Every once in a while, female genital mutilation supporters will come up with some new arguments to support this barbaric practice, such as that FGM is no different than plastic surgery, male circumcisions, or trans surgeries. It’s all about personal choice, religious freedom, and cultural identity. Such arguments grossly mischaracterize the true nature of FGM.
FGM Isn’t Another Plastic Surgery
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” WHO identifies four major types of FGM based on severity and damage.
Yes, many people seek plastic surgery to alter their appearance for non-medical reasons too, but there are three key differences between FGM and plastic surgery such as a boob job. The first difference is age: FGM is nearly always carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. While there is no official age limit for plastic surgery, 17 or 18 is usually the minimum age that most plastic surgeons will consider. As with any surgery, parental consent is required for all plastic surgery procedures performed on teens younger than 18 years old.
The second difference is voluntary versus involuntary personal choice. Women voluntarily choose to undergo plastic surgery for non-medical reasons, while young girls are almost always coerced to undergo FGM either through lies or intimations by adults such as their parents. In a recent Michigan case, where two doctors and a clinic manager in Michigan were charged with cutting the genitals of two seven-year-old girls, one girl was told she was just getting a shot while the pain made her scream; the other girl was told she was in the clinic for a “special girls’ trip” for a procedure “to get the germs out.”
A third difference is the purpose of the procedures. Women choose plastic surgery to boost their confidence or sexual appeal. Girls who undergo FGM are too young to even understand what sex and sexual appeal is. The cultures that practice FGM use it as a way to control women’s sexuality, to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterward, and to increase male sexual pleasure. These cultures also believe girls who undergo FGMs will find a better marriage offer. It’s worth pointing out that actually few men in these cultures demand for girls to go through FGMs. Rather, it’s older women who push for it.
Male Circumcision Doesn’t Justify FGM
It’s true that male circumcision has been carried out as a religious and cultural ritual for many centuries. Sometimes people choose to do male circumcision for non-religious and cultural reasons such as personal hygiene, preventive health care, or a medical need. One undisputed difference between male circumcision and FGM is the health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many health benefits for men who are circumcised, such as easier hygiene, decreased risk of urinary tract infections, decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections, prevention of penile problems, and decreased risk of penile cancer.
FGM on the other hand, has no health benefits. It damages otherwise healthy tissue and cause permanent, irreversible, and unnecessary harm to girls’ and women’s natural bodily functions and health in many ways. Some short-term harms WHO identifies include pain, excessive bleeding, infection, fever, urinary problems, shock, and even death. Some long-term harms include urinary problems, vaginal problems, menstrual problems, and increased risk for child birth and psychological problems.
Another major difference between male circumcision and FGM is that while male circumcision “doesn’t affect fertility, nor is circumcision generally thought to enhance or detract from sexual pleasure for men or their partners,” FGM causes lifelong sexual problems for women, such as pain during intercourse and decreased sexual satisfaction. In some of the more severe forms of FGM, the kind that seals or narrows the vaginal opening, women have to go through a procedure to cut their vaginal tissue open in order to have sex and bear children. In some cultures, women have to get their vaginal opening sealed again after each birth. Therefore, women have to endure multiple FGMs in their lifetime, which doubles or triples their health risks.
Religion and Cultural Tradition Don’t Justify FGM either
No religious text from any religion promotes or condones FGM. It’s an ancient ritual that some cultures still practice despite all the known harms to women. The WHO has declared that FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women. “It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women…it violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.” Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization have called for abolishing FGM. No religion or cultural arguments can justify FGM.
Even though the practice of FGM has been outlawed in the United States since 1997, the number of girls and women in the United States who have undergone the procedure or are at risk of it has tripled in the last two decades. More than 500,000 women and girls in the United States have either already gone through this procedure, or are at risk of being forced to undertake it either in the United States or abroad. According to a Newsweek report, “California is the state with the largest number of at-risk women and girls, with 56,872, followed by New York, with 48,418, and Minnesota, with 44,293.”
FGM is on the rise in the United States due to increasing immigration from African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries where FGM is prevalent, plus Americans’ muted response under the influence of multiculturalism, which advocates equality among all cultures, including those cultures antithetical not just to western values but basic humanity. In an online video when 20 Columbia University students were asked if they would support Planned Parenthood funding for female circumcision, only one student said no. The majority’s attitude was: If a culture venerates such a practice, who are we to judge? If it’s a personal choice, who are we to judge?
These students are too brainwashed by modern PC education to admit that not all cultures are created equal. Some are absolutely worse than others. Cultures that believe women shouldn’t drive, or treat women as nothing but sexual objects, or practice “honor killing” or FGM should not be tolerated or accepted in a society that promotes individual rights and human freedom.
The 1997 U.S. law requires federal authorities to inform new immigrants from countries where FGM is prevalent that parents who arrange FGM for their daughters and those who perform it will face prison sentences of up to five years. Therefore, immigrants can’t claim ignorance of the law.
Immigrant parents of young daughters ought to understand that if they want to have a better life for themselves and their children in the United States, they must respect and obey U.S. law and cast away old customs and allegiances that contradict American values. In the United States, FGM is illegal, besides being immoral. If immigrants can’t accept that fact, the United States is not the right place for them and their families.