All talk? Gruesome practice gets attention, little action.
While female genital mutilation has been brought into the open and is a topic of much conversation, the global community has yet to invest the necessary funds or devise a blueprint for eradication. International agencies defend their response by citing their concern that a full-blown attack on the traditional practice will simply drive it underground. Female genital mutilation can range from cutting or removing the clitoris to full-scale excision and infibulation of the genitalia. In fact, international agencies can do little more than provide funds and resources to local nongovernmental organizations working to eradicate the abuse. Population Action International (PAI) notes that recent publicity has made female genital mutilation a "hot topic." The US Congress is considering legislation to outlaw the practice that is being imported along with immigrants. PAI claims that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was reluctant to become involved in the controversy, but USAID officials say that African nations were reluctant to accept USAID's help. USAID has funded research studies on female genital mutilation and expects that its approach will follow the lead of other international agencies that have integrated eradication programs within existing projects. To date, local efforts to eradicate the practice have led to only minor successes because female genital mutilation is intrinsically tied to the status of women in developing countries. Experts insist that local organizations must lead the eradication effort with funding from international agencies.