Female genital cutting (FGC), also known as female genital mutilation (FGM) and female circumcision, is an increasing international concern to human rights activists and feminists across the globe. An estimated 140 million girls have been subjected to the practice worldwide and it is still prevalent in at least 28 countries ...
... while FGM is mostly practiced in African and Middle Eastern countries and classified as an “off-shore problem,” many Americans are unaware of the cultural complexities embedded in the custom and the fact that it is happening right under our noses.
According to a report by the non-profit group Sanctuary for Families, the practice of FGC is on the rise in the United States. The study claims that up to 200,000 American girls and women are at risk of FGM whether at home or through what is known as "vacation cutting," in which young women in the U.S. are sent abroad to undergo the ritual.
“We started to see that once it became illegal to conduct FGM in the United States in 1996, more and more families started sending children back home over school vacation, and it would happen there. Sometimes it was the intention of the trip to meet with grandparents—a coming of age—and sometimes it was not intended that it was going to happen, but once the girl arrived, it became clear that this was what the larger community had in mind,”...
Human rights activists and feminists view such examples of FGC as mutilation, a barbaric practice that violates women’s fundamental human rights—a position that is backed by international treaties, medical documentation and United Nations resolution. However, at the other end of the spectrum are hundreds of thousands of women who see such objections to FGC as ethnocentric and racist and wish to honor the custom, which has been passed down through generations.
In many cultures, it is inconceivable to think that a woman has not undergone some sort of cutting, with many women not considered “fully female” and ostracized by their communities for failing to undergo the procedure.
While cultural relativism has shifted over time as human rights arguments gain momentum, there are a number of groups that view the international response as one-sided and ignorant of the culture complexities that underlie the practice.
The term FGC has been chosen over FGM by a number of organizations, such as Sauti Yetu, a community center for African women and families in New York. They believe it better reflects the fact that over the last decade in communications with women in the community, “mutilation” is not always the intent of the practice and thus does not apply to all cases. Their website deemed it inappropriate to label all women as mutilated, when each woman should have the right to determine the terminology which best describes their own personal experience.
Dr. Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, director of the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic in Arizona ...found that many women actually embraced their scars after being cut ... viewing the scar as a representation of their womanhood.
“How is it that a white woman in Beverly Hills is able to have her clitoris reduced for aesthetic reasons, yet an adult women who seeks to modify her genitals for cultural reasons is considered mutilated,” she said.
Fuambai Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago ... returned home to Sierra Leone at the age of 21 to willingly undergo FGC in an initiation ceremony.
When I returned to Sierra Leone, I was greeted by a supportive, embracing feminist society of women in my community. The practice was celebrated and girls were pampered and spoiled prior to the cutting. It was an opportunity for me to join a larger movement and I wanted to go through this experience because of the notion of empowerment.“
When asked her opinion on the consent issue, Ahmadu said, "Why do African girls have to give consent, when males circumcised at birth do not? Why are we singling out and stigmatizing African girls? I have a problem with the fact that we are treating these girls differently in a negative way. As a result, these girls are internalizing this negativity and believing that they are inadequate whereas once before, this procedure marked their sexuality and empowered them sexually. The standard of consent should be applied equally across the board and not just to Africans."
... the severe physical pain some young girls experience while undergoing FGC, specifically when enduring Type III FGC, cannot be denied.
Often performed with glass or razor blades in extreme cases, many women experience acute physical, sexual and psychological complications as a result.
So how do we protect girls in the U.S. and abroad who may be at risk of a similar fate? In January 2013, President Obama introduced legislation criminalizing the transport of girls abroad to undergo FGM, which finally brought the United States in line with international standards to end the practice. However, U.S. policy has focused largely on prohibitive legislation rather than enforcement, with no prosecutions under federal laws and only one criminal case under state law. [emphasis mine]
Most of these discussions avoid considerations of biological function. When a boy baby is circumcised or an adult opts to reduce the size of her clitoris, cutting away the sexually sensitive tissues for pleasure is not included. Biological function is the bottom line for any body modification.
I have a problem with Dr Ahmadu's perspective of female genital cutting as empowerment. When men view cutting off of their penises as empowering, I'll be willing to discuss that issue. In my view the pampering of girls around their genital cutting ritual contrasts with a harsh life, and functions as an inducement, like candy offered by a pedophile. Women should be respected and cherished all of the time, not just when they suffer cutting of their private parts. Tricking females into permanent loss of sexual delight, to accept their role as baby machines owned by men is how I see it. Community acceptance for conformity to subjugation isn't the same as personal empowerment.
I can see their point about victims internalizing negativity, "I've been mutilated", as adding insult to injury. But embracing Dominator Culture's female Stockholm Syndrome tradition isn't the answer. Real power rests on a foundation of truth. There's an African tradition of cutting off a sister's finger if her brother dies, would Dr. Ahmadu want to cut off a finger to empower herself too? Why not challenge the value that femininity equals loss of sexual pleasure? That's like saying you're not eating like an adult until you destroy your taste buds. There's an inherent contradiction describing a "supportive, embracing feminist society of women" that celebrates female genital mutilation.
When asked her opinion on the consent issue, Ahmadu said, "Why do African girls have to give consent, when males circumcised at birth do not?
A good question, but of course she comes up with the wrong answer, in response to that question.
There should be no genital cosmetic surgery or reproductive prescription dopting on minors, EVER! no FGM, no attempts at sexual corrections/modifications, whether gender dysphoria or intersex conditions, no circumcision. Western society as a whole must put an end to all surgical child mutilation.
When we have put an end to it in our own societies, it will be more honest to preach to other societies. We'll be preaching by example instead of words only.
There is a new trend in North America, similar to genital "surgery". It is the pharmacological delaying of the onset of puberty so confused children do not have to bear the stress of puberty. The scalpel or the drug, they should both be criminal for minors.