The American Academy of Pediatrics is moving backwards fast. It has now decided that female genital mutilation also known correctly and rightly as female circumcision (so as not to differentiate and distance it from male circumcision) is okay as long as it is medicalized and can be characterized as a “ritual nick.” This is all said to be in deference to communities who practice this atrocity and in an effort to confer beneficent cultural sensitivity to their way of life, no matter how it impinges on the rights of their often US citizen daughters, who enjoy or should enjoy the protections of US law and the Constitution said laws are founded upon.
The first big issue is the fact that one person’s ritual nick is another person’s mutilation. So what definitions are to be used? The U.N.’s? Those written into various state, federal or foreign jurisdiction laws? Perhaps those of the ethnic community from which the girl comes? Genital cutting always takes on a life of its own and often devolves into the most invasive where perceived to be minor or cosmetic. Any examination of cosmetic surgeries generally, and male circumcision particularly, will reveal this truism. Medical opinion as to what a “nick” is will be ever changing just as medical opinion changes as to what a complication in male circumcision is. The conflicts of interests between the doctor, the victim, the parents, and any prosecuting authority to characterize and define will create chaos and pain and suffering only the surgery itself can rival.
Second, the whole concept of equality under the law is that exceptions to prohibitions against violating the rights of others are prohibited even where a whole community’s cultural identity is at issue. Supposedly, we’re living in the 21st Century and not the 8th. Hence, we adhere to the decidedly modern notion of equal protection. A little girl’s right to genital integrity is not abridged solely due to her age and ethnic derivation. If a grown Somali woman wants to submit to blood-letting, let her. However, she should be thrown in jail if she does it to her daughter and so should any doctor complicit in it.
Advocates such as the AAP should be civilly held accountable for encouraging such barbarism.
So why is the AAP making these terrible policy statements? It may not be about the girls. Rather it could be about the upcoming revision to the male circumcision policy statement. The equal protection argument works just as well against infant circumcision of boys. You can’t say girls deserve protection, but boys don’t and hide behind a thin argument of health benefit that will never reach consensus in the medical community. Eventually, something has to break. Either boys and girls can be cut or they can’t. Collectively. Either the laws of the land protect children from genital cutting. Or they don’t. Taken as a whole.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the AAP is looking far and wide to adjust all its positions to be able to counter any argument that supports male children over doctors and parents who wish to cut them. If the AAP decides to cave in to pressure to recommend male circumcision against all reasonable assessments of the evidence, this will be exactly how it appears.