Thursday, May 13, 2010

Giving approval to "modified" barbarity

Barbara Hollingsworth links to this story from Time Magazine of an absolutely horrendous choice made by the American Academy of Pediatricians to allow its members to make "ceremonial nicks" on the genitalia of small girls whose Muslim parents are requesting the doctors perform female circumcision on.
On April 26, the organization changed its long-held stance on female genital cutting (FGC), a ritual that is practiced mostly in Muslim, Arabic and African counties, such as Ethiopia and Somalia — but also in certain largely Christian nations like Kenya — and is illegal in much of the West. The group now wants to explore allowing American doctors to perform a ceremonial pinprick, or small nick, on young girls if it would keep their families from pursuing circumcision. "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," the academy's committee on bioethics says in a policy statement.

Immigrant families that wish to preserve their local traditions sometimes approach Western doctors to perform FGC on their daughters. In its new report, the AAP advises doctors to inform families that the procedure is medically unnecessary and even dangerous. Should the families be resolute, the AAP raises the idea of legalizing a less-severe ritual cutting — akin, the policy statement says, to an "ear piercing" — to dissuade parents from sending their daughters to be circumcised in their home country, where medical conditions are likely to be far worse. "We knew that it was a controversial idea," says the report's lead author, Dena Davis, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. "We knew simply making the language more neutral was highly controversial." (Previously, the ritual had been known as female genital mutilation, or FGM.)
Ya think? Just in case you didn't know what was involved, here are the gruesome details of what these cultures do to young girls.
During FGC, girls as young as 2 years old have all or part of their external genitals removed. In what is considered a rite of passage, older women remove the tip of the clitoris or perform a complete clitoridectomy. In some cases, they also remove some of the labia or sew the labia together.

The ritual is not just inconceivably ill advised and painful but also leads to all manner of health issues, immediately after the procedure and in adulthood. This is especially the case during pregnancy and childbirth, in particular if the procedure was done in unsanitary conditions. It also — and this is the point — makes sex a whole lot less enjoyable.
The AAP says that its reasoning for wanting to allow doctors to perform these ceremonial "nicks" is because they're worried that immigrant families are taking their daughters abroad to get the operation performed. But the AAP doesn't really know how many families in America actually return to their native country to have their daughters mutilated.
The AAP concedes that it is unknown how many American families take their girls overseas for FGC and acknowledges that the policy statement was prepared without consulting communities that practice FGC about whether a ritual nick would be considered a viable alternative. However, the statement says that "in some countries where FGC is common, some progress toward eradication or amelioration has been made by substituting ritual nicks for more severe forms." (Comment on this story.)

"I can't give you numbers on how many families take their daughters overseas [to be circumcised]," says Davis, "but we heard anecdotally from doctors who had fears that it had happened."
Some in Congress want to take legal measures to stop parents from doing this.
On the same day the AAP published its new recommendation, the Girls Protection Act, which would make it illegal to take a minor outside the U.S. to seek female circumcision, was introduced in Congress. "I am sure the academy had only good intentions, but what their recommendation has done is only create confusion about whether FGM is acceptable in any form, and it is the wrong step forward on how best to protect young women and girls," said one of the bill's sponsors, New York Representative Joseph Crowley, speaking to the New York Times. Davis counters that such a law would be extremely difficult to enforce.
Yes, it would be difficult to enforce. However, when has that ever stopped Congress? At least, immigrant parents who learned that there was such a law and if they worried that their daughters might talk about what had been done to them might think twice about doing it. Such parents should also be prosecuted for child abuse.