Human Rights and Cultural Relativism vis-à-vis The Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Akwa Ibom State Since 2015
sapientia journal vol 18


Human Rights
Cultural Relativism
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)


Culture and human rights are two important aspects of human society that are mutually reinforcing and intertwined. Some cultural traditions and beliefs can either provide a framework for the promotion and protection of human rights or undermine human rights in general, particularly, the rights of girls and women. This paper uses the theoretical framework of cultural relativism to identify and examine gender-related cultural practices and traditions in Nigeria, focusing on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Akwa Ibom State. It argues that FGM is an unnecessary, life-threatening procedure that damages not only the women's physical, mental, and general well-being but also has consequences for their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). The study builds upon the work done by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and other agencies in propagating awareness and polarising debates to bring an end to the practice of FGM globally. It contends that universal human rights standards challenge these harmful or discriminatory cultural practices that have been perpetrated over a long period and have become deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of some societies including Akwa Ibom State. It calls for a rethink of these cultural practices and traditions, and an urgent legislative intervention. It suggests the taking of a cosmopolitan localist approach to human rights and culture through a middle ground between the universalism of human rights and the particularity of local cultures.