The Limits of Alternative Rites of Passage

Few studies have been conducted on alternative rites of passage. Some preliminary conclusions can be drawn from the existing ones. Recently, ARP has received some criticism, after having been completely unquestioned for years.

The evaluation of some programmes shows that ARP can be effective and efficient if they are correctly led and well-thought. Some key factors have been identified as essential to ensure the success of an ARP (Hughes L., 2018; UNFPA & World Bank, 2004 ;Nailantei N., 2018;UNFPA-UNICEF, 2017; Oloo H., Wanjiru M., Newell-Jones K., Population Council 2011).

  1. FGM has to be part of a larger transition process from childhood to womanhood (ex: ARP may not be useful if FGM is performed to ensure women’s virginity);
  2. FGM has to be a public affair and not just considered as a private and family issue;
  3. Any planning of ARP has to take into consideration the specific sociocultural context of the community, power imbalances between its members, financial gains and incentives to the practice of FGM;
  4. The involvement of the whole community and especially the elders and traditional cutters is absolutely essential in order to sensitize them to the harmful effects of FGM and ensure the recognition of the ARP’s value as equivalent to FGM;
  5. The community’s involvement in the creative process leading to the implementation of an ARP is also central for its acceptance. Involving the community avoids its members from considering the ARP as an external cultural interference. To ensure this, training change agents can be useful;
  6. ARP has to be part of a larger process ensuring education on female genital cutting, sexuality and sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as sensitization campaigns targeting the whole community, in order to change mindsets and stereotypes about uncut girls;
  7. Male involvement and support of the ARP has to be ensured;
  8. Religious aspects should be integrated in the ARP if religion is very strong and important for the community (to further discuss this point, see Lotte Hughes, (Hughes L., 2018) ;
  9. Adequate monitoring and evaluation of the process is essential in order to have evidence on what works and what does not.

« The Community of Practice on Female Genital Mutilation » is part of the « Building Bridges between Africa and Europe to tackle FGM » project, supported by the « UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of FGM ».
The project is coordinated by AIDOS in partnership with GAMS Belgium.

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