American Academy Of Pediatrics Reverses Support For Female Circumcision “Compromise”

The American Academy of Pediatrics had proposed permitting American doctors to ritually “nick” the clitorises of girls whose parents want to maintain their customs in America.  The thinking was that this compromise would prevent such parents from going underground to have a fuller mutilation of the clitoris carried out instead.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues that since female circumcision is not merely a matter of customary ceremony but has a functional purpose (of damaging girls’ libidos to help guarantee they remain virgins before their wedding nights), that these families would likely take advantage of the legalized “nicking” procedure for the sake of public appearances and then go and do what they see as necessary to actually effect their daughters’ sexuality anyway.

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Fortunately, the Academy has reversed their attempt to accommodate these cultural legacies of misogynistic maiming, even in their mostly symbolic and less destructive forms, and will not permit this nicking procedure.  There has been much (quite excellent) written throughout the blogosphere on this issue already.  Here is a portion of one of the  most informative pieces that emerged during that time, also by Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

There is a more sinister meaning to the word “nick” if you consider the fact that in some cases it means to cut off the peak of the clitoris. Proponents compare “nicking” to the ritual of boy circumcision. But in the case of the boys, it is the foreskin that is all or partly removed and not a part of the penis head. In the case of the girls, the clitoris is actually mutilated.

Then there is the second method whereby a substantial part of the clitoris is removed and the opening of the vagina is sewn together (infibulation). The third variation adds to this the removal of the inner labia.

Finally, there is a procedure whereby as much of the clitoris as possible is removed along with the inner and outer labia. Then the inner walls of the vagina are scraped until they bleed and are then bound with pins or thorns. The tissue on either side grows together, forming a thick scar. Two small openings roughly equal to the diameter of a matchstick are left for urination and menstruation respectively.

Often these operations are done without anesthesia and with tools such as sharp rocks, razor blades, knives or scissors depending on the location, family income, and education. It is thus more accurate—as does the World Health Organization—to speak of female genital mutilation (FGM) instead of the obscure and positive-sounding “circumcision.”

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 130 million women and girls worldwide have undergone some form of female genital cutting. Some immigrant parents from countries like Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, and others in Europe and the United States, where FGM is common, continue this practice in the West even though they know that it is criminal. Some of them sneak their daughters out of the country during the long school summer vacation so that they can be subjected to any one of these forms of FGM.

Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) recently introduced a bill to toughen federal laws by making it a crime to take a girl overseas to be circumcised. He argued, rightly, that FGM serves no medical purpose and is rightfully banned in the U.S.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that FGM serves no medical purpose, it argues that the current federal law has had the unintended consequence of driving some families to take their daughters to other countries to undergo mutilation. The pediatricians say that “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.”

But is this plausible? I fear not.

(via)

Ali’s books are Infidel, The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, and, her newest, Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://www.circumstitions.com Hugh7

    In retracting the policy, the AAP refers to a “minimal pinprick” – no suggestion of removing any tissue at all – “and the AAP does not recommend it to its members.”

    FGC does not have just one purpose: I have started gathering them together at http://www.circumstitions.com/FGC-stitions.html and they are just as varied and irrational as those for male genital cutting at http://www.circumstitions.com/Stitions.html .

    The withdrawn policy says “[T]he ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is … much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting.” and “Health educators must also be prepared to explain to parents from outside North America why male genital
    alteration is routinely practiced here but female genital alteration is routinely condemned.” That explaining just got a lot harder.

    • Daniel Fincke

      That explaining just got a lot harder.

      Why?

      This blog post describing a daughter’s circumcision (with a cheerfulness I find incredibly depressing); is it a real full circumcision or the ritual one which the American Academy of Pediatricians was recommending? Has the kind the AAP was recommending ever been routinely done?

  • http://www.circumstitions.com Hugh7

    The second link should be http://www.circumstitions.com/Stitions.html of course.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Thank you, I fixed it in your previous comment. Your first link is not working though. What was that supposed to be?

    • Daniel Fincke

      Nevermind, Hugh, I figured out what was wrong with your first link and have fixed it, too.


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