Continuity or Change?: Improved Understanding of Attitudes Towards Female Genital Cutting after Migration from Somalia to Sweden

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Wahlberg, Anna
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Internationell mödra- och barnhälsovård (IMCH)
  • Kontaktperson: Wahlberg, Anna
  • Disputation


Do people’s attitudes towards female genital cutting (FGC) change after they migrate from a country where the practice is common, to one where it is not? Alongside increased levels of migration, this question is increasingly being raised. This thesis aimed to expand the understanding about attitudes towards FGC held by Somali men and women in Sweden, and thereby to identify potential factors that impede or facilitate the cessation of FGC. Cross-sectional questionnaire data were collected in four Swedish municipalities to assess attitudes to FGC. To further explore perceptions of FGC, as well as the circumcision of boys, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were conducted. Data were collected in 2015.

The findings identified an overall widespread opposition to forms of FGC that cause anatomical change. A majority (78%) expressed an opposition to the continuation of all forms of FGC, with the odds of supporting FGC decreasing with increased years of residency in Sweden. An identified 18% reported a support for the continuation of pricking (FGC type IV). A support of pricking was linked with perceiving it as acceptable according to Islam, not a violation of children’s rights, and not causing long-term health complications. Pricking was not defined as a form of FGC by 32%. Most men described a preference to marry an uncircumcised woman (76%) or one who had had pricking (16%). How the individuals perceived the support of FGC in the Swedish Somali community corresponded well with their own approval of the practice. While there seemed to be a continuity regarding the Swedish Somalis’ core values of being a good Muslim, not inflicting harm, and upholding respectability, re-evaluation of how these are applied when it comes to circumcision of girls and boys was identified. This resulted in FGC being viewed as a practice that could be abandoned or adapted. Paradoxically, based on the same core values, the circumcision of boys was continuously perceived as an unquestionable required practice. Altogether, these results suggest that a shift in convention towards no FGC is taking place. However, the identified lack of consensus on practices regarded as FGC needs further attention.