Female Genital Mutilation
All cultures have the right to maintain their heritage, but there are some rituals that cross ethical boundaries. Honor murders, rape, slavery, polygamy, pedophilic practices, and mutilation, can be considered hazardous to a person’s health and well-being. Things of that nature cross the boundaries of human law. Traditions such as polygamy and female circumcision may be presented as a choice, and a right of passage, or an honor, but they have the characteristics of a cult, whereas the female has been herded into believing that somehow mutilation of a sex organ is empowering to them, and is their right as a part of their culture, this is what sets them aside from the rest of the world; their traditions. The problem with “I’m entitled to my culture’s belief system” is that all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have long been abandoned.
Many of those that want to preserve their culture’s ritualistic traditions, accuse those against these outdated atrocities, as having cultural imperialism: that these “imperialists” want to subject the entire world to only one set of standards. But it is more than just about what is acceptable to another society. From a Health Culture and Society blog article, showing the adverse affects of female mutilation:
“The serious health complications associated with FGM are among the many reasons why this issue is so important. From a study of 871 women in Gambia with FGM showed that there was a substantial amount of complications rising from all types of FGM, even type I (the form of least anatomical removal). The results showed 34.4 % of the women presented with complications from FGM. These were either immediate complications consisting of infections (87.3%), hemorrhages (36.4%) and Anemia (38.2%) or late complications consisting of abnormal scarring (86.1 %)(Kaplan, Hechavarria, Martin & Bonhoure, 2011).”
Where there is smoke there is fire, woman are crying out that they are forced at a young age to perform these ritualistic acts. Our values for beauty do differ; from a 2002 article, “What About Female Mutilation” by Richard A. Shweder “… where the practice of female circumcision is popular, including Somalia and the Sudan, it is widely believed by women that these genital alterations improve their bodies and make them more beautiful, more feminine, more civilized, and more honorable.”
There are many advocates for the preservation of a societies culture, and the cause about outlawing such practices is less about what we find as beautiful, attractive, or acceptable; it’s about physical and mental health risks to women.
Many defenders of ritualistic genital mutilation compare it to the current trend for other forms of body mutilation (modification): tattoos, piercings, transdermal implants, and body art. The comparison is not valid because at the root of female genital circumcision is control of woman’s sexuality, in effect, controlling them. Female genital mutilation procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons are meant to eliminate any sexual pleasure and preserve a woman’s virginity. It is often synonymous with docility and obedience.
Nor can you compare it to a male circumcision. While in some Jewish, Islamic, and other cultures, it remains a celebratory event; male circumcision has become a golden standard procedure set by our healthcare system. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states “…the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks: easier hygiene, decreased risk of urinary tract infections, decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections, prevention of penile problems, and a decreased risk of penile cancer.”
We need to see female mutilation for what it is: an unjustified ritual that does not glorify women, is a violation of women’s rights, and cuts them to the core of who they are as sexual beings. Just like we abolish horrible acts of slavery, of mass killings, of old societies ideals, we need to abolish Female Genital Mutilation.
Hollenback, Sherina. Cornford, Michelle. Blog Article 8562849 Pub Health Culture and Society, Web. 2014.
R. Shweder, M. Minow, H. Markus, Eds. "Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies." New York:Russell Sage Foundation Press 2002. Print.