Women’s rights groups and social policy makers also condemned the decision, but for the reason that it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing, when they were “in no way comparable”, said Katrin Altpeter, social minister in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Female circumcision she said, was a far more drastic act. It is already outlawed in Germany.
The basic comparison: non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is a human rights violation. It is unethical, regardless of the recipient’s gender or the extent of the cutting. Katrin Altpeter is wrong.
Ms. Altpeter’s brief statement is the worst form of human rights advocacy. I’m hoping there’s more context to soften it, but if there is, I haven’t found any yet. As her words stand, she divides individuals. She puts forth the offensive notion that because female genital cutting is usually worse, male genital cutting isn’t something that should possess the same legal status. Or, as I’ve said before, it’s the theory that a punch to the face is not battery because a knife to the gut is worse. It’s absurd. Both non-therapeutic female and male child genital cutting can be – are – indefensible to the point of criminality.
Where Ms. Altpeter makes her idea worse is in the last bit of information in that paragraph. FGM is already illegal. The question is decided in Germany, and in the correct way. The court’s decision here doesn’t re-open that. It doesn’t change the reality that FGM is evil and illegal. The ruling moves non-therapeutic circumcision on a child into the same prohibited realm. More than one act is allowed to be bad at one time. Any relevant distinctions can be made in the punishment on a case-by-case basis. It should not be made bluntly with different legal statuses. No child should pay the price so that society can express a little more symbolic disgust.
This doesn’t flow well anywhere in the above, but it’s critical to state. I understand and sympathize with people who object to shifting a discussion from female to male genital cutting when the original topic is female genital cutting. There are conversations where the comparison is relevant and those where it isn’t. The latter probably outnumber the former, and significantly. A legitimate, important clarity is also necessary when comparing the two. The amount of cutting is usually quite different, with possibly extreme disparities in outcome to females versus males. It can work the other way, too, but that’s far less common. The key demonstrable point is that non-therapeutic genital cutting to any extent on a non-consenting individual is unacceptable. That is enough. It should be interjected only when appropriate, an unfortunately subjective standard.