Feminism | Posted by Ashley P on 07/9/2010

Female Bodies and Female Genital Mutilation: There is No Room for Compromise

End FGM

End FGM

Apparently, parental request for altering their young daughters’ genitalia had reached the magnitude to which the American Academy of Pediatrics issued their policy statement in April condoning and introducing the implementation of a “mild” procedure where a girl’s clitoris could be “nicked” in order to satisfy a certain element of “cultural sensitivity.” Recently, however, the AAP has withdrawn the policy statement made in April and have since reverted back to the their initial stance as deeming any altering of the female genitals “unnecessary”. However, the fact remains our AAP felt compelled to compromise in the realm of Female Genital Mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation is not an issue of cultural differences, nor should it be observed as one. In reality, FGM is an inhumane, cruel, and botched exertion of forcible female subservience. There are at least four common procedures for FGM including the Clitoridectomy which removes either a part of or the entire clitoris, to the infibulation which essentially creates a “covering seal” of skin in order to narrow the vagina. The practitioners of this procedure vary in their “cultural” reasoning with the most common explanations pertaining to removing the libido in girls to promote chastity and sexual cleanliness, as well as to appear more “feminine” and “beautiful” without the clitoris eluding any “manliness.” The short-term and long-term consequences include extremely painful menstruation, child birth obstruction, bladder infections, and lethal infections including HIV due to “surgeons” using the same, unsterilized tools on numerous girls. As one may imagine, the physical toll girls face during this violation is not the only consequence; with an estimated 92 million girls 10 years of age or above having undergone FGM in Africa alone, the mental and emotional consequences can prove equally detrimental. Many girls surveyed face night terrors, feelings of resentment, anger, and betrayal that will most likely reside in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives.

Female Genital Mutilation is practiced legally in over 30 countries worldwide and illegally in “Westernized” countries such as Canada, New Zealand, parts of Europe, Australia, and the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics had insinuated their compromise was better than the alternative: reportedly, many parents, (statistically, the majority being immigrants from the countries where FGM is legal) send their daughters abroad upon American physician refusal to harm any part of the female genitalia. While the numbers regarding this statistic have been debated, the reality is that 228,000 girls and women in the United States have already experienced or are at risk for experiencing FGM.

AAP: needs work on their logic and reasoning

AAP: needs work on their logic and reasoning

I am not bashing the AAP for feeling as if they were caught between a rock and a hard place and reasoned their “mild” form of FGM would prevent the more severe procedures from taking place later on in these young girls’ lives; however, I disagree entirely with the AAP’s initial argument of “cultural sensitivity” and backing down from a matter that need not be based on assuming political correctness, but instead on a human rights violation.

In fact, every major human rights advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International, UNICEF, and the Human Rights Watch, lists FGM not only as a human rights violation, but also as a “cruel and unnecessary act” that promotes gender inequality. Even these international organizations that continually deal with cultural differences and compromise insist on dismissing FGM as a religious or cultural issue! Regardless of the true intentions that propelled this policy statement in April the justification of providing “cultural sensitivity” allows the procedure to continue to hide behind religious and cultural contexts. FGM is a human rights violation. There is no “gray” matter, just the painful black and white truth of consequences, no matter how “minor” or severe the procedure may be. There is no compromise.

In the wake of AAP’s statement and eventual revoke, there appears to be a very pro-active piece of legislature presently being introduced that would alleviate the American Academy of Pediatrics need to compromise due to the alternative. According to the National Organization of Women  two U.S. Representatives, Mary Bono (R-Cal.) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) are working together to introduce the Girls’ Protection Act. If passed, this act would ensure parents who sent their female children overseas with the intention to undergo FGM would face legal consequences.

It is refreshing to see two people blur the lines of political party to come together on this human rights issue, I might add. Here is the link to support this act by emailing your members of Congress to tell them how incredibly important the Girls’ Protection Act is to the girls and women of the United States.

If you would also like to learn more about FGM on a global scale, The Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking website is an exceptional tool in providing information and statistics to help raise awareness for the girls and women worldwide who have been silenced by their countries acceptance of this grim and violent violation of their bodies.

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Post Your Comment

  • Holly @ at 2:07 pm, July 9th, 2010

    well said.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 3:41 pm, July 9th, 2010

    Are you KIDDING me? This happens to girls in the United States? In the year 2010? What the hell?

    This makes me incredibly sick. How do cultures that perform this cruel “procedure” on young girls justify the fact that their young men don’t seem to need any corrective surgery on their penises, despite the fact that a penis is just a giant sex organ hanging out there for anyone to see?

    This is repulsive. The fact that anyone in the world would allow this to happen to their child just sickens me.

  • Katherine C. @ at 6:14 pm, July 9th, 2010

    And did you hear about the disgustingness going on at Cornell university???!!! http://www.feministing.com/archives/021581.html

  • Meg @ at 10:35 pm, July 11th, 2010

    I’m so glad to hear that people are actually making a legislative effort to stop American parents from hurting their daughters. It’s atrocious that it is necessary to make such legislation here. With other countries… well, I agree that in this case cultural relativity shouldn’t matter. It’s just harder to convince other cultures to change.

    To The Raisin Girl: Note that here, in the U.S., genital mutilation on babies is actually nothing new–just consider circumcision. For some reason, circumcision has been regarded as ok for quite a long time. Personally, I think it’d be great to get rid of genital mutilation altogether.

  • Garen @ at 6:07 pm, July 13th, 2010

    Not just the so-called Third World that’s guilty; I read in The Whole Woman that the AAP had a policy in which any girl born with a clitoral hood longer than 5/8 of an inch would have it trimmed down. For what exactly?

  • Erin @ at 5:10 pm, July 14th, 2010

    As Garen pointed out, Medical professionals in so-called ‘civilised’ countries, such as the United States have been performing genital mutilation on intersex individuals for years – justifying this because the clitoris is ‘too long’ to be a ‘normal’ girl, or the penis is ‘too short’ to be a ‘normal’ boy. They then operate to make the individual – most often a NEWBORN INFANT – have genitals that fit into the culturally acceptable definition of their ‘true gender’.
    I do not support any form of genital mutilation, but we cannot be so presumptuous as to believe that countries that perform these various procedures for cultural reasons are wrong because it doesnt align with our cultural beliefs. What about the millions of baby boys who are circumcised against their will as a Jewish tradition? What about the millions of people who undertake cosmetic surgery – is this ‘okay’ because it is in the west, thus not the “backward and barbaric” procedures occuring in Africa?

    Wairimu Njambi presents a very interesting perspective on this issue, as a circumcised female who is also a feminist. See her work: ‘Dualisms and Female Bodies in Representations of African Female Circumcision’ in the Journal ‘Feminist Theory’, Vol 5, no. 3.

  • The Wholestyle Network » Blog Archive » The Doctors’ Battle Against Female Genital Mutilation @ at 1:04 pm, July 17th, 2010

    [...] that “compromises” with cultures who demand genital mutilation for their girl babies, The F-Bomb has some heated words.  The pressure doctors are under to comply with FGM is immense – [...]

  • Anna @ at 12:45 am, July 22nd, 2010

    I brought this up on another post but thought it might better suit this discussion.

    I am curious to know what people think of male circumcision. As it is a ritual in the US that is beyond normalized. I personally feel it is wrong. It to is sexually repressing for men (make them lose 70% of the feeling in the penis) and is something that is generally done non-consensually as it normally happens when they are nearly infants. It is also generally thought of something to use to cleans your child and keep them pure.

    Does it seem less appalling to most because of how normal it is here? I know many women that haven’t even seen an uncircumcised penis and there seems to be a standard view that they are gross.

    Seems to fall under the same vail to me.

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