Religion and the Intergenerational Transmission of Female Genital Cutting: A Case Study

Sarah R. Hayford, Arizona State University
Jenny Trinitapoli, Arizona State University

Female genital cutting (FGC) is often assumed to be strongly associated with Islam. However, the correlation between religion and FGC varies across contexts. We examine the salience of various aspects of religious identity – specific beliefs, individual religious identity, and collective religious identity – in determining circumcision behavior through a case study of one West African country. Burkina Faso is a religiously and ethnically diverse country where approximately 75% of adult women are circumcised. We use data from the 2003 Burkina Faso Demographic and Health Survey to carry out multilevel models of religious variation in the intergenerational transmission of FGC. Differences between affiliates of Christian and traditional religions are largely explained by socio-demographic differences and specific religious beliefs. Catholic-Muslim differences, in contrast, persist even after accounting for both individual and community differences. We relate our conclusions to a larger body of research on religious variation in health behaviors.

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Presented in Session 35: Demographic Perspectives on Religion