Fighting against harmful customs
: the case of female genital cutting

  • Giulia Camilotti

Student thesis: Doc typesDoctor of Economics and Business Management


The study of harmful customs and their interactions with economic factors has gained increasing attention in economics. To understand development and gender issues in particular we need to better grasp how social and cultural factors affect people's life. Differences in gender outcomes - both in developing and developed countries - are partially shaped and often justified on the grounds of cultural and social norms concerning women's role.
This thesis focuses on female genital cutting (FGC), which is the practice of removing part of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. This custom is present (at different degrees) in 29 African and Middle-Eastern countries but also among migrant communities in Western countries.
The medical literature suggests that FGC is associated with health problems, both at the moment of the cutting and in the long term. Current global anti-FGC campaigns define FGC as a human rights' violation: its demise is regarded as part of a more general improvement of women's condition and status within a given society.
The number of anti-FGC campaigns and projects has steadily increased in the last 20 years. Furthermore, the debate on FGC among practitioners is dominated by its definition as a coordination problem and interventions tend to be based on this interpretation. However, there is still scant empirical evidence on the determinants of FGC and almost no quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of the interventions against it.
In this thesis, I enter this debate by studying how FGC is shaped by interventions to eradicate it in Senegal. After an introductory chapter where I present an overview of FGC, in two empirical chapters I assess the effect of a community empowerment program on FGC incidence and I link the observed decrease in age at cutting in Senegal to the growing (legal) pressure to stop the practice. A fourth chapter frames the problem of FGC within the broader question of how customs can be changed, focusing on the theoretical underpinnings of existing interventions against harmful traditions.
Date of Award2 May 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Namur
SupervisorCatherine Guirkinger (Supervisor), Jean-Philippe Platteau (Supervisor), Mathias Hungerbuhler (President), Guilhem Cassan (Jury), Vijayendra RAO (Jury) & Siwan Anderson (Jury)


  • female genital cutting
  • social norms
  • excision
  • normes sociales

Attachment to an Research Institute in UNAMUR

  • DeFiPP

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