean-Luc Brackelaire, Annalisa D’Aguanno, Khadidiatou Diallo, Moïra Mikolajczak, Elise Ricadat, Isabelle Aujoulat

Article paru dans la revue PLOS ONE (en open access)

The practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is a social norm embedded in the patriarchal system and is resistant to change due to its roots in the tradition of the practising communities. Despite this difficulty in change, some women succeed in changing their attitudes towards the practice. In trying to understand what makes these women change their attitudes, we identified in a previous study, the critical life events at which change occurs (turning point). These turning points were described with emotions and conflicting feelings based on which we hypothesised that emotion regulation and the resolution of conflicts of loyalty might be possible mechanisms that explain the change of attitudes by the women. In this article, we sought to investigate how the mechanisms interact and how they were at play to explain the change. We, therefore, triangulated our previous data, fifteen women interviewed twice, with the published life stories and public testimonies of 10 women with FGM, and interviews of six experts chosen for their complementary fields of expertise to discuss the emerging concepts and theory, generated by our study. The data were analysed using framework analysis and an element of the grounded theory approach (constant comparison). As a result of our theorisation process, we propose a model of change in five stages (Emotion suppression, The awakening, The clash, Re-appropriation of self, and Reconciliation). This describes the process of a woman’s journey from compliance with FGM and community norms to non-compliance. Our study reveals how the women whose stories were analysed, moved from being full members of their community at the cost of suppressing their emotions and denying their selves, to becoming their whole selves while symbolically remaining members of their communities through the forgiveness of their mothers.

Publié le 22 juin 2022