Is a Nick Really Better Than a Slice? The Controversial Plan to Stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
According to the New York Times, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends permitting pediatricians to a ceremonial pinprick or “nick” on girls from these cultures if it would keep their families from sending them overseas for the full circumcision." I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, if it helps girls by stopping their parents from sending them abroad to be mutilated under dangerous conditions, that is good. On the other, should this be a tradition that should be honored?
Julie Clawson at Emerging Women is enraged by the recommendation:
FGM is illegal in the United States and a new law is currently being proposed to make it illegal to transport girls out of the U.S. for the purpose of FGM. While this is a cultural tradition for some, others see it as simply another form of violence against women. FGM is the removal of all or part of a woman’s genitalia for the purposes of controlling her sexuality and insuring she is a virgin until marriage... So it is shocking to many to hear the AAP’s recommendations. While the proposal is supposedly meant to protect young girls, it still sanctions the mentality that women’s sexuality must be controlled by men. The idea that doctor’s in America could do this to young children is abhorrent to those who fight to protect the voiceless.
It seems to me that a new law punishing people for taking girls out of the country is a better idea than permitting doctors to legitimize the experience, if they would even perform such a procedure in the first place. "I can't see mainstream people being willing to do that," my friend, who is a pediatrician, told me. "I know I wouldn't do it, and I don't think you can convince families who would do it anyway to not do it. It's not even likely that their doctor is going to bring it up unless they are from the same cultural background. This strikes me as meaningless unless they are trying to raise awareness among doctors in general."
In fact, nearly no one in the blogosphere seems to think this is a good idea. "What the fuck, American Academy of Pediatrics. What the fuck," wrote Norma at Happy bodies. Mashua Against FGM has beautiful photos of girls and a template letter readers can use to explain why this is objectionable on many levels. Menrvasofia at In the Sisterhood looks at both sides of the argument and concludes, "What is it they say about good intentions and the road to hell?"
Cultural sensitivity, basic human rights, and "the right thing to do" are tricky issues. While the American Academy of Pediatrics made a misstep with its recommendation, it at least opened a good discussion and hopefully will create more awareness of the cruel practice of female genital mutilation.