Tuesday, June 21, 2016

AFRICA: Yet Another Circumcision Botch

When people try to minimize male circumcision, but make a big commotion about female circumcision by saying "Female circumcision is worse," what are they comparing?

I want to know, because it seems the comparison being made is that of male infant circumcision as it happens in hospitals in the United States, to the worst possible scenario as it happens somewhere in the African bush.

"With female circumcision, women are forcibly tied down to have their labia and clitoris cut off with a rusty blade, glass shard or tin can lid, and have the remaining area sewn up to leave only a small hole for menstruation. Afterwards the must be cut back open if they want to have children, and they will never experience orgasm in their life, ever. Women experience excruciating pain. With males, it's just a little piece of skin, performed in the hospital by professionals, and they don't even remember it," seems to be the usual argument used to shut down any protest against male circumcision.

But is the comparison really this clear cut?

Is female genital cutting really only a matter of the materials used to perform the procedure? Pain management? The person who does it being a professional? In a medical setting? Is not remembering the pain and/or enjoying sex really at the crux of the argument?

The fact is that the kind of female circumcision described above is actually the rarest form of female genital cutting, also known as "infibulation." Even the WHO recognizes that there are different degrees of severity.

Could forcible female genital cutting really be made more acceptable if it were made as equal to, or less severe than male circumcision? If it were performed by a medical professional? In a medical setting? With sterile utensils under the most pristine conditions? With pain management? When a baby girl does not remember?

In the past, the AAP tried to approve a form of female genital cutting that they themselves admit would be much less severe than male infant circumcision. A "ritual nick," as it were. As recently as 2014, a paper was released in the Journal of Medical Ethics calling for a similar compromise.

Is it really just a matter of severity? Pain management? Setting? Facilitator? Effects on sexual prowess?

What if the proposed "acceptable" form of female genital cutting could result in the reduction of some disease? Say, HIV. Would it be more ethical to forcibly perform on healthy, non-consenting girls?

I'll leave the reader to answer this question for him or herself.

For now, I'd like to, once again, point out the fact that comparing the worst case scenario for female genital cutting to male infant circumcision as it is performed in hospitals in the west, is a false comparison. (Who reading this has actually seen male infant circumcision as it is performed in medical hospitals? Through the magic of YouTube, it is now possible to actually see, and hear, what happens during the forced circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting minor.)

In Africa, boys are circumcised pretty much in the same way girls are; in the bush, by amateurs, using raw utensils, under filthy conditions. As in female circumcision, male circumcision also results in failed procedures where the resulting male's organs are deformed, and/or dysfunctional. As in female circumcision, male circumcision also often results in infection. In many cases, it results in the loss of the organ itself. As in female circumcision, male circumcision often results in death.

Every year come circumcision season in Africa, the news is filled with reports of scores of men having been infected, having lost their organs, or their lives.

Yet, for whatever reason, this isn't a problem.

It isn't a problem worth reporting, and if it is, it is usually minimized or dismissed because "Circumcision helps reduce HIV." It's the men's loss for not having gone to get circumcised by a trained professional.

Why is female circumcision as performed on girls and women in Africa compared to male circumcision as it is performed in Western hospitals? Why is it not compared to its corresponding counterpart in Africa itself?

This frustrates me to no end.

The implication seems to be that female circumcision could be made more acceptable if only it were performed in the hospital, by a trained professional, using sterile utensils, with pain management, on girls too young to remember the pain.

The thing is, girls are already circumcised in this manner.

Girls are circumcised in infancy at hospitals by trained professionals in South East Asia, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore.

The people of those countries justify it by saying it is less severe than male circumcision.

And they're right.

Most female circumcisions performed in those countries are carried out without a hitch.

As in America, most women don't see a problem with it, and don't have any problem demanding that the same happen with their daughters.

So why isn't male infant circumcision as performed in the US compared with THAT?

Is it that it hits too close to home and Americans don't want to be put in the awkward position of ratifying female genital cutting? Or conversely, of questioning their own practice?

Why do purposefully avoid comparing like with like?

In Africa, yet another boy loses his penis to ritual circumcision. According to Waza:

A 13 year old boy is recuperating at his parents’ house in Webuye after a circumcision rite turned tragic. The boy accidentally got sliced on his pen!s on Tuesday as he was being initiated in to manhood in the ongoing Bukusu circumcision festivals.

The boy’s parents’ rushed him to Webuye district hospital after they realized he had been wrongly cut. They described this as an accident that was not intended.  Webuye district medical superintendant Dr. Bita confirmed they had received the boy whos manhood had been chopped off slightly  by what they suspected to be a quack circumciser and treated him before releasing him . Dr. Bita appealed to the general public to be aware of the quacks performing the cut cautioning them of other possible dangers like HIV.

Um, I'm quite sure slicing his penis was intentional. Slicing off the foreskin from a penis is the whole point of circumcision. Later the report must clarify that the boy was "wrongly" cut, meaning that the cutters cut off more than they intended. But I assure you, slicing the penis was no "accident."

And unless there is a clinical or medical indication for surgery, circumcisers are ALL "quack doctors."

In the comments, someone is already saying that circumcision is "beneficial," and that the boy should have been circumcised by a "professional."

What if female circumcision could be deemed "beneficial?"

Would we still be against it?

Related Post:
Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay

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