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Religious Differences in Female Genital Cutting: A Case Study from Burkina Faso

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The relationship between religious obligations and female genital cutting is explored using data from Burkina Faso, a religiously and ethnically diverse country where approximately three-quarters of adult women are circumcised. Data from the 2003 Burkina Faso Demographic and Health Survey are used to estimate multilevel models of religious variation in the intergenerational transmission of female genital cutting. Differences between Christians, Muslims, and adherents of traditional religions are reported, along with an assessment of the extent to which individual and community characteristics account for religious differences. Religious variation in the intergenerational transmission of female genital cutting is largely explained by specific religious beliefs and by contextual rather than individual characteristics. Although Muslim women are more likely to have their daughters circumcised, the findings suggest the importance of a collective rather than individual Muslim identity for the continuation of the practice.

Keywords: Burkina Faso; convention theory; female genital cutting; intergenerational transmission

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Social and Family DynamicsArizona State University 2: Department of SociologyPennsylvania State University

Publication date: June 1, 2011


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