Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


Degree Name



Faculty of Law

First Advisor

B. Jacobs


Criminalization, Female genital cutting, Feminist legal theory, Human rights, International law, Vernacularization




The unassailable continuity of female genital cutting (FGC) despite its criminalization and the salience wielded over the past few decades stokes thoughts about what is missing—signifying the need to examine present legal mechanisms pertinent to FGC critically. The current research fails to consider the full breadth of the entanglement of law and culture relating to FGC, which is important because where the change of behavior is the objective of the law, social and legal norms must interact. By relying on the basis that FGC is not a normative crime but a deeply rooted cultural practice, I argue that international law gravitates towards setting standards molded by a Western framework, which is diametrically opposed to the social norms and culture of communities practicing FGC.

This thesis utilizes a bidirectional doctrinal methodology to evaluate the evolution, substance, limitations, and mode of integration of Western international law by domestic states, particularly Ghana, to show how these elements contribute to the sustenance of FGC. Due to the homogenization of legal culture due to globalization, my research demonstrates that the insidious seeping of the Western cultural framework causes a corresponding replicated integration and application in domestic law. The criminalization of FGC in Ghana, similarly to other developing countries, birthed from these Western values and standards do not coincide with the nature of FGC. Hence, when laws are antithetical to a social group’s norms, its powers to effectuate social change are limited. To relieve this tension caused by legal pluralism, I explore vernacularization as a viable solution to assimilate international law into domestic law.