Female genital mutilation still continues to serve as cultural practice in nations around the world including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In spite of this, by legally permitting immigrants to surgically ‘nick’ young girl’s genitals could lead cultures to improve the way they honor their tradition.

The American gynecologists Dr. Kavita Arora and Dr. Allan Jacobs recently proposed this idea, without stopping the fight against extreme forms of genital mutilation.

They addressed the controversial procedure as a compromise to reduce the genital damage girl’s had to endure. Their families, in accordance with their religious belief, often perform the procedure on young girls as a rite of passage.

Survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM) from all over the world, including the UK, call for an immediate end to the practice. FGM – aimed at controlling women’s sexuality – dates back as far as ancient Egypt and has led to 130 million mutilated women and girls in the world today. Credit: The Guardian

The doctors argue that legalizing a less cruel form of mutilation would keep girls from suffering more excessive procedures ahead. Nevertheless, the proposal took the heat as 3 million girls are subjected to genital mutilation every year.

These actions would undermine global efforts to eradicate the already condemned ritual, according to advocates against female genital mutilation or FGM for short. In the present, at least 200 million women and girls now live with genital mutilation in over 30 countries, according to a report published by UNICEF.

“Female genital mutilation is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women,” said the World Health Organization. “It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.”

Moving Forward without losing your customs

Arora and Jacobs’s proposal addresses the present situation as critical, where people continue to mutilate their daughters for cultural customs. And if the practice were continuously labeled as illegal, it would pose a bigger threat to girls as it would take place underground.

The gynecologists’ proposal states doctors could limit the procedure to small cuts or just removing some parts of the labia or the clitoris. Still, as this kind of operation is illegal in the US and the UK, there’s much work to do before the proposal can be accepted.

Liberal societies should be able to tolerate the less severe forms of genital alteration, said Arora and Jacobs on a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics. As the procedure takes place in remote locations and even without anesthesia, the range in severity concerning the result of the procedure can be brutal.

The surgical disfigurement can go from cutting the girl’s genitals to completely removing her clitoris and labia.

Now, Arora and Jacobs assure that the compromise they propose respects culture and religion while providing the necessary protection against child abuse.

Instead of permanently disfiguring women and girls, the genital alteration wouldn’t affect the girl’s ability to carry a pregnancy or her sexual satisfaction. However, it’s still unclear whether the traditional communities that still practice the mutilation rituals will accept the proposal.

Source: New Scientist