Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been portrayed in the literature as an inhumane practice and a form of human rights abuse. Young women and girls who undergo FGM are subjected to the risk of developing infections as well as gynecological and psychological complications. Where severe bleeding occurs, the risk of death is imminent. Although FGM has been decried as an unnecessary and harmful ritual, it continues to be practiced in many parts of Africa, some parts of Asia, and the Middle East. Beliefs about the benefits of FGM are deeply entrenched in tradition and culture, making it a difficult practice to eradicate. This entry aims to portray the cultural embeddedness of FGM as the main factor in preventing its eradication. The information reviewed in this entry can be used to provide a framework for social workers to understand personal and societal reasons for FGM. Furthermore, this entry provides information that could be used to guide social workers in formulating culturally appropriate interventions with FGM practicing communities.
Fariyal Ross-Sheriff and Evalyne Kerubo Orwenyo
Melissa B. Littlefield, Denise McLane-Davison, and Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi
Mechanisms of oppression that serve to subordinate the strengths, knowledge, experiences, and needs of women in families, communities, and societies to those of men are at the root of gender inequality. Grounded in the strengths perspective of social work, the basic premise of the present discussion emphasizes gender equality as opposed to inequality. At the core of gender equality is the value of womanhood and the need to ensure the health and well-being of women and girls. Women’s participation in different societal domains including economic opportunities, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and well-being are all impacted by their roles. Thus, structural weaknesses are major barriers for reforming efforts on global gender equality. Challenging traditional notions of gender, which is defined as behavioral, cultural, and social characteristics that are linked to womanhood or manhood, is the basis for achieving gender equality by attending to how these characteristics govern the relationship between women and men and the power differences that impact choices and agency to choose. Further, both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are imperative for achieving gender equality among women and girls. Although progress has been made toward gender equality for many women, lower income women—as well as women who face social exclusion stemming from their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, and sexual orientation––have not experienced improvements in gender equality to the same extent as other women. Broad outcomes of gender equality around the globe include decreased poverty, increased social and economic justice, and better well-being and empowerment among men and women. Gender equality is a smart tool for economic development because it can remove barriers to access and enhance productivity gains in a competitive world.
The definition of human trafficking generally includes the commercial exploitation of persons for labor or sex. Although the International Labour Organization estimated in 2012 that exploitation through forced labor trafficking is up to three times more prevalent than forced sexual exploitation, sex trafficking seems to receive greater media and public attention. This article provides a historical context for sex trafficking, some discussion about the political evolution of sex trafficking legislation, current knowledge, and practice.
Eun-Kyoung Othelia Lee and Ruth G. McRoy
This entry defines the concept of multiculturalism and explains, from a historical and contemporary perspective, its evolution and significance in social work. The relationship between multiculturalism and socioeconomic justice, oppression, populations at risk, health disparities, and discrimination is explained. The importance of preparatory training for social workers to meet the challenges of multiculturalism is highlighted and examples of cross-cultural training models are provided. Implications of multiculturalism for clinical practice and policy development are discussed.
The risk of HIV infection looms large among male, female, and transgender sex workers in India. Several individual, sociocultural, and structural-environmental factors enhance the risk of HIV infection among sex workers by restricting their ability to engage in safer sexual practices with clients and/or intimate partners. While most HIV prevention programs and research focus on visible groups of women sex workers operating from brothels (Pardasani, 2005) and traditional sex workers, for example, Devadasis (Orchard, 2007); there is a whole subgroup of the sex worker population that remains invisible within HIV prevention programs, such as the male, female, and transgender sex workers operating from non-brothel-based settings. This paper provides an overview of the different types and contexts of sex work prevalent in Indian society, discusses the factors that increase a sex worker’s risk of HIV infection, describes the varied approaches to HIV prevention adopted by the existing HIV prevention programs for sex workers, discusses the limitations of the HIV prevention programs, and concludes with implications for social work practice and education.
S. Megan Berthold
Although state-sponsored torture violates human rights and international law, it is a widespread practice worldwide. The effects are profound and extend beyond the targeted individual. This entry will explore the debate surrounding different definitions of torture and examine who is targeted for torture and why, as well as the wide range of effects of torture on individuals, families, and communities. Factors that contribute to the resilience of torture survivors will be identified. The various roles that social workers can play with this population will be outlined and common assessment and intervention approaches utilized by social workers with torture survivors will be discussed.
Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.