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False Commitments: Local Misrepresentation and the International Norms Against Female Genital Mutilation and Early Marriage

  • Karisa Cloward

Abstract

A substantial international relations literature addresses the various ways in which international actors, and the norms they promote, influence state behavior. But less attention has been paid to the influence these actors directly exert at the local level, despite the fact that many transnational campaigns promote norms for which individuals—not states—are the primary transgressors. If individuals behave as some states do, publicly embracing international norms only because they expect a financial or reputational benefit from doing so, then the campaigns have not fully succeeded. But when do individuals engage in real behavior change, and when do they simply change the public image they present to the international community? To begin to address this question, I employ a randomized field experiment to evaluate individuals' willingness to make claims that differ from their true normative commitments. I conducted the experiment in the context of an original 2008 opinion survey about female genital mutilation and early marriage, run in rural Kenya. I find that respondents misrepresent their behavior and intentions, and I supplement these findings with an exploration of causal mechanisms through qualitative interviews.

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References

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