Egypt bans female circumcision.

Yesterday, Egypt announced they are banning all forms of female circumcision just days after a 12-year old girl died from the procedure.
It was actually officially banned in 1997, but doctors were allowed to do the procedure for “exceptional cases.” Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali has now announced that every doctor or medical professional is banned from carrying out any form of circumcision, and if the act is committed, it “will be viewed as a violation of the law and all contraventions will be punished.”
But despite the “exceptional cases” rule from 1997, a 2000 study showed that the procedure was still carried out on 97% of the country’s women. So how much will actually change now?
Does anyone know more about the history of FGM in Egypt?

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84 Comments

  1. Rock Star
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    What the fuck is an exceptional case??

  2. Posted June 29, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m really hoping that the fact that they felt a need to revise the law shows that they’re serious this time.

  3. Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    This is a step in the right direction, but I think more action needs to be taken to educated people about the health risks associated with FGM, I think more needs to be done than just banning it.
    I read somewhere that FGM is practiced among African Christians and Muslims even though neither religion condones the practice. All I’ve heard was that it’s been practiced for many generations. And families were doing because its “tradition.”

  4. Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    This is a step in the right direction, but I think more action needs to be taken to educated people about the health risks associated with FGM, I think more needs to be done than just banning it.
    I read somewhere that FGM is practiced among African Christians and Muslims even though neither religion condones the practice. All I’ve heard was that it’s been practiced for many generations. And families were doing because its “tradition.”

  5. snobographer
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    So does this mean that it will now be entirely disallowed in sterile, medical conditions but carried out in dirty huts by mullahs with rusty razor blades and no anesthetic?
    I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing.

  6. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    “Does anyone know more about the history of FGM in Egypt?”
    Egypt seems to have gone back and forth on FGM. In 1995 the Egyptian government basically said it was okay (http://tinyurl.com/2ah3cu). More recently in 2006 a group of Muslim scholars in Cairo declared it to be a crime against humanity (http://tinyurl.com/3x4t33). And now, it’s finally banned.
    Seems like a pretty big step forward.

  7. snobographer
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    So does this mean that it will now be entirely disallowed in sterile, medical conditions but carried out in dirty huts by mullahs with rusty razor blades and no anesthetic?
    I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing.

  8. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “I read somewhere that FGM is practiced among African Christians and Muslims even though neither religion condones the practice. All I’ve heard was that it’s been practiced for many generations. And families were doing because its “tradition.”
    This is true. FGM is not an Islamic practice, and even Christians and Jews practice it (http://tinyurl.com/3crdd6). FGM is a cultural tradition and not a religious one.

  9. snobographer
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Sorry about the double post. I got a 500 Internal Server error. Typepad needs to upgrade their servers. Badly.

  10. Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Well I’m pretty sure that it’s ALREADY being practiced in unsanitary conditions, snobgrapher.

  11. tamiticu
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    These types of laws are great to talk about, but at least in Kenya they have led to FGM happening clandestinely, usually in less sterile conditions. It could give the government and NGOs working there something to brag about, but it’s not going to do much for the young girls who are still forced to undergo the procedure. Any plan that will successfully eliminate FGM is going to have to come from within the communities who practice it.

  12. Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Well obviously, Cara, but if they ban it from legal medical sites it can increase the number of FGMs that are performed in unsanitary conditions. It can also decrease the likelihood that a knowledgable and respected medical professional might talk parents out of having it done to their daughters in the first place.
    I can’t help squirming and clenching my legs together every time this subject comes up, btw.

  13. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    It seems like this ban (good thing) needs to come with serious penalties that are enforced against people who violate the ban, or else there will just be more FGM in dangerous unsterile conditions (bad thing).

  14. tamiticu
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    The thing is, UCLA, the people who insist on practicing FGM will continue to do so no matter what the penalty. It really is ingrained insome peoples’ traditions as being the “right” thing to do and until the gov’t and NGOs are able to respectfully address that and teach both men and women the dangers of this practice so they will resist it, harsh penalties will do nothing but satiate the international community.

  15. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I believe gradually fewer people will practice FGM. However, it is a deeply engrained cultural practice. I don’t know about Egypt, but I know in Kenya the practice was fascilitated by women (despite what some of you might assume). Older women very much felt like the white colonial govt was taking female power away when they tried to outlaw the practice. According to older beliefs of most tribes in Kenya, children born to an uncircumcised mother were evil, so the fetus either had to be aborted or the mother was an outcast upon birth.

  16. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    The procedure was traditionally accompanied by some elaborate and individualized traditions during which teens and “young adults” were considered to fully become women. Part of enduring the pain was showing their strength and their readiness to become full-fledged adults. And of course, boys had to go through a circumcision tradition for many of the same reasons. Basically, it ties into a lot of other cultural beliefs and meanings.

  17. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    The procedure was traditionally accompanied by some elaborate and individualized traditions during which teens and “young adults” were considered to fully become women. Part of enduring the pain was showing their strength and their readiness to become full-fledged adults. And of course, boys had to go through a circumcision tradition for many of the same reasons. Basically, it ties into a lot of other cultural beliefs and meanings.

  18. sedmunds
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know the source of the 97% stat? I know the report cited here (and on Feministe) says “a survey conducted in 2000,” but has anyone come across the source of this survey? (Asking because someone I shared the stat with thinks it is b.s.)
    While searching for the survey source, I found this map via Wikipedia:
    Prevalence of FGM in Africa

  19. timssopomo
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I really worry how much good the ban will do. Bans on behaviors that square with the social mores tend to, well, not work. They just push the practice underground and away from regulation, and sometimes even reinforce the thing they seek to ban.

  20. Kelly D
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I whole-heartedly agree that education is necessary to make further strides in eliminating FGM. I know of work being done in Africa to replace FGM with culturally sensitive and relevant practices which have been successful.
    However, I also think that policy change is an important step in the process – after all, mandatory seatbelt and helmet laws, smoking bans, and increased prices on cigarettes have contributed to significant public health improvements here in the U.S.

  21. Genny
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    The BBC article on this announcement has the FGM percentage for Egypt at 90%, not 97%. Not a huge difference, but still a little better.
    Obviously it’s better if change like this comes from the bottom up, if the women themselves started refusing the procedure. But in the abscence of that, maybe there is a chance this can work from the top down. If this is illegal, how many government workers would be willing to risk arrest and disgrace in order to have their daughters circumsized? Then their daughters would be less likely to do it to their own children. Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I can see how things might start to change very slowly, from the top down, if this law is truly enforced.

  22. Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    At the same time, though, do we really want to see cultural leaders and grandmothers arrested? The problem is that most of the people performing FGM are not intending any kind of harm, and without a serious education initiative, arrests are only going to be seen as cultural oppression and a violation of rights. Coming off of what Nina said, I think that the best practice is not to try to impose the law on people, but to work with local and cultural leaders directly and try to educate/include them in putting this practice to rest.

  23. Genny
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Cara, the article I read said that both Chrisitian and Muslim leaders supported the ban. From the BBC:
    “The country’s top religious authorities also expressed unequivocal support for the ban.
    The Grand Mufti and the head of the Coptic Church said female circumcision had no basis either in the Koran or in the Bible.”
    Obviously that’s not all the cultural leaders in Egypt, but it’s a start.

  24. Kelly D
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but FGM is disgusting and cruel and I don’t have any tolerance for mutilating a young girl, even if it is by her grandmother. I don’t subscribe to the, “Well it happened to me and I’m fine,” kind of thinking, or else the same thing could be said for hitting your kid. Education is key, and fortunately there are programs out there who are working on that (and, yes, probably more are needed), but policy change is absolutely necessary as well.

  25. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    “The thing is, UCLA, the people who insist on practicing FGM will continue to do so no matter what the penalty. ”
    I see what you are saying. My intuition tells me that when you raise the punishment for something, the people who don’t have strong ties to the procedures will stop. The people who feel it is a necessary part of their culture will resist. But at least you’ve eliminated some percentage of the practice.
    Nina’s point, though, is worthwhile – that the ban could harm some women and their offspring if they are viewed as less pure and are stigmatized.

  26. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    “The thing is, UCLA, the people who insist on practicing FGM will continue to do so no matter what the penalty. ”
    I see what you are saying. My intuition tells me that when you raise the punishment for something, the people who don’t have strong ties to the procedures will stop. The people who feel it is a necessary part of their culture will resist. But at least you’ve eliminated some percentage of the practice.
    Nina’s point, though, is worthwhile – that the ban could harm some women and their offspring if they are viewed as less pure and are stigmatized.

  27. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    “The thing is, UCLA, the people who insist on practicing FGM will continue to do so no matter what the penalty. ”
    I see what you are saying. My intuition tells me that when you raise the punishment for something, the people who don’t have strong ties to the procedures will stop. The people who feel it is a necessary part of their culture will resist. But at least you’ve eliminated some percentage of the practice.
    Nina’s point, though, is worthwhile – that the ban could harm some women and their offspring if they are viewed as less pure and are stigmatized.
    “Coming off of what Nina said, I think that the best practice is not to try to impose the law on people”
    I see your point – it could produce a high degree of resistance if it is seen as coming from outside rather than from within the community.

  28. Merletto
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I read something that said that the way for FGM to end is the same way foot-binding ended, by the people in the communities making pacts to stop. Since there’s a big social risk involved in not doing it, people will only stop if they know other people are stopping too. Obviously a prerequisite to them wanting to stop is knowledge about why it’s bad, the fact that it’s not practiced in everywhere, and other kinds of education.
    I see the potential problems with the ban, but I think it could be an opportunity. It won’t change things on its own, but it gives people a reason to want to stop – so that they won’t be arrested – so maybe people will start pacts to end the practice, and then it really will stop. I wish I knew of ways to encourage that to happen.

  29. werechick
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I was reading a bit of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and she had suggested that in order for such a law to work, there had to be regular inspection, perhaps annually, of girls to ensure they weren’t mutilated. I’m inclined to think it would work.

  30. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Okay, not to play devil’s advocate (really, I’m not saying I think FGM is a good thing) but couldn’t it be kind of traumatic for the individual girls involved to have regular inspections from strangers, and to have all that arguing about whether or not they were doing the right thing?
    I know what Kenya wound up with at one point was just a law saying that if a girl did not want to undergo FGM, the government would do what it could to protect her right to choose. Something more along those lines, makes more sense to me I guess.

  31. Mina
    Posted June 29, 2007 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    “So does this mean that it will now be entirely disallowed in sterile, medical conditions but carried out in dirty huts by mullahs with rusty razor blades and no anesthetic?
    “I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing.”
    Suppose some jurisdiction entirely disallows rape even when the rapists wear condoms, and meanwhile some people still get infected with STDs by rapists who don’t wear condoms. Is decriminalizing rape with condoms the answer?
    “At the same time, though, do we really want to see cultural leaders and grandmothers arrested?”
    Since when should being a cultural leader and/or grandmother be a get-out-of-jail-free card?
    “The problem is that most of the people performing FGM are not intending any kind of harm…”
    Neither are many of the people who pay men dowries to marry and rape preteen girls.
    “Sorry, but FGM is disgusting and cruel and I don’t have any tolerance for mutilating a young girl, even if it is by her grandmother.”
    Right on.
    “I know what Kenya wound up with at one point was just a law saying that if a girl did not want to undergo FGM, the government would do what it could to protect her right to choose. Something more along those lines, makes more sense to me I guess.”
    Good point.

  32. Posted June 29, 2007 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Because we don’t want to alienate the very communities that we’re trying to win over and protect. I think that FGM is atrocious, but I still don’t think that prison sentences are appropriate in most cases, in the same way that I think heroin use is atrocious and prison sentences aren’t appropriate in most of those cases. Yes, heroin addicts are (usually) only hurting themselves, and those who practice FGM on little girls are not. But I still don’t think that it’s going to change minds, but only make the resistance stronger.
    Also, the idea of doing regular exams on girls makes me kind of nervous. It seems really violating. Not as violating as FGM, sure, but that doesn’t make it right.

  33. Jeremy F.
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    I have a question that might be slightly off-topic.
    FGM is illegal here in the United States. Let’s say a 30 year old woman in the US wants to have the procedure done. From a feminist point of view, would it be acceptable to allow this woman to have FGM performed on her of her own volition?

  34. Egypthorses
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I live in one of the villages in the Nile Valley where FMG is practiced. It is a female tradition and is carried on by the women of the area and has been for thousands of years, long before any of the current religions. It is uncommon among the urban middle to upper class women (if not unheard of) in the cities but common among the poor and rural women whose lives are more ruled by tradition. For this tradition to be changed, the women of the community have to be reached and educated. I can guarantee that “inspections” would be highly traumatic. The problem is that most of the people trying to change the tradition come from outside the community and are thus viewed with a certain degree of distrust. Just where the intervention should be attempted is a tricky question. Young girls have no say in these situations and the older women have been through it and have a vested interest in seeing the continuance. It’s hard to justify to yourself having gone through the misery if you are telling everyone else that the procedure is unnecessary and dangerous. Basic cognitive dissonance. That a change would be better for the women is obvious to us…unfortunately it isn’t obvious to them.

  35. anorak
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Jeremy – From a feminist point of view, a woman has autonomy over her body.
    Therefore if she wanted FGM, she should be able to have it.
    In saying that, I cannot imagine an adult woman living in the States seeking out this kind of procedure…but then, I find pretty much all forms of cosmetic surgery incomprehensible, so maybe I’m not the best judge of these things.

  36. anorak
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    Egypthorses – thanks for giving it to us “from the horses’s mouth” so to speak (geddit!).
    As someone living in the area, if you were given the task of making FGM socially unacceptable, how would you go about it?

  37. anorak
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    (I realise that that is a pretty big question!)

  38. EG
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    Anorak, I disagree. It is neither feminist nor morally acceptable, in my opinion, to kill someone because they’re suicidal. It is neither feminist nor morally acceptable to withhold food from an anorexic woman. And I don’t think it’s feminist or morally acceptable for an adult woman to be getting FGM. These choices aren’t made in a vacuum, and when people make self-destructive, self-mutilating choices, there may be few ways to stop them, but I don’t think a feminist position should be to condone them.

  39. aniri
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Egypthorses, thank you for your comment. It really gets to the root of the problem. While I fully support the ban, the change will ultimately come from within communities, but information has to somehow be delivered. Education is really key. I’ve read that many women think that if “circumcision” is not performed their clitoris will grow huge and drag on the ground. No Joke!!! I was shocked when I read about it, but women really do believe that. I don’t know how wide spread the belief, but it has been shown that education of the elders as well as the younger generations, seperately and together, makes a huge difference. And it’s not about preaching, it’s about empowering people, teaching anatomy, physical development, bodily functions and purposes of different organs. It goes much deeper than just saying that what they are doing is wrong. Obviously easier said than done, but education is really the only way.
    And my heart just aches for all the girls and women who had to endure this horrible procedure. I hope to see it disappear in my lifetime.

  40. EG
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    The community pacts re: ending footbinding were in part driven by and definitely accompanied by strict laws prohibiting footbinding as well. It’s not an either/or situation. There is no reason why FGM should be the only form of child mutilation kept legal. Accompanying such a ban with community-sensitive forms of outreach is only practical, but I don’t see what good letting it be legal does.

  41. aniri
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Egypthorses, thank you for your comment. It really gets to the root of the problem. While I fully support the ban, the change will ultimately come from within communities, but information has to somehow be delivered. Education is really key. I’ve read that many women think that if “circumcision” is not performed their clitoris will grow huge and drag on the ground. No Joke!!! I was shocked when I read about it, but women really do believe that. I don’t know how wide spread the belief, but it has been shown that education of the elders as well as the younger generations, seperately and together, makes a huge difference. And it’s not about preaching, it’s about empowering people, teaching anatomy, physical development, bodily functions and purposes of different organs. It goes much deeper than just saying that what they are doing is wrong. Obviously easier said than done, but education is really the only way.
    And my heart just aches for all the girls and women who had to endure this horrible procedure. I hope to see it disappear in my lifetime.

  42. Ayla
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Giving people a free pass to do something reprehensible because of their culture, religion, sex, age, race, atc, is the very mechanism by which these atrocities continue to happen.

  43. Mina
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    “And I don’t think it’s feminist or morally acceptable for an adult woman to be getting FGM…These choices aren’t made in a vacuum, and when people make self-destructive, self-mutilating choices, there may be few ways to stop them, but I don’t think a feminist position should be to condone them.”
    Meanwhile, some people would say that it’s neither feminist nor morally acceptable for her to get an abortion and that it’s a self-destructive choice she’s making because of her context.
    I’m against forcing FGM on people, and at the same time I’m not keen on having adults arrested for the body mods they choose for themselves.
    “The community pacts re: ending footbinding were in part driven by and definitely accompanied by strict laws prohibiting footbinding as well.”
    Good points.
    “Giving people a free pass to do something reprehensible because of their culture, religion, sex, age, race, atc, is the very mechanism by which these atrocities continue to happen.”
    Meanwhile, ever noticed how people get these free passes for doing reprehensible stuff but not for criticizing it? For example, scraping off her grandchild’s clitoris is part of Somali culture and calling FGM barbaric is part of Iranian culture…

  44. Posted June 30, 2007 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    “This is true. FGM is not an Islamic practice, and even Christians and Jews practice it (http://tinyurl.com/3crdd6). FGM is a cultural tradition and not a religious one.”
    I know that in late 19th c USA, clitorectomy performed by M.D.s was common, but I don’t remember the process by which it was ended. Anyone know?

  45. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    “It is neither feminist nor morally acceptable, in my opinion, to kill someone because they’re suicidal. It is neither feminist nor morally acceptable to withhold food from an anorexic woman. And I don’t think it’s feminist or morally acceptable for an adult woman to be getting FGM.”
    Okay, again I don’t know the situation in Egypt, so this may not be relevant. This may not even change your mind about FGM in Kenya. But traditionally in Kenya, the procedure was performed on older teenagers and younger tweens, not young girls. And previous to the procedure, women were allowed a level of sexual experimentation with male partners (as long as there was no penetration), and after the procedure, 1/3 of women can still orgasm. Sure, it’s a dangerous procedure in general, but it’s much more dangerous in some forms than others (like some FGM involves removing much less tissue than other forms). So it’s unnecessary, and often dangerous, but I’m not quite comfortable with equating it to a death sentence. The older the “girl” is at the time the procedure would be performed on her, the more I’d like to see her be allowed to make her own choice though.
    And of course, I do think education about the need (or lack thereof) for the procedure and the dangers that accompany it is important.

  46. EG
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Nah, Nina. It doesn’t change my mind. Withholding food from an anorexic woman isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Maiming someone isn’t morally acceptable, nor is it feminist, in my opinion, especially if the maiming is specifically being done to women in order to make them fit a misogynist ideal. We see in our culture how far women are willing to go to meet an internalized misogynist ideal–having pieces of their toes cut off, starving themselves, having their breasts cut open and bags of silicone put inside–and the “decision” to do those things is not feminist. Nor is it a feminist position, in my opinion, to say that it is OK to do those things as long as it is the woman’s “choice.” In this context, what does that “choice” mean?
    It occurs to me that many of the same arguments could be made about wife-beating. It is an integral and traditional part of the culture (any culture, really–but let’s say for the sake of argument, English), making it illegal would lead to community leaders and grandfathers being jailed, surely it would be better for the health of the women not to drive the activity underground, but to regulate it, many of not most of women involved think they deserve it. I don’t care. It’s brutal, violent, misogyny. Men who beat their wives should go to jail, and so should people who cut the genitals off of girls.

  47. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m also not officially comfortable with attributing FGM just to misogyny. Arguably, women in some of these cultures traditionally held more power in society relative to the men than did women in western cultures. And male circumcision was considered every bit as important as female circumcision.
    One final question occurs to me: do you think people who perform circumcision on male children should also be jailed? (please note: FGM does not always involve cutting off the clitoris itself, sometimes it is just surrounding tissue)
    “It occurs to me that many of the same arguments could be made about wife-beating. It is an integral and traditional part of the culture (any culture, really–but let’s say for the sake of argument, English”
    I don’t think wife-beating is an integral part of cultures in the same way that FGM has been. With a few exceptions, many cultures consider a wife-beater to be a poor husband, even if he is technically allowed to do it. Wife-beating is also not considered an integral part of a life process or spiritual beliefs or anything like that (at least in most cultures I’m familiar with).
    Also, I don’t think you can compare having grandfathers and male community leaders jailed with having grandmothers and female community leaders jailed, if a misogynistic trend in society is what you’re concerned about.
    Case in point: In Kenya, the colonial govt was not initially concerned about FGM. Missionaries who worked as nurses were concerned about it. Missionaries eventually got the colonial govt to be concerned through telling them that FGM led to a higher frequency of abortions and death at childbirth (both of which the colonial govt /did/ consider bad). The colonial govt tried outlawing both abortion and FGM, but when push came to shove they decided the abortion issue was more important, so local govt leaders (who were more likely to be Kenyan than British, and nearly always males appointed by the British govt, given powers individual males would not traditionally have had) began forcing FGM on younger girls so that if they became pregnant they would not abort. So the whole process wound up being controlled by men, and also lost any original positive meaning it might have had for the girls.
    I just don’t think you can do these things through strict regulation. I think it could traumatize girls, and I just don’t know if it would work. I favor the education approach, what can I say? It took awhile in Kenya, but in modern day Kenya the procedure is not nearly as common as it was early in the century.
    If regular inspections became mandatory to ensure that FGM is not being performed, who do you think would be in charge of these inspections? I’m betting most doctors in Egypt are male…

  48. EG
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Male circumcision is really not comparable to FGM, so I’m not going to engage that question, Nina. FGM takes many different forms; male circumcision takes one, and while I’m not a huge fan of it, it is nothing like FGM.
    I think you’re splitting hairs about cultural importance. Wife-beating has traditionally been very, very common in western culture, far more so than it is today. It has not traditionally made a fellow seem like a bad guy or a bad husband, and whether or not it has religious significance seems beside the point to me. Religion isn’t the only way that something can be vitally important to a culture, and moreover, as far as I know, FGM is not required by any religion.
    Also, I don’t think you can compare having grandfathers and male community leaders jailed with having grandmothers and female community leaders jailed, if a misogynistic trend in society is what you’re concerned about.
    I think you can if what you’re talking about is whether or not community importance and community tradition/identity justifies brutalization. I don’t think it does, no matter who’s doing it. When it comes to US elections, we talk all the time about how having a woman in power isn’t necessarily a win if she’s not advocating feminist policies. If female community leaders are cutting off the genitals of female children, I really don’t feel bad about them going to jail. Not one bit.
    I’m not opposed to an approach based on education; I think it’s a fine thing. But I am also in favor of strict regulation.
    As to inspections, I wasn’t the one who brought up the idea, but if the choice is between having male doctors perform spot checks to see if girls have their genitalia, and girls having their genitals cut off, I’m going to go with the male doctors. Though I don’t know why one would need to be a doctor to check this out. It seems like it could be part of a women-only government post.
    I’m also not officially comfortable with attributing FGM just to misogyny. Arguably, women in some of these cultures traditionally held more power in society relative to the men than did women in western cultures.
    That’s very possible. Women had terribly little power in many traditional western cultures, though not as little as many people think. But so what? Unless there’s a comparable practice in men–and removing the foreskin is not comparable, chopping off half the penis, perhaps–the deciding factor on whether or not you get your genitals cut off is your gender. So I’m going to continue to go with misogyny as the deciding factor, and we’ll just disagree.

  49. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    “Religion isn’t the only way that something can be vitally important to a culture, and moreover, as far as I know, FGM is not required by any religion.”
    Well, this may be splitting hairs, but I wasn’t talking about “major world religions” with well-defined Gods and everything, I said spirituality. And I absolutely would consider a tradition accompanying elaborate cerimonies during which someone is considered to become an adult with greater responsibility and power in a traditional tribe part of their spirituality.
    “Unless there’s a comparable practice in men–and removing the foreskin is not comparable”
    Well, except that I know men who also argue that male circumcision is an abbhorent practice that should be made illegal (it is equally unnecessary, and it does damage the genitals), so I was just curious how you felt about that position?

  50. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    “Though I don’t know why one would need to be a doctor to check this out. It seems like it could be part of a women-only government post.”
    Well I wasn’t so much saying there couldn’t be a better way to do it, as I was questioning how this whole process will realistically work in modern Egypt, which I understand to be a pretty male-dominated country/society. I imagine the people performing inspections would at least have to be trained medical practitioners, as opposed to randoms.

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