Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pediatricians Want To Open Door To Legal Genital Mutilation

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put forward a proposal  on female genital mutilation. They would like that American doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or “nick” on girls born into communities that practice female genital mutilation.

Female circumcision is a custom in many African and Asian countries whereby the genitals of a girl child are cut. There are roughly four procedures. First there is the ritual pinprick (what is commonly referred to as the “nick” option).  In this procedure, a preteen girl is held down by adults while her clitoris is tweaked so that the person performing the procedure can hold the clitoris between her forefinger and her thumb. Then she takes a needle and pierces it, using enough force for it to go into the peak of the clitoris. As soon as it bleeds, the parents and others attending the ceremony cheer, the girl is comforted and the celebrations follow.  Frequently, there is a more sinister meaning to the word “nick”--  when in fact the peak of the clitoris is cut off entirely.

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 use the term female genital mutilation (FGM) instead of the obscure and misleading term of "female 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, 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.

So the solution is to pander to the misogynists and give quasi-legal status to the least objectionable form of their crime?  Give them an inch, and they'll take a mile.  Instead, I say make their heinous crimes as expensive and costly as possible-- common sense and basic human decency obviously mean nothing to them.

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