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FGM: Never accetpable

Female Genital Mutilation just made the news again because the American Association of Pediatrics proclaimed in their article the following:

“There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC. It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm.”

Okay, so by tolerating  ‘just a little’ female disfigurement we can make the problem of major disfigurement go away?


The level of dissonance from this article is staggering.  It appears that the APP is speaking out of both sides of its mouth on the issue.

“FGC becomes a physical sign of a woman’s marriageability, with social control over her sexual pleasure by clitorectomy and over reproduction by infibulation (sewing together the labia so that the vaginal opening is about the
width of a pencil).”

We certainly cannot weigh in on the cultural norms being expressed here, that would be colonial and ethnocentric of us to do so…  Horsepucky.   Disfiguring women in order to control them transcends the bounds of the cultural-relativist argument.  From a purely physiological standpoint here is what FGM does to women:

“Infibulation (type 3 FGC) is often associated with longterm gynecologic or urinary tract difficulties. Common gynecologic problems involve the development of painful subcutaneous dermoid cysts and keloid formation along excised tissue edges. More serious complications include pelvic infection, dysmenorrhea, hematocolpos, painful intercourse, infertility, recurrent urinary tract infection, and urinary calculus formation. Pelvic examination is difficult or impossible for women who have been infibulated, and vaginal childbirth can present significant challenges. Scarring may prevent accurate monitoring of labor and fetal descent. Although deinfibulation may facilitate delivery, women who have undergone deinfibulation are at increased risk of complications, including perineal tears, wound infections, separation of repaired episiotomies, postpartum hemorrhage, and sepsis.”

In other words, a fully loaded shit-bucket of ugly side effects that detract and can even take a woman’s life.

“Many anti-FGC activists in the West, including women from African countries, strongly oppose any compromise that would legitimize even the most minimal procedure.4 There is also some evidence (eg, in Scandinavia) that a criminalization of the practice, with the attendant risk of losing custody of one’s children, is one of the factors that led to abandonment of this tradition among Somali immigrants”

This is precisely the view that should win out.  We do not accept barbaric acts of disfigurement in our secular society.  It is something to be educated about, rallied and fought against.   I commend the AAP for including a dissenting view in the corpus of their article.

What remains is the suggestion brought forth by the APP that FGM in some forms is an acceptable practice in our society.  FGM in any form is, according the article, still illegal in the US.  I think it is irresponsible to suggest that certain forms of mutilating women’s bodies becomes an acceptable standard practice in any context.

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