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A nick by any other name
May 7, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

The American Academy of Pediatrics is proposing that doctors be authorized to perform a “ritual nick” on the genitals of pre-pubescent girls in order to satisfy cultural requirements and hopefully stave off more invasive forms of Female Genital Cutting (FGC):
Most forms of FGC are decidedly harmful, and pediatricians should decline to perform them, even in the absence of any legal constraints. However, the ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is not physically harmful and is much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting. There is reason to believe that offering such a compromise may build trust between hospitals and immigrant communities, save some girls from undergoing disfiguring and life-threatening procedures in their native countries, and play a role in the eventual eradication of FGC. 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. (source: PDF; not safe for work, contains line drawings of female genitalia.)
posted by Rumple (162 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, fine, but how is it that any kind of baby mutilation is okay anywhere?
posted by cmoj at 11:35 AM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Agreed cmoj - hopefully this will lead to a ritual nick (or preferably no nick at all!) for men as well so we can stop the harmful and mutilating practice across the board, for all babies. After all, even the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that the "potential medical benefits" of newborn male circumcision are not sufficient to recommend routine infant circumcision. I say stop male and female genital mutilation.
posted by jardinier at 11:38 AM on May 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this. So many people take FGM to be absolute evil, regardless of the extent. Especially people who also call male circumcision "mutilation" now.

I don't see why this would be any worse then getting a genital pricing, which isn't frowned upon (at least not for the same reasons)
posted by delmoi at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


my genitals are priceless, delmoi
posted by Rumple at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um delmoi, because a consenting adult can get a genital piercing - an infant can't consent.
posted by jardinier at 11:43 AM on May 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


hopefully this will lead to a ritual nick (or preferably no nick at all!) for men as well

I guess you've never heard of circumcision.
posted by squorch at 11:44 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please excuse me while I go smash something.
posted by desjardins at 11:44 AM on May 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


They want doctors to do this? Don't they have a rule where you don't just cut people for the sake of cutting them?
posted by Alison at 11:45 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow. I don't think it would have ever occurred to me to compromise on FGM.

I guess I can see the rationale, but it still feels a bit trollish to my finely honed Internet senses.

"No, it's cool. We're cutting her, see? Now you don't have to."
posted by ODiV at 11:46 AM on May 7, 2010


she explained, adding that a "nick" should be seen as an "option that's not ideal but is better than its alternatives."

Uh, one of those alternatives is to leave the child's genitals alone, which is far better than this dumb proposal that feeds into misogynistic practices and beliefs. It validates the belief in the first place by attempting to "compromise" and therein lies a huge part of the problem.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


I say let it pass if we can do a kick in the balls to the patriarch of that family and the doctor performing it.
posted by stormpooper at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was going to post the Hippocratic Oath here (first, do no harm) but, shit, if the choice is between a little harm, and full-on disfiguring harm, I think maybe this isn't as terrible an idea as it seems.

But yeah, I really prefer the NO harm one.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


pla How about "No?" Take your goddamned primitive superstitious forms of mutilation and abuse and shove them where only your bloodthirsty God can find them.

How about we engage those superstitious communities and find a compromise that reduces the incidence of the more harmful procedure in the hopes that it starts a general trend away from it?

Isn't this the same community where one of the strongest arguments in favour of legalizing abortion is that criminalizing it just drives it underground where it's much more harmful? If communities who practice FGM run into your attitude at the hospital, it means that fathers will continue to do it in the basement while the girl's mother and grandmother, similarly mutilated, will hold her down.
posted by fatbird at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2010 [45 favorites]


Um, the "not actually but commonly called the Hippocratic oath", I meant.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:50 AM on May 7, 2010


This is being proposed for infants whose parents would otherwise possibly have their daughter's entire outer genitalia scraped off. If performing such a 'nick' could prevent that happening to even a few girls, I'm not sure I would object. I don't think the AAP is proposing 'nicking' female babies wholesale, just ones who are in grave danger of a much worse procedure.
posted by frobozz at 11:53 AM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


They want doctors to do this? Don't they have a rule where you don't just cut people for the sake of cutting them?

In the US, all forms of FGC and FGM are banned by Federal law, and have been since 1996, I believe. However, it is likely that the ban has led to the same result similar bans have brought elsewhere: cultures that do clitoridectomies and/or infibulation simply go underground, and hire people who are not medical professionals to perform the procedures on their children. This gives a greater likelihood that serious, further complications might arise from what is already a disfiguring procedure (infections, etc.) This suggestion seems to be aimed at reducing that occurrence.

If male circumcision were banned here, it is very likely that Jews from the various sects would found and maintain an underground Mohel network. When Massachusetts considered a bill banning male circumcision recently, Jewish communities lobbied for freedom of religious expression, but a number of articles which ran in Jewish publications discussed the possibility.
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


fatbird : How about we engage those superstitious communities and find a compromise that reduces the incidence of the more harmful procedure in the hopes that it starts a general trend away from it?

Because no raesonable compromise can exist here. Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine.

By all means, work to educate the parents, but let's move out of the dark ages when we injure people because a really old book tells us to.
posted by pla at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Um delmoi, because a consenting adult can get a genital piercing - an infant can't consent.
Well, the proposal was to do this to "pre-pubescent girls", not infants. My understanding is that FGM is mostly done to non-infants. Also, are you totally against male circumcision as well? I suppose if you are, then at least that's consistent.

But if not, what's the difference? If this is done by medical professionals, what's the problem? This would probably have less of an effect then male circumcision.

Unfortunately they didn't explain what exactly they were proposing in the PDF, they only show traditional FGM.
They want doctors to do this? Don't they have a rule where you don't just cut people for the sake of cutting them?
Again, male circumcision.
posted by delmoi at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2010


Unfortunately they didn't explain what exactly they were proposing in the PDF, they only show traditional FGM.

There's an explanation in the Salon article.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:56 AM on May 7, 2010


How about we engage those superstitious communities and find a compromise that reduces the incidence of the more harmful procedure in the hopes that it starts a general trend away from it?

I read the AAP policy the other day, and this is exactly the rationale behind it. I can understand why people keep pulling the one quote about the "ritual nick" out, but mostly the AAP is saying that they do not endorse FGM, it is illegal, and doctors should discourage parents from the practice. The problem is doing this while remaining sensitive to the religious or cultural beliefs of the families. The AAP is obviously looking for ways to end the practice of FGM, I just don't agree that a compromise is the right way to go about it.
posted by lexicakes at 11:56 AM on May 7, 2010


Because no raesonable compromise can exist here. Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine.

No. By this reasoning, chemotherapy and radiation therapies would also not be part of modern medicine's armamentarium.
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on May 7, 2010 [18 favorites]


As described in the second link it seems...ok, if it's something that's being done by licensed doctors for screwed up families who insist or want FGC. It's all very logical, just apply a little pin prick in the hopes of preventing truly horrible damage to any girls.

It still scares the crap out of me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on May 7, 2010


How does one go about convincing a parent that a pinprick to the labia is as worthy as ripping out the clitoris, slicing off most of the outer labia and sewing the whole bleeding injury shut? It might take quite a smooth talker.
posted by fish tick at 11:58 AM on May 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


So many people take FGM to be absolute evil, regardless of the extent. Especially people who also call male circumcision "mutilation" now.

What do you think mutilation means? HINT: IT'S WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR BODY GETS CUT OFF.
posted by longsleeves at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


No. By this reasoning, chemotherapy and radiation therapies would also not be part of modern medicine's armamentarium.

Also see harm reduction strategies: methadone, needle banks, nicorette patches, etc.
posted by Rumple at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


In the US, all forms of FGC and FGM are banned by Federal law, and have been since 1996, I believe.

It's also worth noting that it is now illegal to transport girls out of the country in order to have their genitals mutilated.
posted by lexicakes at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2010


delmoi : Well, the proposal was to do this to "pre-pubescent girls", not infants. My understanding is that FGM is mostly done to non-infants. Also, are you totally against male circumcision as well? I suppose if you are, then at least that's consistent.

Yes to the latter, but okay, based on what you said, I can think of exactly one acceptible compromise...

Let the person choose to have it done (or not) at age 18. Without any pressure of ostracization from family or thier religion in general if they refuse. If they do so of their own free will solely based on their belief, I'll call it fair game.

Short of that, not even a scratch with a dull fingernail.


zarq : By this reasoning, chemotherapy and radiation therapies would also not be part of modern medicine's armamentarium.

Yeah, because curing someone of a fatal disease compares well with obeying superstition.
posted by pla at 12:00 PM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


If this saves teenage girls from getting dangerous underground major surgery, I'm all for it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because no reasonable compromise can exist here. Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine.

If I was a doctor and I knew that making a small, cosmetic nick was preventing a dangerous, underground procedure from being performed, I would view the matter identically to having to cut open a patient in order to remove a tumor: A little harm prevents much greater harm, and so is worth it. Hell, administering a vaccination creates a nick. This proposal strikes me as a very reasonable compromise that will actually reduce a lot of harm. Ideally, it would be unnecessary because nobody would want to have a clitoridectomy performed, but in the real world, I'll be satisfied with a practical step that reduces the number that occur.
posted by fatbird at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


What do you think mutilation means? HINT: IT'S WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR BODY GETS CUT OFF.

It also carries with it a very pejorative connotation of being unnecessary. Amputating a gangrenous foot is not considered mutilation.
posted by fatbird at 12:03 PM on May 7, 2010


If by "ritual nick" they mean something that doesn't do any real damage to the kid, and if that results in fewer cases of actual female genital mutilation of the sort illustrated in the policy statement, it would be very hard to argue against it.
posted by pracowity at 12:04 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


How prevalent is FGM in the US? I looked through the statement and I didn't even see them waving their hands at that number, which seems pretty irresponsible.

At first I thought this seemed kind of interesting, as a moral dilemma. If you can save enough girls from serious mutilation by toadying up to barbarism just a little bit, is it worthwhile? How many girls would have to be saved to tip the scales?

But this suggestion is for the US, and it's hard to believe that countries where FGM is rampant would look at this and think, hey, why don't we try that.
posted by gurple at 12:05 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because no raesonable compromise can exist here. Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine. -- pla
Do you consider male circumcision barbery as well? No one is talking about doing something that causes long term harm.
There's an explanation in the Salon article. -- cmgonzalez
Oh, I didn't click the 'continue reading' link. This is their actual proposal:
Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross, one of the statement's authors, compared it to an ear piercing. It wouldn't involve the removal of skin, instead it would be more like "a pin prick, a drop of blood." As she described it, the "nick" would be ritualistic and symbolic.
So it's not even "cutting" anyone. It's less extensive then mail circumcision.
What do you think mutilation means? HINT: IT'S WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR BODY GETS CUT OFF. -- longsleeves
Wouldn't that cover plastic surgery? The dictionary definition is: "Mutilation or maiming is an act or physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, usually without causing death." or "an injury that causes disfigurement or that deprives you of a limb or other important body part" And anyway, no one is even proposing cutting anything off here.
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on May 7, 2010


while I'm curious to know more about the nick and where and how it would be done - i looked through the PDF and realized that my roommate during my second year of college in bangalore had had type 3.

she was a registered nurse on her way to UK to join her doctor husband and found learning english and getting work experience in india (with its similarities to the british system) far more affordable a stop over than in the UK. I think she was somali but to be honest its been 25 years and that detail I cannot recall.

however, one thing she said, in our nightly "tell all and here's a chance to ask the curious questions" girly talks, has stayed with me. that her husband was enlightened and progressive so rather than do the ritual opening of his chaste wife (go check out type 3) on the wedding night (imagine the consummation of the wedding much less the bedsheets) he allowed to be done by a doctor weeks before the wedding so that she could heal.

imho, I'd rather this compromise that does not attempt to fight against centuries of belief and tradition (however icky they may be to our unaccustomed senses) than the perpetuation of the very worst an adult woman can go through

because she was a nurse she was able to share with me the challenges posed to her / other women for everything as basic as infection risk during menstrual cycles, and the keloids that affected childbirth etc

more I'd rather not say here and now but she shared me her whole experience during the time we shared a room, and I still have a memento she gave me when she left.

(goes off to find hugbucket full of laphroig)
posted by infini at 12:08 PM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


This proposal strikes me as a very reasonable compromise that will actually reduce a lot of harm.

Based on understanding that FGC is done to prevent female enjoyment of sex, thus keeping fertile women from straying, I don't see how anyone who wants to inflict this and has half a brain would go for it, because it is just a pin prick.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about the reasons for FGC, can't handle reading about it on Wikipedia.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:08 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


But this suggestion is for the US, and it's hard to believe that countries where FGM is rampant would look at this and think, hey, why don't we try that.

The problem they are trying to address is US citizens going elsewhere in order to get this procedure done – with incredibly damaging results. Therefore, they reason that a more benign and much safer surgery can be done in-house and reduce the rate of US-born female genital mutiliations
posted by Think_Long at 12:08 PM on May 7, 2010


Let the person choose to have it done (or not) at age 18. Without any pressure of ostracization from family or thier religion in general if they refuse.

The problem is that cultures affected by this do not believe that young women of 18 are qualified to decide what to do with their bodies, so that proposal would not work as a deterrent. Also, no sane 18 year old girl who has been raised in the US would choose to have it done, so the parents (who were probably not raised in the US) would want to get it out of the way before she's old enough to put up much of a fight. Rationalizing with people who practice this has to start on a much more primitive level, unfortunately.


while I'm curious to know more about the nick and where and how it would be done

From the Salon article: "It wouldn't involve the removal of skin, instead it would be more like "a pin prick, a drop of blood." As she described it, the "nick" would be ritualistic and symbolic."
posted by frobozz at 12:09 PM on May 7, 2010


If you can save enough girls from serious mutilation by toadying up to barbarism just a little bit, is it worthwhile? How many girls would have to be saved to tip the scales?

One.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:09 PM on May 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


Based on understanding that FGC is done to prevent female enjoyment of sex, thus keeping fertile women from straying, I don't see how anyone who wants to inflict this and has half a brain would go for it, because it is just a pin prick.

I think the understanding of FGM is that it is now more of a ritual than anything else. I’m sure that’s not always the case, but I wager that it is a huge part of it.
posted by Think_Long at 12:11 PM on May 7, 2010


I'm confused how a little nick is going to placate a person whose beliefs dictate that a part of a girl's genitals have to be cut off. Maybe I don't know much about the reasons a culture might demand female genital cutting, but my understanding was that the practice was meant to make sexual intercourse a painful or unpleasant prospect for a woman, so that she would remain faithful to her owner husband/father. If someone believes that, just drawing a little blood isn't going to satisfy them, is it?
posted by wabbittwax at 12:11 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, because curing someone of a fatal disease compares well with obeying superstition.

Your assertion about the way modern medicine works and how doctors treat their patients is absolutely wrong. So, I corrected you.

And yes, the AAP believes that harm reduction is a valid way to keep such procedures from going underground. They may be right, or what they're are proposing may be naive. But the principle seems sound, and there are probably analogues to abortion legalization.

Also, many cultures do FGC/M for non-religious reasons.
posted by zarq at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2010


fatbird. : I would view the matter identically to having to cut open a patient in order to remove a tumor: A little harm prevents much greater harm

I can completely appreciate that rationale, but it still ignores that the "greater harm" doesn't need to happen in the first place, whether or not we replace it with a lesser harm.



delmoi : Do you consider male circumcision barbery as well?

Yes I do - And I say that as someone who had it done as a baby (and before the snark starts, no, they didn't screw it up, I look about as normal as possible; that doesn't change the fact that, out of sheer ignorance (I can't fairly accuse them of bloodlust in the case of male circumcision), they stole a piece of my body in (indirect) conformity to the whims of a long-dead old man.


So it's not even "cutting" anyone. It's less extensive then mail circumcision.

Does it inflict pain unnecessarily (and most likely unwillingly)? Does it carry a greater risk of infection (even if a miniscule one) than not doing it?



frobozz : The problem is that cultures affected by this do not believe that young women of 18 are qualified to decide what to do with their bodies

That touches on a topic I can't safely discuss without invoking the wrath of the mods. Suffice it to say, yes, I agree, you've expressed the "real" problem here perfectly.
posted by pla at 12:14 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher Based on understanding that FGC is done to prevent female enjoyment of sex, thus keeping fertile women from straying, I don't see how anyone who wants to inflict this and has half a brain would go for it, because it is just a pin prick.

I think there's a spectrum of reasons to do it that go from what you identify here, to purely cultural/traditional reasons. As infini's post shows, there's a range of attitudes about FGM's usefulness and stringency. This policy would seem to be an attempt to pick off the cultural/traditional side of the motivation.
posted by fatbird at 12:15 PM on May 7, 2010


If this worked, sure, but it doesn't seem like they did the statistical analysis to prove it. Pla, catering to superstition is better than having parents do this to their child at home with a knife.

The better analogy might be the surgeons who remove a healthy limb on a patient with Body Integrity Identity Disorder, because they know the patient is going to self-amputate at high risk otherwise.

Also, Methadone is a harm reduction strategy?
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:16 PM on May 7, 2010


Because no reasonable compromise can exist here.

Huh. "reasonable" seems to have a new meaning since I last checked.

A small cut from a trained medical professional, in a sanitized setting, possibly with anesthetic, vs. full mutilation from god knows who with whatever tools are available?

Is the whole idea messed up? Yes. But the practical question is, what's more important: being right or women being alive with the least amount of damage?
posted by yeloson at 12:16 PM on May 7, 2010


Maybe we should allow organizations to perform "honor maimings" - to satisfy cultural requirements and hopefully stave off honor killings and other honor-based punishments.

Allowing a doctor to maim a woman surgically would undoubtedly be more humane than acid throwing, stoning, and the like.

Any other superstition-based cultural idiosyncrasies we can propose lesser versions of?
posted by overthrow at 12:17 PM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


pla I can completely appreciate that rationale, but it still ignores that the "greater harm" doesn't need to happen in the first place, whether or not we replace it with a lesser harm.

You're missing that point: It's not that it has to happen, it's that it does and will continue to happen.

What you're suggesting instead of this compromise is that everyone simply abandon the old, now-considered-barbaric practices. It just doesn't work that way, for the same reason that "just say no to drugs" didn't work.
posted by fatbird at 12:19 PM on May 7, 2010


If you can save enough girls from serious mutilation by toadying up to barbarism just a little bit, is it worthwhile? How many girls would have to be saved to tip the scales?

One.


I agree, actually, but only taking the long view on "saved". It's imaginable that preserving this practice in a non-damaging, token way would mean that the real cutting would seem more acceptable and therefore persist longer.

People who would not have mutilated their daughters and who would normally have the moral high ground to denounce those who do, may instead decide to make the ritual nick, and begin to see themselves as less opposed to the practice.
posted by gurple at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Although I sympathize with the zero tolerance folks in the thread, I think the proposed approach may be more realistic (assuming that you could even get people who practice FGM to go along with it). The harm reduction analogy is a good one. Furthermore, I wonder how those who are against any form of "ritualistic nick" feel about ear piercing, which the description in Salon makes it sound similar to. There are a lot of prepubescent and even infant girls out there with pierced ears and to some extent it is cultural. A lot of people roll their eyes at babies with pierced ears, but no one really gets all bent out of shape over it, at least not where I work.
posted by TedW at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2010


zarq : Your assertion about the way modern medicine works and how doctors treat their patients is absolutely wrong. So, I corrected you.

Name any other situation (male circumcision excluded as the same basic idea) where modern medicine deliberately causes needless injury to a non-consenting patient?

Cosmetic surgery involves consent (and even desire). Chemo and other "damaging" therapies treat something far worse.

At best, you could defend that a few accepted treatments cause somewhat more damage than strictly necessary, due to practical or financial concerns - But as the patient, you always have the right to pay more for the "better" procedure.
posted by pla at 12:22 PM on May 7, 2010


BTW, Nicky Clitoris would be an excellent name for either an adult porn star or bohemian performance artist.
posted by markkraft at 12:22 PM on May 7, 2010


ignores that the "greater harm" doesn't need to happen in the first place

"Need to" is irrelevant. If nicking reduced the rate at which FGM happens to a given practitioners patients, then from a least harm approach it's therapy it's the correct decision. I'm pretty sure parents are going to do whatever they were going to do before, nick or not, but it's worth floating the idea long enough to see if they can back it up with some kind of statistical model.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:23 PM on May 7, 2010


That touches on a topic I can't safely discuss without invoking the wrath of the mods.

There is no topic that I've ever seen invoke "the wrath of the mods" on Metafilter. But people sure do get their posts and comments deleted when what they choose to say about a topic is really offensive, in tone or content.
posted by bearwife at 12:24 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


In case anyone is interested in this info...

Jewish circumcision is no longer accepted universally by Jews, but is still very commonly performed by the vast majority. There is a very small Reform rejectionist movement which chooses instead to perform a hatafat dam brit (הטפת דם ברית) on their children, rather than removing their foreskins. This procedure is done on converts who were already circumcised prior to conversion. A single drop of blood is drawn, by pinprick. An even smaller group of Reform Jews refuses to perform circumcisions altogether.

It seems unlikely, but if circumcisions were to be banned in the US, we might see Jews on a wider scale adopting a modified version of the hatafat dam brit.
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on May 7, 2010


A question that activists face all the time:

Do you want to be pure?

Or do you want to change the world?

Either answer is okay, but bear in mind that you've made the choice.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:25 PM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


What do you think mutilation means? HINT: IT'S WHEN A PIECE OF YOUR BODY GETS CUT OFF.

It also carries with it a very pejorative connotation of being unnecessary. Amputating a gangrenous foot is not considered mutilation.
posted by fatbird at 3:03 PM on May 7 [+] [!]


Amputating a foreskin or a clitoris is unnecessary!
posted by longsleeves at 12:26 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree, actually, but only taking the long view on "saved". It's imaginable that preserving this practice in a non-damaging, token way would mean that the real cutting would seem more acceptable and therefore persist longer.

People who would not have mutilated their daughters and who would normally have the moral high ground to denounce those who do, may instead decide to make the ritual nick, and begin to see themselves as less opposed to the practice.


This. There is no room for compromise with this sort of inhumanity.

I kind of support the idea of having this procedure on the books, if only as a method to take children away from parents who express an interest in having it done.
posted by kafziel at 12:28 PM on May 7, 2010


It seems like alternative ritualistic 'pricking' methods are already being promoted in some African countries:


In many cultures
, FGC serves as an initiation rite, and any efforts to eradicate it must take this into consideration. Some of the most successful eradication efforts have taken place in areas where FGC was replaced with "initiation without cutting" programs whereas a girl still goes through some initiation rites but this time, without any blood.

Alternative rituals are currently being implemented in countries like Ghana and Kenya, that do not include any bloodletting. A girl will still undergoes the celebrations and the rituals that usually accompany the circumcision ritual , however, the procedure itself is either replaced with a small pricking elsewhere on the body to let out a small drop of water, or bloodletting is completely done away with.

From the same article:
"In order to minimize the risk of the transmission of the viruses, some countries like Egypt made it illegal for FGC to be practiced by any other practitioners than trained doctors and nurses in hospitals. While this seems to be a more humane way to deal with FGC and try to reduce its health risks, more tissue is apt to be taken away due to the lack of struggle by the child if anesthesia is used." [emphasis mine]
posted by frobozz at 12:28 PM on May 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Name any other situation (male circumcision excluded as the same basic idea) where modern medicine deliberately causes needless injury to a non-consenting patient?
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2010


There's a ton of instinctive rejection going on here, but seriously, this doesn't sound like a terrible compromise. It appears likely to prevent permanent injury while inflicting temporary pain which the girl will neither remember nor have any evidence of later in life. She'll heal completely.

I understand and tend to agree with the opposition to the actual way the practice is traditionally carried out, but the argument against that can't be made against this sort of "ritual nick," because the harm is 1) de minimis, and 2) temporary. You can't repurpose arguments based on permanent disfigurement and serious health consequences and use them against a pin-prick. So what's left is an argument against what this sort of thing is supposed to symbolize, which moves us into different territory entirely. All of a sudden one isn't arguing against the excesses of traditional culture but against traditional culture as such. This is a far more imperialistic position and one which is significantly less neutral.

I mean, most MeFites are probably okay with that, but lets at least recognize that that's what's going on here.
posted by valkyryn at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Based on understanding that FGC is done to prevent female enjoyment of sex, thus keeping fertile women from straying, I don't see how anyone who wants to inflict this and has half a brain would go for it, because it is just a pin prick.
That's like saying male circumcision is done to prevent male masturbation. Is that what you think is happening to millions of male babies in the US every year? Obviously not. Or is it impossible to imagine that people could be doing this for anything other then the worst possible intentions?
Does it inflict pain unnecessarily (and most likely unwillingly)? Does it carry a greater risk of infection (even if a miniscule one) than not doing it?
The whole point is that it reduces the aggregate risk of infection by reducing the chances that the girl will have it done on the street, or being sent to another country to have it done.
Maybe we should allow organizations to perform "honor maimings" - to satisfy cultural requirements and hopefully stave off honor killings and other honor-based punishments.
...
Allowing a doctor to maim a woman surgically would undoubtedly be more humane than acid throwing, stoning, and the like.
Yes, a pin prick is just like having your face disfigured, or your head cut off. Totally. I mean, they're all done by Muslims right? Same thing. (Also acid attacks are crimes in Islamic countries, and the perpetrators are prosecuted. In Iran, if a man does an acid attack on a woman, they can end up with acid splashed in their face as a punishment)
posted by delmoi at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2010


sorry, those middle 2 paragraphs were meant to be in quotes
posted by frobozz at 12:31 PM on May 7, 2010


Name any other situation (male circumcision excluded as the same basic idea) where modern medicine deliberately causes needless injury to a non-consenting patient?

I'm not entirely sure why I should have to. You're not arguing in good faith here.

You made a sweeping declaration, which was wrong. So, I corrected you. Now you're giving me totally different parameters so you can try and give your original statement some nuance.

You don't need me for that. If you have something to say, then do it.
posted by zarq at 12:34 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree, actually, but only taking the long view on "saved". It's imaginable that preserving this practice in a non-damaging, token way would mean that the real cutting would seem more acceptable and therefore persist longer.

People who would not have mutilated their daughters and who would normally have the moral high ground to denounce those who do, may instead decide to make the ritual nick, and begin to see themselves as less opposed to the practice.


Sure, but by the same token, people might embrace this who were leaning towards mutilation given the options of mutilation or nothing at all. I can also see this becoming its own tradition that people embrace and use to look down their noses at people practicing more severe forms of FGM.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:38 PM on May 7, 2010


All of a sudden one isn't arguing against the excesses of traditional culture but against traditional culture as such. This is a far more imperialistic position and one which is significantly less neutral.

This.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:40 PM on May 7, 2010


There's a lot of cultural relativism going on here. If medical professionals felt that a white man was capable of mutilating his daughter in the manner described, they'd just take his kids. Which is exactly what they should do.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:41 PM on May 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Name any other situation (male circumcision excluded as the same basic idea) where modern medicine deliberately causes needless injury to a non-consenting patient?

Well I hope if I'm stroked out and non-communicative, they don't avoid giving me coumadin just because I'm unconscious and can't consent. I suppose I should put that in my advance directives just to cover my bases.

As far as needless goes, that is unproven either way, but the conversation pediatricians should be having regarding their patient base is not the same one that CPS and public policy advocates should be having.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:43 PM on May 7, 2010


If medical professionals felt that a white man was capable of mutilating his daughter in the manner described, they'd just take his kids.

They'd only have grounds after the fact.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:45 PM on May 7, 2010


It's also worth noting that it is now illegal to transport girls out of the country in order to have their genitals mutilated.

Excellent. How do they enforce it, though?
posted by zarq at 12:46 PM on May 7, 2010


Kazfael This. There is no room for compromise with this sort of inhumanity.

So pragmatically, you're in favour of FGM continuing in basements and on trips to Egypt?
posted by fatbird at 12:51 PM on May 7, 2010


Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross, one of the statement's authors, compared it to an ear piercing. It wouldn't involve the removal of skin, instead it would be more like "a pin prick, a drop of blood." As she described it, the "nick" would be ritualistic and symbolic.

If this was an acceptable compromise to people who want it done for religious reasons, why would having a doctor do it be necessary at all? Why wouldn't they already be doing it that way themselves, and how does having a doctor do it make it a more meaningful act from a religious perspective? I don't get it.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:52 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is this where I get to point out that religion makes people crazy? I mean, we're talking about slicing open the genitals of babies just a little bit to appease nutjobs afflicted with virulent mind diseases from thousands of years ago.

Every time I start getting worked up over stuff like this, I just remember my favorite quote:
"If you could reason with religious people, there wouldn't be religious people."
and eat a sandwich on the back porch instead of having another apoplectic aneurysm. Mmmm, sandwich.
posted by Aquaman at 12:55 PM on May 7, 2010


Also, it occurs to me that since the modified, less extreme rituals (outlined in the article I linked to) are already being performed at least to some degree in Africa, these parents might have heard of them already and asked their pediatricians to perform something like this specifically for the purpose of placating families back home who might otherwise put pressure on them to have the girls sent back so they can perform the full-on FGM. It's a way for immigrant parents (who are conceivably on the more liberal end of the cultural spectrum) to tell the grandparents: it's cool, she's not shaming the family, we've got it covered.

If medical professionals felt that a white man was capable of mutilating his daughter in the manner described, they'd just take his kids.

I think if there is certain knowledge that anyone in the US is planning on performing FGM on a child that child should be removed from their care. But how do you know who are planning on it? Other than closely watching and monitoring all families from certain cultural backgrounds, which is obviously...well.



If this was an acceptable compromise to people who want it done for religious reasons, why would having a doctor do it be necessary at all?


The parents might feel more safe having it performed under a doctor's care. Despite having monstrous beliefs, they are not themselves necessarily monsters, and probably genuinely have what they believe to be the best interests of their daughter at heart.
posted by frobozz at 12:55 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


In principle, I agree there’s no compromise. In practice? Someone’s going to have to go bell the cat.
Putting a gun to people’s head doesn't always work. There were abortions before it was made legal.
So is the goal here to alleviate needless suffering or to inflict will? Same question I usually have for pro-life folks who adamantly favor abstinence only, etc. You want to prevent the actual problem or enforce a perspective?
Nothing wrong with having this and the threat of prosecution as components of discouraging FGM

Ritual nick sounds like a toothpick mouthed guy who’d do this with a switchblade.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:57 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every once in a while, I get the feeling I am on the wrong planet. Like now.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:08 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I sympathize pretty strongly with the zero tolerance position here. The fact is though a pin prick vs. full blown operation/mutational is a pretty strong argument. Will it stop all FGC? No. Just as legalizing pot wouldn't stop some people from taking meth. It very well might lessen full on FGC. It's a hard choice, between a well defensible, morally clear "absolutely not!", which does jack-all in actually mitigating anything, and the murky, ambivalent position of trying to turn it into a largely symbolic routine.

there is a long tradition of "taking the sting out of" religious rituals by doing similar things. It doesn't make the underlying reasons any nicer, but it does mitigate the physical damage done, and is easier to recover from.
posted by edgeways at 1:21 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


valkyryn : So what's left is an argument against what this sort of thing is supposed to symbolize

Subjugation of women? A pact made between your great^46 grandfather and the voices in his head? The idea that sex and anything to do with it counts as "dirty"?

If opposing those makes me imperialistic, sign me up for the Roman Legion.


zarq : You made a sweeping declaration, which was wrong

Did I?

pla:   Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine.
zarq: By this reasoning, chemotherapy and radiation therapies would also not be part of modern medicine's armamentarium.
pla:   Yeah, because curing someone of a fatal disease compares well with obeying superstition.
zarq: Your assertion about the way modern medicine works and how doctors treat their patients is absolutely wrong.
pla:   Name any other situation ... where modern medicine deliberately causes needless injury to a non-consenting patient?
zarq: I'm not entirely sure why I should have to. You're not arguing in good faith here.


I still don't see it, unless you somehow read that first line from me as "doctors don't ever harm patients, even as a side effect". Which, BTW, it doesn't say.
posted by pla at 1:24 PM on May 7, 2010


People who practice FGM often see it for the child's gain. True that a 'nick' might be seen as an implicit statement of approval, but that's also a slippery slope arguement, like suggesting that pro-circumcision would lead to more castration.

The medical establishment already does harm for psychological satisfaction. Cosmetic surgery, motivated purely by vanity, is acceped. Minors can and do get plastic surgery with parental consent, involving much more drastic modifications. If a 16 year old with a genetically unfortunate nose can get it resized or shaped and enjoy a sweet 16 bash, than why can't an 11 year old have someone briefly poke her before her family throws her a "Now you're a woman!" party?
posted by Phalene at 1:25 PM on May 7, 2010


Where were these people during the holocaust? We could have avoided so much unpleasantness.

"Now let's be reasonable, everyone. Of course we all have strong feelings about this whole exterminating the Jews question, but cooler heads must prevail. Now Mr. Hitler, you want to kill all the Jews. And Jews, you don't want Mr. Hitler killing any of you. Of course we can't have it both ways, now can we? Ha ha. But surely there must be some workable middle ground. What say we let Mr. Hitler kill half the Jews, and he promises not to kill the other half at all? No one gets everything they want, but everyone gets something. Surely that's a reasonable compromise, yes?"
posted by Naberius at 1:25 PM on May 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


The parents might feel more safe having it performed under a doctor's care.

But we're just talking about "a pin prick". The only reason I can see for suggesting a doctor do it is the hope that it will provide some sort of "authority" to make it seem like a meaningful alternative. If that were the case, then surely the rough equivalent of a mohel would be more meaningful. It just seems like a change in practice that would have to come from within the community to really take root.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:28 PM on May 7, 2010


That's like saying male circumcision is done to prevent male masturbation. Is that what you think is happening to millions of male babies in the US every year? Obviously not. Or is it impossible to imagine that people could be doing this for anything other then the worst possible intentions?

Preventing male masturbation is actually the reason why circumcision originally became popular in America. So yes: millions of male babies are circumcised in the US every year, according to a custom which was originally intended to prevent male masturbation.

I think it's obvious that most non-religious/non-cultural American circumcisions are done simply due to tradition -- the father wanting his son to look like him, or the doctor pushing it because "that's what's done" -- but it's still worth noting that this sort of anti-sex "logic" is the source of that tradition.
posted by vorfeed at 1:28 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't this the same community where one of the strongest arguments in favour of legalizing abortion is that criminalizing it just drives it underground where it's much more harmful? If communities who practice FGM run into your attitude at the hospital, it means that fathers will continue to do it in the basement while the girl's mother and grandmother, similarly mutilated, will hold her down.
posted by fatbird at 11:48 AM on May 7 [20 favorites +] [!]


That's a ridiculous comparison. There are understandable reasons for abortion. There are none for genital mutilation of children.
posted by Anything at 1:32 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Subjugation of women? A pact made between your great^46 grandfather and the voices in his head? The idea that sex and anything to do with it counts as "dirty"?

Yes, I'm sure if you asked them, this is exactly how parents would explain what they're doing to their little girls.

Are you forgetting the part about how most parents love their children? Even parents of different cultures?
posted by small_ruminant at 1:38 PM on May 7, 2010


pla, please take a breath and calm down.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:39 PM on May 7, 2010


If the "pinprick" solution saves the bodies of more women than refusing to allow the "pinprick" solution, then to refuse doctors to allow the "pinprick" solution is to prioritize one's own vain interest in ideological purity over the actual bodies of young women.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:40 PM on May 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


That's a ridiculous comparison. There are understandable reasons for abortion. There are none for genital mutilation of children.

My point was that we're happy to make the harm reduction argument in the case of abortion, when most, if not all, people here are not in favour of abortion itself, we just recognize that it's going to happen and that the practical cost of principled zero tolerance stance is hideously high. FGM comes along and suddenly we're willing to accept little girls mutilated in basements, though?
posted by fatbird at 1:42 PM on May 7, 2010


Sticherbeast: I can see that reasoning, but there's a kind of hostage situation mentality that I don't like about it. I've got this gut feeling that you're not supposed to give in to people that threaten to harm others. I'm not prepared to trust someone who is willing to mutilate a young woman's body, so why would I try to meet them halfway?

Saying, "We must do a little ritualized harm to someone to prevent a greater harm from X." seems strange when it's X you should be going after and incarcerating. I guess it's harder when X is a whole community and not a couple mobsters or something.

I'm glad I don't have to make any of these decisions.
posted by ODiV at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


@Naberius : Your analogy would perhaps begin to make sense if you were to go from killing Jews to hitting them in the knee with a bat. It does not stand to reason that this is about allowing 'mutilation' of some females' genitals but not all (as opposed to allowing the mutilation of all). It is a form of mitigation from an absolute mutilation to something far less grave. In other words, it's an alternative. There are far more sane ways of arguing against the concept but by all means, invoke the ultimate evil of the Hitler boogeyman with an analogy that holds no relationship.
posted by rob paxon at 1:51 PM on May 7, 2010


ODiV I'm not prepared to trust someone who is willing to mutilate a young woman's body, so why would I try to meet them halfway?

The thing to understand is that the people who practice FGM don't think of it as mutilation. This isn't a case of giving in to someone's threats, it's a case of someone with a relatively sincere belief (that I agree is totally wrongheaded and profoundly immoral) that it's the right thing to do. It's not a hostage situation because there's no hostage taker, and treating it like it is, is as likely to engender a traditionalist "dig in" response as a reconsideration of values.

It's a situation where a community needs to be engaged and offered alternatives, not treated like criminals.
posted by fatbird at 1:55 PM on May 7, 2010



Also, it occurs to me that since the modified, less extreme rituals (outlined in the article I linked to) are already being performed at least to some degree in Africa, these parents might have heard of them already and asked their pediatricians to perform something like this specifically for the purpose of placating families back home who might otherwise put pressure on them to have the girls sent back so they can perform the full-on FGM. It's a way for immigrant parents (who are conceivably on the more liberal end of the cultural spectrum) to tell the grandparents: it's cool, she's not shaming the family, we've got it covered.


yes exactly

else you're ostracized and bring shame to hte family, clan, tribe

doesn't matter what it is that brings shame, could be a divorce in a conservative culture, could be as simple as not being a virgin on your wedding night, could be not being "adult woman" due to not having undergone the FGC

the nick is a workable compromise until you are able to spread western civ and its enlightenment and equal and meritorious treatment of womankind throughout the world right?

i'm just sayin..

its easy to talk when you have the privilege of a highly individualized society with respect of the rights and privacy of the singular... most communities outside western civ aren't like that. peer pressure, social customs, shame and respect and all of these mix up togehter into complex miasma of society and culture

i'm not saying I agree or disagree

I'm saying this - seek to understand before the judgement. it will be hard to change these cultures and customs and age old thinking, they're less exposed to fast moving media and sometimes in this fast moving world those are things people hold on to far more tightly as a defense against the globalization of consumer culture

*grar grar complex complicated churning thoughts not forming clear words or thoughts grar*

fwiw - i was considered very old at age 6 when I first had my ears pierced with a sharpened end of a gold wire and chunk of ginger root - the right ear got infected, so on and so forth etc

this...

All of a sudden one isn't arguing against the excesses of traditional culture but against traditional culture as such. This is a far more imperialistic position and one which is significantly less neutral.

This.

posted by infini at 1:57 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


then to refuse doctors to allow the "pinprick" solution is to prioritize one's own vain interest in ideological purity over the actual bodies of young women.

Yes. This is a liberal version of "abstinence-only education" head-in-the-sand approach.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on May 7, 2010


Dr. Lainie Friedman Ross, one of the statement's authors, compared it to an ear piercing. It wouldn't involve the removal of skin, instead it would be more like "a pin prick, a drop of blood."

All all you guys who are massively overreacting even reading this article or do you just have really really irresistible and strong yet extremely selective principles
posted by tehloki at 2:01 PM on May 7, 2010


My point was that we're happy to make the harm reduction argument in the case of abortion, when most, if not all, people here are not in favour of abortion itself, we just recognize that it's going to happen and that the practical cost of principled zero tolerance stance is hideously high. FGM comes along and suddenly we're willing to accept little girls mutilated in basements, though?

I get where you're coming from, but I think an even more clear comparison would be drawn to needle exchange programs. Certain groups oppose these programs because they view it as enabling harmful, immoral, deservedly illegal behavior. This stance is myopic and misguided for several reasons. It privileges ideological purity over practical reality. It pretends that needle exchange programs cannot coexist with programs meant to rehabilitate current addicts and to prevent future addiction. It pretends that heroin addicts can be easily swayed by others into not being addicts - and if those addicts should continue to make the foolish and immoral choice to remain addicts, then, well, they deserve what they get.

If this "pinprick" solution really is more effective than refusing to allow the "pinprick" solution, then opposition to it is even more silly than opposition to needle exchange programs. At least with needle exchange programs, there is the idea that addicts themselves are responsible for their own harm. This is a foolish and malicious idea, but it is at least true that the addicts themselves will be harmed if they use dirty needles. However, with regard to FGM, it is the young girls, and not the adults, who will be the ones who suffer at the altar of ideological purity.

Sticherbeast: I can see that reasoning, but there's a kind of hostage situation mentality that I don't like about it. I've got this gut feeling that you're not supposed to give in to people that threaten to harm others. I'm not prepared to trust someone who is willing to mutilate a young woman's body, so why would I try to meet them halfway?

It is a kind of hostage situation, and you're free to not like it! However, many unpleasant things are true. I'm sure we all agree that if we could hit a button and eradicate wholly the urge to conduct FGM, we would do so, but we can't. So, we have to make do with what actually helps people.

I keep inserting conditional language for a reason. I don't know for a fact that these ritual nicks will prevent FGM. If they do work, then it should be done, for all the reason I have laid out. If they don't work, then that's sad, and the project should be abandoned.

Saying, "We must do a little ritualized harm to someone to prevent a greater harm from X." seems strange when it's X you should be going after and incarcerating. I guess it's harder when X is a whole community and not a couple mobsters or something.

We already do go after X and incarcerate them when we can. The strategies can coexist. And yes, the fact that FGM is part of a community's culture makes it hard to just tell them that they flat-out can't do it. Yet another unpleasant thing that is true.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:01 PM on May 7, 2010


Either a doctor works for the good of their patient, or they don't. Compromising in a way that harms the patient, even only a little, completely subverts the purpose of modern medicine.

I still don't see it, unless you somehow read that first line from me as "doctors don't ever harm patients, even as a side effect". Which, BTW, it doesn't say.

There are some treatments for cancer which do quite a bit of harm to patients in order to lengthen their lifespans. They do not cure the cancer or maintain its status quo, but simply retard its progress. And often, the side effects are worse than the symptoms of the disease.

You cannot say with any degree of accuracy that harming patients "subverts the purpose of modern medicine." In many cases, "harm" is not an absolute, neither is what is "good for the patient." Can any treatment that has a supposedly positive short term outcome but is ultimately harmful or even fatal to a patient in the long term be characterized as "good?"

I realize this is a rather simplistic explanation. If you would like me to give examples, I can do so.
posted by zarq at 2:02 PM on May 7, 2010


FGM comes along and suddenly we're willing to accept little girls mutilated in basements, though?

No. We can impose much heavier deterrents on genital mutilation than most people would be willing to impose in the case of abortion. The parents need to know that they will eventually end up with heavy jailtime and damages if they decide to cut up their daughter.
posted by Anything at 2:03 PM on May 7, 2010


If male circumcision were banned here, it is very likely that Jews from the various sects would found and maintain an underground Mohel network.

An underground Mohel network, complete with Mohel tunnels? I think you're making a mountain out of a Mo-hel.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:06 PM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


No. We can impose much heavier deterrents on genital mutilation than most people would be willing to impose in the case of abortion. The parents need to know that they will eventually end up with heavy jailtime and damages if they decide to cut up their daughter.

Can you think of another case where a heavy handed, zero tolerance enforcement policy has led to an improvement? Has the War on Drugs improved things?
posted by fatbird at 2:08 PM on May 7, 2010


No. We can impose much heavier deterrents on genital mutilation than most people would be willing to impose in the case of abortion. The parents need to know that they will eventually end up with heavy jailtime and damages if they decide to cut up their daughter.

Scenario A: girl has FGM committed against her in a basement, her parents are thrown in prison.
Scenario B: girl has a sanitary ritual nick with no lasting damage, her parents are not in prison.

You prefer A?

Which do you suppose the girl would prefer?
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:09 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


To pla: Methadone is another good example. It was mentioned upthread. As are immunosuppressant drugs. The former is merely a socially acceptably addictive drug that often has similar side effects, as compared to the unacceptable one(s) it is substituting for. The latter exposes patients to potentially life-threatening risks in order to treat or disease conditions.

I am unsure if methadone is used on young children who cannot give consent. But I know for a fact that immunosuppressant drugs are.
posted by zarq at 2:14 PM on May 7, 2010


My ritual nick is "Choronzon Cavendish". I cannot disclose where or under what circs. it is employed.
posted by everichon at 2:17 PM on May 7, 2010


Oh.
posted by everichon at 2:18 PM on May 7, 2010


I don't understand cutting body parts off in the name of any religion. If God/Yahweh/Allah/Whoever didn't want them on there, why'd He put them there in the first place?
posted by kirkaracha at 2:21 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


If God/Yahweh/Allah/Whoever didn't want them on there, why'd He put them there in the first place?

Amusement?
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:27 PM on May 7, 2010


I'm having trouble with the viewpoint that this could be anything *other* than a good alternative to a horrifically destructive practice.

If I were ten years old and I knew that there were huge numbers of people that believed so self-righteously that my family's culture was in all ways wrong that they were willing to have me go through a horrible, bloody mutilation in a basement rather than go to a nice clean doctor's office and get a *nick* for the sake of a principle, I would be hating those people. I might be mad at my family, I might not (because I know that they try to have my best interests at heart, no matter how wrong-headed they may be), but these people who know that this is horribly wrong and painful and unnecessary, yet are STILL unwilling to provide this alternative way to respect our culture without mutilating me...they would be hated with all the hate my ten year old self could muster. (It wouldn't matter if due to these same people that three or four generations later, these people won and the FGM just somehow stopped entirely. That still wouldn't help me or my children.)
posted by wending my way at 2:27 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Can you think of another case where a heavy handed, zero tolerance enforcement policy has led to an improvement?"

This is less like drugs and more like rape or assault.

I choose to take drugs (or not). I choose to get an abortion (or not). These girls and women do not choose to be held down and mutilated.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:28 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now let's be reasonable, everyone. Of course we all have strong feelings about this whole exterminating the Jews question, but cooler heads must prevail. Now Mr. Hitler, you want to kill all the Jews. And Jews, you don't want Mr. Hitler killing any of you. Of course we can't have it both ways, now can we? Ha ha. But surely there must be some workable middle ground. What say we let Mr. Hitler kill half the Jews, and he promises not to kill the other half at all? No one gets everything they want, but everyone gets something. Surely that's a reasonable compromise, yes?"

You know, considering that a lot of posters in this thread have spoken favorably of forcibly removing one of the defining gestures of Judaism, and others have essentially said that religion is just some mass psychosis that deserves no respect for the lunatic things it does, I'm not sure that this glib comparison is appropriate.

But, then, every time female genital mutilation comes up, a lot of people want to make it about male circumcision, and no amount of pleading will ever cause anything else to happen, and even if you make a case that the two aren't really all that comparable, and, even if they were, the subject of the thread is explicitly FGM, and could we please stick to that subject, then the whole discussion becomes about how male circumcision is or is not like FMG, and the subject of FGM goes by the wayside once again for an extend period.

Which is why I typically steer clear of these threads, and will see my way out of it now, but to say one thing: Can I please request that the mass murder of my family and ancestors not be used as a jokey parallel in this discussion? It would be much appreciated.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:29 PM on May 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


Can I please request that the mass murder of my family and ancestors not be used as a jokey parallel in this discussion? It would be much appreciated.

Seconding this.
posted by zarq at 2:36 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


girls want to be considered women in their own cultures, to be worthy of mating adn courtship, to be respected as matriarchs with prideful standing and status.

who hasn't argued taht 10 year olds shouldn't be wearing thongs?

Scenario A: girl has FGM committed against her in a basement, her parents are thrown in prison.
Scenario B: girl has a sanitary ritual nick with no lasting damage, her parents are not in prison.

You prefer A?

Which do you suppose the girl would prefer?
posted by Sticherbeast


less inflammatory version - ear piercing. customarily done with a needle and thread and the thread tied up to hold the hole open or a twig of neem inserted usually by age 3

mom suddenly realizes that unpierced 6 year old is off to grandpa's to stay and rushes to the local chinese jeweller - at least gold wire was more hygienic though earrings still hang funny on the right ear. they closed up promptly after the infection took hold. i was back outside teh country and didn't have earrings till 12 adn almost puberty when we tried again. no go, that right ear protested, with pus this time. finally, on graduating from high school when it was time to go back to the motherland again. by this time, modern technology had brought the fancy "painless" gun that pierces ears... et voila wonky holes in my ears filled with jewellery only on special occasions

;p

you see? I much prefer A
posted by infini at 2:39 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thirding it.
posted by bearwife at 2:40 PM on May 7, 2010


Sticherbeast : Which do you suppose the girl would prefer?

C - Religion confines itself to matters of the soul, and medicine confines itself to preservation of a healthy body.
posted by pla at 2:42 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Scenario A: girl has FGM committed against her in a basement, her parents are thrown in prison.
Scenario B: girl has a sanitary ritual nick with no lasting damage, her parents are not in prison.

You prefer A?

Which do you suppose the girl would prefer?


Those who are inclined to cut off their daugther's labia and clitoris are not going to sign up for a pin prick. As for those who settle for a pin prick, I wouldn't call for more than a moderate fine, which is mostly a moot point since I suppose they won't be caught. In any case we should not participate in violent rituals.
posted by Anything at 2:43 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, but this is Earth, not planet Pla.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:44 PM on May 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


sees its time to depart planet Pla

*poof*
posted by infini at 2:45 PM on May 7, 2010


infini : mom suddenly realizes that unpierced 6 year old is off to grandpa's to stay and rushes to the local chinese jeweller

I honestly can't tell whether you mean that as an argument "for" or "against". Just a little pin prick, about the most tame BM procedure you could possibly have done, and your mother even opted for a more hygienic method than the traditional method...

And you got infected.

Why does it not inspire me with confidence, considering a similar level of damage done to a portion of the anatomy that tends to stay warm, humid, and in darkness 23+ hours of the day?


sees its time to depart planet Pla

Ah, I'll take that as a "for".
posted by pla at 2:50 PM on May 7, 2010


Religion confines itself to matters of the soul, and medicine confines itself to preservation of a healthy body.

Can't say I disagree...but what do you think the likelihood is of this happening within your lifetime? Your children's lifetime? Their children's lifetime?
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:51 PM on May 7, 2010


This is less like drugs and more like rape or assault.

I completely agree with you that it's far more like rape or assault.

I choose to take drugs (or not).

Yeah, but we're not talking about people who can choose for themselves here.

There are people in this world that would say I'm doing great harm to my children by having them vaccinated. Some are even here on MeFi. Vaccines are not always given consensually. My kids are too young to give consent, and if we're going to be completely honest about it, a given vaccination's efficacy, value and harmlessness may still be under debate in scientific circles. My kids got the rotavirus vaccine last year. Long-term studies on it haven't been completed yet.

I agree with you that drugs aren't necessarily a good example. But not for reasons of consent.
posted by zarq at 2:53 PM on May 7, 2010


infinitywaltz : Can't say I disagree...but what do you think the likelihood is of this happening within your lifetime? Your children's lifetime? Their children's lifetime?

In my lifetime? About as close to zero as matters.

I can at least hold out hope for the future, though.
posted by pla at 2:54 PM on May 7, 2010


good thing I continue to inhabit the rest of the site, Pla, you will not co-opt my thoughts or words to fit with and suit your righteous box that encapsulates your thinking

when I was 6, the WHO hadn't even brought vaccinations for infants/children to my birth country. go after them first

I will not answer on this thread again, but I am pposting this comment for future reference that I do not endorse FGM or other activities, however, I don't endorse imperialistic thinking and lack of comprehension regarding traditional customs and beliefs

my last comment was flippant sure but it does not imply anything that pla holds to be the "right path" per the comments made in this thread.

gracias
posted by infini at 2:57 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rage occludes logic, pla.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:59 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


pla In my lifetime? About as close to zero as matters.

I can at least hold out hope for the future, though.


So you acknowledge that the purely principled position will almost certainly not be realized anytime soon, and yet you oppose a short term measure that would likely prevent at least some mutilations from occurring, and would help hasten the end of the practice in general?
posted by fatbird at 3:02 PM on May 7, 2010


On the one hand I very much sympathize with the no compromise crowd. Compromise, to my mind, seems to indicate some sort of tacit approval. In my ideal world the vile scum who mutilate young girls would be beaten to death with baseball bats by an all lesbian softball team.

That said, I can see the argument that the "git tuff" approach I so deride when it comes to the War on Drugs is unlikely to do much good here.

On the third hand I note that the times when I deride the git tuff approach are when the "crimes" involved have no victims and shouldn't even be crimes.

If a culture decided that sacrificing the occasional baby to their gods was an essential part of their culture, that a failure to do so would bring shame to their surviving children, etc I doubt we'd be taking a conciliatory approach. The git tuff approach would be rightly, and wholeheartedly, embraced.

I do question the assertion that the people doing this to their daughters are motivated by thoughts of what's best for the girl, rather than by thoughts of being shamed by their society. The same cultures which practice FGM also feature a general devaluation of women, more frequent malnutrition in women than men due to girls being denied food when it is scarce, etc. It seems much more likely, to me, that such people are motivated mainly by thoughts of avoiding the appearance of social impropriety much more than they are by thoughts of doing what's best for their daughters.

I'm also not sure I agree with the argument that this will decrease the instances of FGM. Isn't it just as likely that, by getting the AAP to agree that FGM is right, proper, good, and necessary, the mutilators will say to themselves "see, even the American doctors think it's right so let's **really** get to cutting!"? Or at least push people who might otherwise have rejected the barbaric and evil practice outright into going along with "just a little nick"?

If it works, if it really does reduce the rate of FGM, then distasteful as I find the whole thing I suppose I must reluctantly accept it as a necessary evil. But I see nothing to indicate that this will work.

All of a sudden one isn't arguing against the excesses of traditional culture but against traditional culture as such.

Yes. I am indeed arguing against (that) traditional culture as such.

If a traditional culture teaches that women are sub-human, that they must be mutilated to make them "pure", or to keep them from their inherent wicked ways, then yes count me as 100% against that traditional culture qua that traditional culture. I'll do everything I can to hasten it's demise and when it's dead I'll dance on it's grave.

I'm a multiculturalist, but only up to the point where cultural variation crosses the line into violating human rights, once it does I'm 100% against any and all human rights violating cultures. Some cultures really and truly are superior to others. You don't have to pretend that the modern American culture is perfect, nor that it doesn't have a long way to go WRT woman's rights, to recognize that it's better than a culture when they cut off their daughter's clitoris because they're really scared of female sexuality.

I stood foursquare against the Apartheid culture of South Africa it was an inferior and dangerous culture and I was happy when it was destroyed. I will stand foursquare against any native culture that so devalues and hates women that it mandates their genitals be mutilated. It absolutely horrifies me that this position is in any way controversial, and that people who feel self righteous in opposing the Apartheid culture of South Africa condemn others for opposing equally bad and dangerous cultures.
posted by sotonohito at 3:05 PM on May 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


[pla, this is increasingly turning into a good example of that thing we were talking about in Metatalk about getting into a thread-long argument with several people. It might be a good idea to go ahead and step away at this point.]
posted by cortex at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2010


It's a situation where a community needs to be engaged and offered alternatives, not treated like criminals.

Anyone interested in this idea, as well as those tempted to reduce this issue to black on one hand and white on the other, should track down "Feminisms and Universalisms: 'Universal Rights' and the Legal Debate around the Practice of Female Excision in France" by Francoise Lionnet, in which she discusses a number of criminal convictions in France for female excision. Here is the relevant quote:

"The debate opposes two apparently conflicting versions of human rights, one based on the Enlightenment notion of the sovereign individual subject, and the other on a notion of collective identity grounded in cultural solidarity. Critics of the Enlightenment version of human rights have opposed to it the more culturally-specific concept of human dignity, stating that 'concepts of human dignity do indeed vary. They are embedded in cultural views of the nature of human beings, which interm [sic] reflect the social organization of particular societies', and adding that 'in Africa, idealized versions of human dignity reflect idealized interpretations of pre-colonial structure'. When emphasis is on the group, protection of the individual qua sovereign individual subject can be at odds with her development as a fully-functioning member of her own society. By criminalizing the practice and sending to jail the parents of the excised girls, the French courts have judged individuals guilty of an act of violence which they had, in fact, no intention of committing, since their behavior was in accordance with deeply-held socio-cultural and religious beliefs about the nature of femininity and the function of sexuality in their respective collectivities. Anthropologists and social critics have argued that such sanctions will have little if any positive impact, since families may continue to have the excision performed either clandestinely in France (and with greater risk to the girls' life and health) or back in Africa during school vacations."
posted by Dr. Send at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do question the assertion that the people doing this to their daughters are motivated by thoughts of what's best for the girl, rather than by thoughts of being shamed by their society

It's not either/or. They are one and the same for many people.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:16 PM on May 7, 2010


Yes. I am indeed arguing against (that) traditional culture as such.

I, for one, am arguing in ignorance of the actual motivations of the people who feel the need for this ritual, but I feel certain that they wouldn't frame it as you have.

I often think of this quote in Out of Africa about the western practice of dowries:

By the time we had become well acquainted, the Somali girls asked me if it could be true what they heard, that some nations in Europe gave away their maiden to their husband for nothing. They had even been told, but they could not possibly realize the idea that there was one tribe so depraved as to pay the bridegroom to marry the bride. Fie and shame on such parents, and on girls who gave themselves up to such treatment. Where was their self respect,where their respect for women, or for virginity? If they themselves had had the misfortune to be born into that tribe, the girls told me, they would have vowed to go into their grave unmarried.

Would the fathers in the west.. would Jane Austen's father... have considered it shameful to provide a dowry for his daughters? If he did provide a dowry, was he selling them because he considered them to be less than men? If he refused out of some principle, would they have been happier for it?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:23 PM on May 7, 2010


My African lit professor, born and raised in Kenya, said that FGC was mostly a symbolic and notional part of his culture *until the white westerners intervened, told them it was barbaric and passed laws against it.* At that point, they got serious and actually started doing it.

Prior to the interdiction, FGC really had been pretty much a symbolic nick/bloodletting kind of thing. Harm reductionists in Kenya have since been fighting the same fight, which is that if the biggest problem with FGC is the pain, brutality, infection and filthy work by untrained practitioners, the solution is to have it done cleanly in the hospital with sharp knives, expert hands, antiseptic and pain medication.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:43 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, if it's any consolation, we had this discussion in Holland ten years ago, and it didn't go any better.

There is no easy answer.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:59 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Permitting the 'nick' would solve the individual, medical problem, while exacerbating the social one. Fair enough.

Seems to me, then, that we should permit the 'nick' while approaching the social problem in some other way, for instance by promoting an alternative ritual, and providing incentives for using the alternative and forgoing the 'nick'.

Would economic incentives be best? Is there some sort of charity I could donate to, where they would pay families who might prefer the 'nick', to use some alternative ritual instead?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2010


At that point, they got serious and actually started doing it.

Cut off their noses to spite their faces. Or, rather, daughter's sex organs.

Nope, still gonna have to agree that it's barbaric.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


small_ruminant wrote If he did provide a dowry, was he selling them because he considered them to be less than men?

Yes. Unquestionably. Without a doubt.

I won't say that misogyny would be his only motive. Pride, cultural inertia, etc would certainly have been factors as well. But the root of dowry is misogyny, the belief that women are less than men and thus men must be bribed into taking the burden of an [ick, shudder] woman.

We have only to look at India and the numerous atrocities related to dowry there to see the root misogyny of the practice.

Cultures can change, they can abandon their bad parts. English culture abandoned dowry, and it's better for it. If the misogynist cultures of Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia would abandon their evil practice of FGM they'd be better for it.

toodleydoodley I won't dismiss the possibility out of hand, but neither will I accept it as true without more than an assertion from a random African lit professor. Patriarchal cultures have created and practiced numerous and vicious misogynistic practices in the absence of mean white people complaining about their vicious misogynistic practices.

If it takes cultural imperialism to end evils such as FGM then sign me up for the empire. I cannot be true to my liberal principles and simultaneously believe that FGM is a perfectly acceptable cultural variation.

Dr. Send I must disagree. People can call anything "human rights", that doesn't make it so. If they wish to speak of "societal rights" or "cultural rights", much as our American bigots like to hide their bigotry behind the veil of "state's rights", I think that would be more accurate. But let's not lie to ourselves, it's an attempt to mask ugly bigotry with liberal phrases.

"Human rights", definitionally, are about individual humans, not societies, clubs, corporations, states, or any other group of humans.
posted by sotonohito at 7:12 PM on May 7, 2010


Here's a thought: no one takes anything sharp to anyone's body outside of medical necessity until they are old enough to consent (and I'm just going to say 18 as a reasonable age of consent).

My 3-year-old son is not circumcised. My 6-year-old daughter doesn't have pierced ears, and will never even experience the intimation of FGM. Their bodies do not belong to me; I am their caretaker and my job is to get them to adulthood whole and healthy. When they are old enough to know the consequences, they can decide: my son can decide to be circumcised, my daughter can decide to pierce her ears, or any other body part she desires (as can my son). Not my body, not my choice.

Children are not property. Medical professionals would do better by working to educate parents of this fact, rather than condescending to "nick" anything, to draw blood on any child for any reason other than medical necessity. Leave their bodies alone.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:17 PM on May 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


It reminds me of the Monty Python sketch of this television show where they say in a sickeningly cheerful voice I'm paraphrasing--I don't remember it exactly "Today we are going to show you how to create world peace and cure all cancer!"
"To create world peace, we tell everyone to stop hating each other and we all hug each other and then all the fighting and wars will be over! Now, Mary, tell us how we stop cancer"

When I see this "any mutilation is wrong" and "there are better ways" I think of three choices:
1. Offer no choices. Many people following the traditions their families and friends have lived with for generations, will have their daughters mutilated.
2. Offer a ritual pin prick as an alternative. Doctors can talk them into it if they ask for the mutilation. It has been mentioned that this may even be catching on in Africa. If it is truly beginning to be accepted, then many fewer girls will be mutilated.
3. Just tell them that it is not acceptable. And in Monty Python skit fashion, everyone will just stop doing it and everyone will live happily ever after.

Several posters have suggested #3. Guess what? We've been trying #3 for decades. Do you have some magic formula for making it work? Certainly tell them that it is not acceptable, but don't get into this magical thinking that this will just stop it. And if it doesn't stop it, then choosing #3 is really choosing #1.

Heck my Grandfather was a diabetic and pricked himself every day of his life. It would be great if one symbolic prick can save girls from mutilation. If there is another way, great. But don't pretend that there is another way just because you want there to be another way.
posted by eye of newt at 12:36 AM on May 8, 2010


eye of newt You left out (4) heavily penalize people who mutilate their daughters. It isn't, regrettably, likely to be effective but it is an option.

If your option two works I'll agree that, however distasteful I find any sort of compromise that that kind of vile misogyny, it beats the other options. Including, even more regretfully, option 4 because I find that one quite personally appealing even as I recognize that it likely wouldn't produce the results I want.

My question is, "will option two actually be effective?" If other countries have tried that approach before I'd like to see what their results are, if not I think we should implement it strictly on a trial basis while we try to gauge its efficacy.

I'm personally quite doubtful that it will work very well at all. People who believe that it is necessary to excise the clitoris to prevent female sexual pleasure (and thus encourage chastity, fidelity, etc) are, I think, quite unlikely to be convinced that a ritual pinprick will accomplish the same goal.

Worse, I can see the possibility that by granting the legitimacy of doctor approval it may well push wavering people into the mutilation camp.

Unless anyone has studies on this approach in other places we're entering unknown territory, and while I think we should, however much I personally hate it, try your option 2, I think we must also be on the alert for the possibility that it is working in the exact opposite way from the way you and other advocates think it might.

To the best of my knowledge the only really effective approach has been education, and most especially education by women of the culture in question rather than outsiders. This approach has the advantage of, so far, appearing to work more than any other. The problem is that it's slow and while we're waiting girls are being mutilated.
posted by sotonohito at 5:57 AM on May 8, 2010


Eye of newt, re: #3, but there *are* times when change simply must be forced upon the unwilling, and many of our laws reflect this. As a society, we don't accept vigilantes anymore. We don't ignore rapes or honor killings, keep slaves, or allow most hate crimes. And we are slowly moving towards a place where gay and transgendered people gain equal rights, safety and acceptance in our culture. All for the greater good.

Precedent has shown us that imposed change is sometimes necessary not only for the smooth running of our society and to stop oppression, but also because otherwise, ingrained intolerance, attitudes, beliefs and hatreds won't change on their own. Afterwards, the details seem to work themselves out.

I am firmly against FGM. I think it's abhorrent. I feel differently about circumcision, but ny feelings about it are complicated and involve a lot of personal biases.

Some of the folks here arguing #3 may be taking a simplistic and unrealistic position, but historical precedent backs up their idea that imposed draconian measures can work.

On the other hand they shouldn't ignore the lessons of abortion bans and prohibition, either. Or frame FGM/C solely as a religious practice when that's clearly not the case.
posted by zarq at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


zarq Quite true. Never underestimate the Sir Charles Napier approach to such matters.

While, as a whole, the British Raj as an example of the evils of imperialism, there were a few good things that came from it, and a full bore attack on the practice of sati, widow burning, was one such good thing. For those who don't know about widow burning it's exactly what the name implies. When a woman is widowed the village would get together, build a nice big bonfire, and toss the poor woman onto it there to die screaming.

Sir Napier instituted the death penalty for any Indian men involved in sati, and a delegation of Indians came to protest his high handed disparagement of their culture, traditions, etc. He replied:
"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."
As a result of Sir Napier's culturally insensitive approach sati declined rapidly. Regrettably in the more backwoods areas of India it is still occasionally practiced, but the current Indian government takes the same attitude that Sir Napier took, and the practice is slowly ending.

By all means let's take option two and try to get people to embrace alternatives of their own volition. But in addition I think we should be taking a very hard line, life in prison without the possibility of parole, to people who do such cutting. I'm willing to bet that after a few such convictions we see more people embracing the ritual and no cutting approach rather more eagerly.
posted by sotonohito at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2010


"On the other hand they shouldn't ignore the lessons of abortion bans and prohibition, either. "

As I mentioned above, this is much more like rape than it is like abortion or drinking alcohol. It is not about protecting people from themselves or forcing them to carry a child to term. It is about preventing people from violently mutilating vulnerable children.

You can say oh, well, they'll just hide it. Okay, but at what point to we give people credit for being rational actors who will be dissuaded by severe penalties?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:32 AM on May 8, 2010


Okay, but at what point to we give people credit for being rational actors who will be dissuaded by severe penalties?

Never?

Not to be overly cynical, but most humans (including myself at least on occasion) are far from rational actors. Nor do severe penalties particularly deter crime.

Which is why, despite my suggestion that we follow in Sir Napier's footsteps, I do think that education, change brought about by women from within the society, etc will be more successful. Not that we shouldn't penalize, severely, people who do this, but I don't think we can expect such penalties to change most people's behavior.

By going after the people who actually perform the procedures we may produce an environment where some people want to get their daughters cut, but are unable to find anyone to actually do the cutting. Which may help some, or it may just produce more deaths via botched jobs done by amateurs.
posted by sotonohito at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2010


Well, I think that this would be better served by comparing it to other forms of child-rearing that are both culturally accepted and abusive. I am going to try to think of some and do research.

The best I can think of now is compulsory education but I'm sure I'll think of something else.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:49 AM on May 8, 2010


It is about preventing people from violently mutilating vulnerable children.

Well, yes, exactly.

You can say oh, well, they'll just hide it. Okay, but at what point to we give people credit for being rational actors who will be dissuaded by severe penalties?

When we get some evidence that a harsh regime of zero tolerance and heavy penalties is sufficient to eliminate or severely reduce particular behaviours.

Analogizing FGM to rape or assault isn't bad, except that we don't have a reasonable alternative to rape or assault that we can offer, when a ritual nick does seem (to many here) to be a reasonable alternative.
posted by fatbird at 10:58 AM on May 8, 2010


"When we get some evidence that a harsh regime of zero tolerance and heavy penalties is sufficient to eliminate or severely reduce particular behaviours."

Someone who knows more about deterrence than I can talk about whether or not zero tolerance and heavy penalties reduce murder, rape, assault, etc.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2010


Analogizing FGM to rape or assault isn't bad, except that we don't have a reasonable alternative to rape or assault that we can offer, when a ritual nick does seem (to many here) to be a reasonable alternative.

It's important to understand that to a lot of people here, FGM is analogous to rape or assault, and there does not exist a reasonable alternative to this sort of viciousness. The alternative to chopping up your daughter is not chopping up your daughter. A ritual nick legitimizes the concept of FGM, and suggests that the problem with FGM as it is traditionally practiced is simply one of excess and sanitary conditions.

You're trying to find the minimum acceptable amount of FGM, but you're looking at the wrong party to get it. It's not about what is the minimum acceptable amount of FGM by the standards the monsters that want FGM. By the standards of a sane society, the minimum acceptable amount of FGM is zero.
posted by kafziel at 11:06 AM on May 8, 2010


Someone who knows more about deterrence than I can talk about whether or not zero tolerance and heavy penalties reduce murder, rape, assault, etc.

Example in favor of and against the deterrent effect of harsh punishment on objectionable family practices: anti-bigamy laws. Bigamy is still practiced in the US, but only in the very fringes of society. Then again, life in those fringes can be pretty terrible. The anti-bigamy laws also worked because the LDS itself gave up the practice in order to play ball with the USA - there was a carrot as well as a stick, as well as a smart/cynical move on the part of the church hierarchy itself. This is not really possible with FGM-practicing cultures. Further, those from FGM-practicing cultures are already quite marginalized in the US - there isn't really a carrot here.

I can't speak to whether strong laws are responsible for the decline of rape in the US (or anywhere else). I would imagine it's been a number of societal changes working in concert here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2010


"It's important to understand that to a lot of people here, FGM is analogous to rape or assault"

It isn't just analogous, if you think about it, it actually is assault. If I held you down and mutilated your genitals, it would be considered assault and possibly rape (it really depends on rape laws which are complicated).

Whether or not this proposed alternative is a good idea, I don't know, but comparing this to prohibition or abortion does not make a whole lot of sense--it's a violent crime against a child.

(Yes, I know, some people think that way about abortion, too)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2010


Whether or not this proposed alternative is a good idea, I don't know, but comparing this to prohibition or abortion does not make a whole lot of sense--it's a violent crime against a child.

(Yes, I know, some people think that way about abortion, too)


It's fundamental to realize that, though. Like I imagine you are, I am pro-choice. We have, fundamentally, on a cultural level, a different conception of what abortion is and means than do pro-lifers. This is how you have to deal with people oftentimes - by understanding where they're coming from, especially when you disagree with them. Attempting to only "reason" with them, especially if that reasoning is only coming from how you see things, is probably not going to work, and in fact may just make them dig in their heels.

You're dealing with people who think that it is genuinely RIGHT for them to conduct FGM. How do you deal with that, especially since you are alien to their culture? It's tricky.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2010


Kazfiel You're trying to find the minimum acceptable amount of FGM, but you're looking at the wrong party to get it. It's not about what is the minimum acceptable amount of FGM by the standards the monsters that want FGM. By the standards of a sane society, the minimum acceptable amount of FGM is zero.

No one is trying to find a minimally acceptable level of FGM. We're not trying to move FGM into a place where we can all be comfortable with it. We see two alternatives: 1) a zero-tolerance approach that drives it underground, and 2) an immediate-harm-eliminating approach that works hand-in-hand with education to eliminate it. If we pursue option 2, we can see less actual mutilation. To me it's that simple.
posted by fatbird at 11:29 AM on May 8, 2010


But how do you know that we will see less actual mutilation? I don't see it as that obvious either way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2010


We can't know until we try it, but it's safe to assume that, for anyone who avails themselves of that option, at least some proportion would otherwise go the full basement/trip to the old country mutilation route.

The fact that pediatricians actually get requests for the procedure (and the AAP would bother to formulate a policy on it) would seem to indicate interest in having it done.
posted by fatbird at 11:39 AM on May 8, 2010


I feel like a number of different arguments to different principles are being thrown around here.

If a sanitary, no-lasting-harm ritual nick effectively reduce FGM - we would support that, yes? This does not mean that harsh punishments, education programs, etc. cannot also coexist alongside this policy.

If the ritual nick does not effectively reduce FGM, then of course that policy does not work and should be abandoned.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2010


Hmm...I don't really know anything about this cultural practice, so I won't speak of it (unlike many people here).

But I really think that we can't go around calling someone's beliefs superstitious if this country still lets homeopaths practice, sells miracle weight loss cures, and has pet psychologists.

Lets look at ourselves, a bit, guys.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:15 PM on May 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Should doctors be allowed to practice "pin prick" procedures in order to greatly reduce the injury suffered by a male/female subjected to genital altering practices (infibulation, circumcision, etc) ?

The supporters of "pin prick" alternative argue that this procedure is by far the least damaging alternative and should be proposed
in order to minimize damages.

From a medical point of view, it appears that a "pin prick" offers the benefits of:
-being practiced in a controlled environment;
-by persons who received a medical education;
-using steryle instruments.
-producing far less irreversible alterations.

"Pin prick" supporters also advance that :
- as in alcohol prohibitionism, simple prohibition doesn't yeld the expected results (reduction of the phenomenon to zero instances) ;
- people will still practice genital alteration, but as in abortions, in conditions and with methods that are often dangerous
for the patient;
- in some cultures, sometimes not being subject to the procedure, even if merely reduced to a ritual, can be a disadvantage (becoming social outkast).

Opposer of "pin prick" and, more generally, genital mutilation practices argue that:
- genitals alteration is often done against the will of the subject, who often is a child;
- genital alteration isn't practiced to cure an illness;
- the subject is often conditioned by peer pressure, parent pressure, fear of becoming a social outkast, fear of not finding a partner;
- condoning even a "mere" pin prick validates genital alteration practices as acceptable;
- genital alteration practices are the relics of mysoginist cultures or cultures that condemn masturbation or, more generally, condemn
sexual activities that don't merely aim at reproduction within a legitimate couple.

It seems to me that offering an alterative, ritualized, considerably less drastic procedure could prevent a lot of unnecessary pains and
prevent damages. That would probably appeal to people who are in a transition phase, coming from a culture that is influenced by superstitions
to a more advanced culture, that has understood that genital mutilation ritual don't serve any purpose and primarily does only cause harm.

Changing minds is a process that often requires time and a persistent effort. One can see how persistant evangelizers are, or how persistant
advertisers are in reminding us of needs or suggesting us with often unecessary needs.

One indeed could argue that allowing pin prick procedures could suggest that genital mutilation practices are "ok", or more generally, that
the underlying arguments for its need are valid (god says so, the tradition says so) and that, therefore, by sacrificing a few thousand
girls and boys the argument against genital mutilation would be reinforced and that, in the end, the practice would eventually be eradicated.

That doesn't seem so evident to me. It is probably wiser to invest time and resources into dissolving the fears behind the decision to have
genital mutilation, the erronous fear-based models suggesting that oppressing sexuality is the only way to contain sexual desire related
problems, the "absolute immutable truths" that are so reassuring, yet often more dangerous than the dangers they supposedly address.
posted by elpapacito at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2010


Naberius wrote: "Where were these people during the holocaust? We could have avoided so much unpleasantness.

"Now let's be reasonable, everyone. Of course we all have strong feelings about this whole exterminating the Jews question, but cooler heads must prevail. Now Mr. Hitler, you want to kill all the Jews. And Jews, you don't want Mr. Hitler killing any of you. Of course we can't have it both ways, now can we? Ha ha. But surely there must be some workable middle ground. What say we let Mr. Hitler kill half the Jews, and he promises not to kill the other half at all? No one gets everything they want, but everyone gets something. Surely that's a reasonable compromise, yes?"
"

That may be the worst analogy I have ever read in my entire life. It was a high bar you met, sir. Not only did you meet it, but you leaped over it with gusto. Bravo!
posted by wierdo at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2010


I won't say that misogyny would be his only motive. Pride, cultural inertia, etc would certainly have been factors as well.

I would argue that misogyny, as we understand it today, wouldn't be any of his motive for providing a dowry for his daughter.

It was very likely the culture's rationale for dowries, I don't dispute. But I would argue that a father who provided a dowry for his daughters did so because yes, it was expected, and because it was expected of him, and he loved them, he did it because he wanted the best for them. They would, in theory, have more suitors to chose from. They wouldn't feel like a charity case for their husband (going by that centuries values- not mine, and not the Somalis', obviously.)

My point is, on a person by person level, ascribing malicious motives to distasteful cultural practices is dishonest and counter-productive.

If you told Jane Austen's father that he was only providing a dowry because he felt he needed to bribe someone to take his [ick, shudder] daughter, he would dismiss you out of hand, along with all you had to say, and rightfully so, because you clearly don't know what you're talking about.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:38 PM on May 8, 2010


Brideprice, the opposite of dowry, is much more common in Islamic societies than is dowry. There's an awful lot of pseudo-anthropology and wild-ass guessing going on in this thread.
posted by Rumple at 10:48 PM on May 8, 2010


I'm not following, Rumple. No one was talking about dowries in Islamic society.
posted by ODiV at 11:08 PM on May 8, 2010


FGM is predominantly found in Islamic countries. Dowry is not. Dowry was being argued as another symptom of misogyny in the same context as Fgm. Maybe I jumped to a conclusion that people were arguing dowry and FGM co occurred. In any case I don't think dowry is a very good example of misogyny.
posted by Rumple at 11:44 PM on May 8, 2010


I brought dowries up because of that quote about the Somali women who thought dowries were shameful and denigrated women.

Many people in this thread feel the same about FGM, even if it's just a pinprick (which I would argue isn't FGM at all).

Applying one culture's idea of what constitutes denigration to another culture isn't productive, and a lot of that is going on in this thread.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:55 PM on May 8, 2010


I think the introduction of Jane Austen into the discussion has caused some confusion.
posted by eye of newt at 11:57 PM on May 8, 2010


Just popped in to say two things: #1) sotonohito's comments are some of the best thought out arguments on the subject I've ever read. And #2...

MetaFilter: Look, if it's any consolation, we had this discussion in Holland ten years ago, and it didn't go any better.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:21 AM on May 9, 2010


So what's what in Holland, gfm? Was the outcome (ignore the discussion; it's just noise compared to the actual results) successful?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 AM on May 9, 2010


I'd also like to know how it worked out in Holland, and also how one determines the numbers on FGM anyway? It isn't really done to ask young women about the state of their genitals. Do gynecologists make anonymyzed reports on the numbers they see? Polling?
posted by sotonohito at 1:41 PM on May 9, 2010


(I don't actually know how it went down in Holland. I was just quoting digitalprimate. Direct your queries his way.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:50 AM on May 10, 2010




ICTs & Female Genital Mutilation: using ICTs to influence policy & behaviour pdf
posted by infini at 6:09 AM on May 15, 2010


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