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Reparative Approaches in Medicine and the Different Meanings of "Reparation" for Women with FGM/C in a Migratory Context

Purpose: Based on two instances of qualitative research, this paper aims to develop some considerations on the meanings given by women to the term “reparation” after female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The various aspects involved and the importance of integrating a comprehensive approach in medicine are all explored.

Methods: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with a group of 8 immigrant women of sub-Saharan origin living in Switzerland with Type III FGM/C (infibulation) and 32 first and second generation immigrant women living in France with Type II FGM/C (excision) who have undergone or asked for clitoral reconstruction. In total 40 women were questioned on the meaning they give to the term “reparation” within their health and sexual life.

Results: While the group of women with infibulation and the group of women with excision differed in their sociodemographic characteristics and the context of FGM/C, both groups affirmed their desire to improve, or at least change, their condition. Reparative approaches were then evoked by women who would "repair" something "lost" or "stolen"; the word" reparation" acquires a wide range of meanings and dimensions which are not only physical, but also psychosexual, social and moral.

Conclusion: Specific healthcare services in term of reparative approach allow for the development of a discussion with women with FGM/C. Medicine is called upon to engage in a dialogue with the patients and their narratives. Reparative approaches may be able to offer more comprehensive healthcare and take an ethical stand when an element of injustice is present.


Michela Villani

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