Universal Excuses for Genital Cutting

The AAP’s policy on female genital mutilation offers an interesting comparison to the defense Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz attempted for the “moral” case in favor of circumcision. The AAP’s policy contains this within the “Cultural and Ethical Issues” section:

Kopelman has summarized four additional reasons proposed to explain the custom of FGM: 1) to preserve group identity; 2) to help maintain cleanliness and health; 3) to preserve virginity and family honor and prevent immorality; and 4) to further marriage goals, including enhancement of sexual pleasure for men. Preservation of cultural identity has been noted by Toubia to be of particular importance for groups who have previously faced colonialism and for immigrants threatened by a dominant culture. FGM is endemic in poor societies where marriage is essential to the social and economic security for women. FGM becomes a physical sign of a woman’s marriageability, with social control exercised over her sexual pleasure by clitorectomy and over reproduction by infibulation.

The italicized theories are quite similar to the justifications Rabbi Yanklowitz proposed. But there’s more:

When parents request a ritual genital procedure for their daughter, they believe that it will promote their daughter’s integration into their culture, protect her virginity, and thereby guarantee her desirability as a marriage partner. Parents are often unaware of the harmful physical consequences of the custom, because the complications of FGM are attributed to other causes and rarely discussed outside of the family. Furthermore, parents may feel obligated to request the procedure because they believe their religion requires female genital alteration.

The alleged moral and ethical distinction between female and male genital cutting is a fantasy. They are the same violation, often for the same reasons. There is no defense for permitting tradition and potential medical benefits to excuse this violation for one gender. It’s all non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual.

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