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Without resorting to sensationalism, Rites explores the long-practiced custom of female circumcision and its ongoing practice in many cultures, particularly across Africa. The film shares the efforts of women throughout the world to stop the practice.
Rites considers three major contexts in which female genital mutilation (FGM) occurs. The first is cosmetic; the second is punitive. Medical historian Dr. Ornella Moscurri describes how women in the late nineteenth century were subject to FGM if they behaved in a way the culture deemed inappropriate. The third context is as part of the cultural transition to adulthood and initiation into female life. Routine mutilation has been fiercely attacked by Western observers, despite accusations of cultural imperialism. By confronting taboos, Rites facilitates clear-headed discussion of the realities of this tradition.
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