Monday, May 10, 2010

Pediatricians Advocate for Ritual Female Genital Mutilation (UPDATED)

mu·ti·late: To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.

According to the World Health Organization, ritual female genital mutilation "has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways."

But American pediatricians are calling for an expansion of the practice of female genital mutilation. In negotiating with immigrants who want their daughters' genitals mutilated, they believe that they've found a reasonable compromise that honors atavistic cultural traditions while "protecting" female anatomy and sexual function.

Why should a physician slice into female genitalia when there's no medical benefit to be gained...not even a small or hypothetical one? In a policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (lead author Dena S. Davis, J.D., Ph.D.), the AAP tries to make a case for ritual female genital nicking


Most forms of FGC [female genital cutting] are decidedly harmful, and pediatricians should decline to perform them, even in the absence of any legal constraints. However, the ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting. 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.

Greater harm, lesser harm...mutilation, cutting, nicking, pricking, piercing, incising, it what you like; it doesn't sound like modern science or evidence-based medicine to me.

Those who support this policy insist the AAP's ritual nick is clearly not the same as thing as your grandmother's old-fashioned genital mutilation. But in their policy statement published online Apr 26, 2010, the AAP did not describe the "ritual nick" procedure or the medical benefits that a ritual nick might hypothetically provide. The AAP also failed to describe the training processes through which physicians might become qualified to perform "rituals."

Furthermore, the AAP failed to provide any evidence to support the assertion that the ritual nick may "build trust" or save some girls from undergoing life threatening procedures.

How far will pediatricians have to go in order to satisfy dangerous cultural preferences? Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross, a member of the academy’s bioethics committee admits, “If you medicalize [female genital cutting] and say it’s permissible, is there a possibility that some people will misunderstand it and go beyond a nick? Yes.”

Georganne Chapin, executive director of an advocacy group called Intact America, said she was “astonished that a group of intelligent people did not see the utter slippery slope that we put physicians on” with the new policy statement. “How much blood will parents be satisfied with?”

She added: “There are countries in the world that allow wife beating, slavery and child abuse, but we don’t allow people to practice those customs in this country. We don’t let people have slavery a little bit because they’re going to do it anyway, or beat their wives a little bit because they’re going to do it anyway.”

Why give a backward and brutal cultural phenomenon medical and legal credibility in a developed nation?

The lead author of the AAP policy statement, wrote this in 2003:

In the United States, many state laws, as well as a federal law, criminalize any 'nonmedical' surgery on the genitals of a female minor. The federal law explicitly states that the 'ritual' or 'cultural' beliefs of anyone involved in the procedure are not a defense...

Ethically, such bias shows a real lack of respect for the cultural and religious beliefs that ground parental decisions about female genital surgeries. By refusing to engage in any sort of compromise, such attitudes also show a lack of respect for parental motivations, which often include concern about the ability of surgically unaltered girls to marry within the community. This lack of openness to any form of female genital surgery is especially startling when framed by the American laissez-faire attitude toward male circumcision.

[emphasis added]

The AAP policy statement repeatedly hints at a perception of irrational Western hypocrisy and bigotry, and provides as reference a paper written by Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh:

It could be legitimate to perform either male or female circumcision, as any other surgery, for specific, extremely rare, medical reasons on specific individuals. But to arbitrarily mutilate children, boys or girls, under the pretext that it is for their own good, shows an influence of cynicism and fanaticism...

Female circumcision will never stop as long as male circumcision is going on. How do you expect to convince an African father to leave his daughter uncircumcised as long as you let him do it to his son?

Male circumcision remains a controversial issue, but as recently as last year, male circumcision was found to provide real and important benefits for some:

"In addition to decreasing the incidence of HIV infection, male circumcision significantly reduced the incidence of HSV-2 infection and the prevalence of HPV infection, findings that underscore the potential public health benefits of the procedure."

The question of when and whether males should be circumcised is a subject much debate...but it is debate that is based on scientific evidence. Ritual female genital mutilation, on the other hand, isn't supported by any kind of evidence, and it hasn't been shown to prevent anything harmful or inconvenient...except female orgasms.

Pascale Hammond Lane, a pediatric urologist, provides sage conclusions:

Other cultures permit “honor killings;” would we tolerate these in this country just to be culturally sensitive? I know we do not! When you choose to immigrate, you choose to make changes in your life. Eliminating [female genital cutting/mutilation] is one change that must be made.

Exit Question: If the female anatomy is somehow preserved after subjecting a girl to ritual nicking, how will you have satisfied those who object to "surgically unaltered" girls?


The Kindest Cut: In Colorado, a surgeon helps restore feeling—and so much more—to victims of female genital mutilation.

Dr. Pascale Hammond Lane: Culture Clashes and the AAP

Cultural Bias in Responses to Male and Female Genital Surgeries

From an article in the Seattle Times: "Anyone who thinks this is wrong or weird is not respecting my culture or my religion or who I am," she says, "and they should be educated."

“Girls get only a little heinous physical and psychological trauma, and their guardians get to practice their violent misogyny, just in a slightly less violent way. Yay for compromise!”

Dena Davis
Office Phone: 216-687-2312


1. A perfect storm of multiculturalism and idiotic moral equivalence: An interview with Dena Davis in which Davis attempts to construct a rationale for her deliberately provocative publicity stunt (5.14.10)

2. The AAP has retracted support for female genital mutilation (5.17.10):

"The AAP does not endorse the practice of offering a 'clitoral nick.' This minimal pinprick is forbidden under federal law and the AAP does not recommend it to its members."

[emphasis added]

A stronger statement would have been encouraging.

Whether it's legal or illegal (and whether it's minimal or maximal) the AAP should not be endorsing ritual nicking, pricking, slicing, cutting or mutilation.

Physicians should not perform procedures that have no medical purpose...especially on children...especially on their genitals...especially when it's part of an atavistic ritual.

3. S.F. Circumcision Ban: Anti-Semitic?


Christopher said...

I have yet to hear why this is done to begin with?

Not being a doctor, moslem or for that matter female I see absolutely no possible excuse for this barbaric practice.

As to comparing it to male circumcision, I find that to be ridiculous. Besides the religious history of that particular practice there are very good reasons for it whether or not you agree with it.

Conversely, there are no good reasons, religious or not for FGM.

Right Wing Extreme said...

Greater harm? Lesser harm? What the hell ever happened to do NO harm. More P.C. nonsense run amok.

TickedMD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lexcen said...

Male circumcision has always had the element of health advantages to argue in its favor. on the other hand, female circumcision is traditional and cultural practice within Islam. The basis of this practice is the notion that females need to be controlled in their sexual desires by removing their capacity to enjoy sex. That is how this is done. Within Islam, the female is seen as lesser of a human being than a male. Although male passions go unregulated, it is the female who bears the responsibility to protect herself from male lust by donning the burqa and thus discouraging lustful thoughts in the male. Further, the obligation to wear a burqa or niqab is initiated by the male/father/husband figure rather than as a conscious choice by the female.

WomanHonorThyself said...

say hello to sharia RK..sick sick!

JaneLovesJesus said...

And what's with the 'immigrant' description. Are we talking muslims here, or what? Are there other cultures/religions besides islam that supports this barbarism? (with apologies to the barbarians, who I'm sure did not.)

RightKlik said...

Lexcen: Attempts to equate female genital mutilation with ear piercing or male circumcision are a PC travesty.

WHT: Very sick. The Newsweek story is almost nauseating.

JLJ: Apparently FGM in Africa isn't limited to Islam, and in some conservative Islamic nations (e.g. Saudi Arabia) FGM isn't practiced. Of course, the connection with Islam is very strong.

Snarky Basterd said...

These idiots and their appeasement have no clue that all they're doing is inviting what's happening in Europe to happen here.

Velcro said...

Genital mutilation - its cultural
Keeping women uneducated - its cultural
Throwing acid on girls' faces - its cultural
Throwing gasoline on an unacceptable wife for your son - its cultural
Hacking off the head of someone who has different beliefs than you do - its cultural


Taylor Cottam, CFA, FRM said...

I did a paper on this sick stuff in College. It is not just muslim, it is much of Northern Afric down to the Sahel belt. It crosses religious lines, but Muslims tend to take everything cultural as religious so what the..

Pretty sick.

Anonymous said...

It is nothing short of barbaric and why I still believe that Islam is not a religion, but a cult.

Anonymous said...

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) should be against the law here in the United States. As a Felony it should carrie a heavy fine and a mandatory prison sentence. Any health care professional, involved in FGM should also loose their license, even if they "nik" the victim.