As of 1996, federal law condemns the forced cutting of female genitals in any way, shape or form, and there is no exemption for any form of female genital cutting for religious purposes.
Even the smallest "ritual nick" constitutes "female genital mutilation" (FGM) under the law, and it is a punishable criminal offense.
In contrast, male infant circumcision can be freely performed by anyone, from a doctor with a scalpel, to a parent wielding an X-acto knife. The arguments are that parents have "parental choice," and/or "religious freedom" to cut off their child's foreskin.
For whatever reason "parental choice" as an excuse to cut up a child's genitals seems to be privilege bestowed upon parents, only if their religion is Judaism, and/or only if the child is male.
If you happen to be Muslim and you believe your religious beliefs command you to cut up your daughter, or if you happen to be a parent from Africa, whose tribe dictates that female members must undergo some sort of genital cutting ritual, you're out of luck.
But a couple of gynecologists have just published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics urging for compromise, proposing what they call a "nick."
The argument is that this could be a substitute for "more severe" forms of FGM.
Several news sources have already started weighing in on the matter.
Perhaps thanks to intactivism, the comparison of female genital cutting and female genital cutting is becoming almost compulsory in news outlets, if but only to insist that there actually be no comparison.
On some news articles, the authors seem to have forgotten the history of male circumcision in this country, or simply didn't bother to check.
And then, almost as if by clockwork, the obligatory reference to the WHO or AAP giving their non-committal endorsement of male circumcision is made, forgetting the fact that, at least in the case of the WHO, male circumcision is endorsed on males who voluntarily comply to be circumcised, which is slightly different than forcibly performing ritual cutting on a non-consenting minor.
From the CNN article:
"...all forms of FGM are rooted in the control of female sexuality. Male circumcision has its roots in cultural and religious practices involved in enforcing cleanliness, practices that have since been validated by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Actually, male genital cutting, or "circumcision" as the authors prefer to euphemize it here, has roots in cultural and religious practices involved in attempting to curb masturbation in males, and to make them "more focused on god." The "validation," if one can even call it that, is a relatively recent phenomenon.
What is the implication here?
That it's merely a matter of changing the motives?
That if those who wished to perform female genital cutting would do it under pretense of "cleanliness," it would be more acceptable?
And why are the WHO and AAP invoked here?
I think it is interesting that they do; is the difference between female genital cutting and male genital cutting really whether or not the WHO and/or AAP "validate" it?
Or would female genital cutting be morally reprehensible regardless?
Incidentally, it seems organizations like the WHO and AAP are precisely the kind of people they're trying to woo.
These women better be careful what they wish for, or they just might get it.
Newsweek has this to say on the matter:
"Despite being perceived as a practice linked to Islam, FGM is a cultural practice that has no basis in religion. No religious texts prescribe FGM, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), while Human Rights Watch says the practice is “erroneously linked” to religion and “is not particular to any religious faith."
This is rather ballsy to be dictating people's beliefs, is it not?
The religiosity of male infant genital cutting seems to be off limits as a discussion point.
The WHO and HRW, however, will not hesitate to dictate what the beliefs of those who practice female genital cutting will be.
To be sure, the Qur'an makes no mention of either male or female genital cutting as a religious sacrament.
Female genital cutting, along with male genital cutting is, however, discussed in Hadith:
Abu Hurayrah said: I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “The fitrah is five things – or five things are part of the fitrah – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.”Bukhari 5891; Muslim 527
(Note that gender is not specified.)
Abu al- Malih ibn `Usama's father relates that the Prophet said: "Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women."
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167.
Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.
Abu Dawud 41:5251
So note, women should be cut, just not "severely."
Well. At least according to Hadith.
So the claims that "no religious texts prescribe FGM" and that it is "erroneously linked" to religion, and "not particular to any religious faith" are wishful thinking and categorically false.
The question is, however, does it really matter?
Dr. Gillian Einstein is on to something.
This is an excerpt from the article at Global News:
“I think there’s a confusion over who controls the practice. So it’s women who control the practice, not men,” she said.
“The practice itself does give women a lot of power. And so figuring out other sources of power is a culture change, and I think cultures that have thought about it from that perspective had been a lot more successful in changing the practice.”
Who controls the practice of male genital cutting?
Who would necessarily feel "power" by practicing it?
If males used this model of "power," what would stop females from the same society from adopting the same principle, only on their daughters, as fathers and male members with their sons?
Sadly Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, head of global advocacy at the charity FORWARD, which campaigns against FGM in Africa and Europe, repeats falsehoods to serve her own ends:
“This is very different to male circumcision. With male circumcision there is no intention to attenuate sexual desire, control sexuality or enforce chastity.”
No, these were precisely the goals of John Harvey Kellogg and Sylvester Graham, the champions of male genital cutting in America.
Rabbi Maimonides tells us that desensitizing the male organ was precisely the purpose of male genital cutting as this would make its owner focused on more important things, like god and religious scripture.
This bold-faced, self-serving revision of history is appalling.
Arianne Shahvisi, a lecturer in medical ethics at Britain’s University of Sussex, drives home the point that "It comes down to women and girls being able to have a say in what happens to their bodies. One must not cause irreversible changes to the body of another person without their consent."
This is precisely our argument as intactivists.
Aurora and Jacobs, the authors of the paper advocating for the "nick" are actually inadvertently helping intactivists.
They're actually coming out and admitting on a published journal that there are forms of female genital cutting that are less severe than male genital cutting as commonly practiced in the US and elsewhere.
An excerpt from Raw Story:
Arora and Jacobs have proposed new sub-categories of genital cutting.
Category One would entail procedures with no long-lasting effect on the appearance or function of the genitalia, such as a “small nick” in the skin.
Procedures under Category Two may affect appearance, but not reproductive capacity or sexual enjoyment, they said. This could include removing the “hood” or skin-fold covering the clitoris or trimming the labia (labiaplasty).
The first two categories, they said, should be reclassified as female genital “alteration” (FGA) rather than “mutilation”.
“These procedures are equivalent or less extensive than male circumcision in procedure, scope and effect,” they wrote.
“Indeed, they are equivalent or less extensive than orthodontia, breast implantation or even the elective labiaplasty for which affluent women pay thousands of dollars.”
It took long enough, but finally people, notably women, in the academic field, are actually coming out and saying it.
This has all happened before.
Not too long ago, the AAP also tried to endorse a "ritual nick."
The arguments were identical; allow a less-severe form of female genital cutting, even less severe than male genital cutting as practiced in the west, in lieu of more severe forms.
The move was short-lived, as a world outcry caused them to renege.
Aurora and Jacobs go a step further and play the name game.
"Call it alteration instead," they say.
Does calling it something else really change what it is?
A forced, permanent violation of another, unwilling person's body?
The forced cutting up of a healthy, non-consenting person's most private, most intimate organs?
Should there be a compromise?
I think readers already know what my position on the subject is.
I'll end this one here and let you ponder for yourselves.
Male and Female Infant Circumcision: Which One is Worse?
Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay