When it comes to discussing FGM (female genital mutilation), American progressives generally fall into two camps: those who think Western criticism of this cultural practice is imperialistic, and those who think FGM is an abuse against little girls and designed to control women’s sexuality.
I can remember quite clearly how I learned about FGM: I was about eleven-years-old, waiting for a friend at the hair salons and reading Cosmopolitan (that bastion of radical feminism), when I came to an article about women who’d been victims of the practice. I felt like throwing up.
This feeling has never gone away when I read about the practice even years later. So I was particularly surprised by a headline in PR Newswire which read “American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is Advocating for U.S. Pediatricians to Perform Certain Types of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).” In a move subsequently denounced by Equality Now, the AAP is calling for “federal and state laws (to) enable pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ‘ritual nick,’ such as pricking or minor incisions of girls’ clitorises.”
As Taina Bien-Aime, Equality Now’s Executive Director explains, “Encouraging pediatricians to perform FGM under the notion of ‘cultural sensitivity’ shows a shocking lack of understanding of a girl’s fundamental right to bodily integrity and equality.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Ms. Bien-Aime.
Moreover, those who rely on the cultural relativism argument often fail to recognize opposition within cultures that practice FGM. For instance, there’s the inspiring story of Waris Dirie, a former model-turned-activist who fights against the practice, having herself endured it as a girl in Somalia.
More dramatic is the fact that the Ugandan parliament unanimously passed a bill banning FGM, with life imprisonment if the victim dies.
The new recommendation from the AAP mocks international progress on the FGM issue. The United States should be a safe haven for everyone who chooses to make their life here, and that includes young girls and women.