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, scraping...call it what you like; it doesn't sound like modern science or evidence-based medicine to me.
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?
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.
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:
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?