Conventional wisdom can be comforting, but it can also be an easy way out. We want to challenge moral assumptions.

Last week we wrote about female genital cutting in Uganda and laid down a challenge to readers.

We said: Help the Sabiny people end their age-old tradition of cutting a girl’s clitoris and labia by proposing a substitute rite-of-passage that will uplift young women and help them enter womanhood.

The premise is that prohibiting a practice considered barbaric in many societies outside of Africa is not enough to bring an end to a rite that many Sabiny women and men feel is important to their community.

A prohibition imposed from outside will not work alone. Think carrot and stick.

As Patti Ricotta of the Life Together International NGO said: “We do not want to encourage the Sabiny to take something away from girls/women without encouraging them to find something far more wonderful and powerful to put in its place.”

We want to challenge assumptions.

Several readers have sent in suggestions:

  • organize a ceremony during which girls would receive jewelry with highly prized gems
  • offer adequate supplies of sanitary pads
  • organize a ceremony that honors young girls bodies instead of mutilating them, perhaps with henna tattoos or other types of tattoos for the occasion
  • organize a big party and serve the girls’ favorite foods and introduce them to “grown-up” food, too

The Sabiny are not waiting for outsiders to take charge. Last month girls and women working to end cutting organized a Stop FGM Marathon that attracted large numbers of runners and observers.

The next step for Life Together International, which is supported by a grant from the Finnish government, will come in January when they hope to bring traditional female “culture keepers” together with women who are working to replace cutting — their antagonists — in an unprecedented “mentors conference.”

So why is News-Decoder focusing on this issue?

Our mission is to bring contrasting perspectives on complex issues to the fore. To many outside of the regions of Africa and the Middle East where female genital cutting is prevalent, the practice seems simply medieval.

Of course many Sabiny see it in an entirely different light.

It’s in these gray areas, where one’s moral compass may not point true north, that solutions to problems can be found.

Conventional wisdom can be comforting, but it can also be an easy way out. We want to challenge assumptions — our hard-wired “code” — that determine how we see the world but which often blind us to the perspective of others.

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