Saturday, May 29, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation Performed by US Doctors?

On 4/26/10, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement which sent shockwaves around the world. A portion of the policy statement essentially sanctioned Type IV FGM, by suggesting that doctors be allowed to make a ritual pinprick or nick on a girl's clitoris, if it would prevent the girl's family from sending her to their home country where a more severe and dangerous type of FGM would be performed. This statement completely reversed the organization's 1998 statement, in which it condemned all forms of FGM and urged its members not to perform it, noting "its cultural implications for the status of women."

I understand that the intentions of the AAP were good. Dr. Friedman Ross, a member of the committee which drafted the statement explained their thinking this way: “If we just told parents, ‘No, this is wrong,’ our concern is they may take their daughters back to their home countries, where the procedure may be more extensive cutting and may even be done without anesthesia, with unsterilized knives or even glass,” she said. “A just-say-no policy may end up alienating these families, who are going to then find an alternative that will do more harm than good.” Dr. Ross said that the committee does “oppose all types of female genital cutting that impose risks or physical or psychological harm,” and consider the ritual nick “a last resort,” but that the nick is “supposed to be as benign as getting a girl’s ears pierced. It’s taking a pin and creating a drop of blood.”

But international reaction was strong and swift in opposition to the measure. It was viewed as a major concession, and the top of a very slippery slope. You can read an excellent piece by Equality Now's director, Taina Bien-Ami, here:
Huff Post: Do No Harm

A month after it issued the statement, the AAP had been persuaded to retract it, after hearing from the UN, the World Health Organization, Unicef, V-Day (Eve Ensler's organization), Equality Now, among many, many others.  There are ways to fight FGM, in this country and abroad, but concession is not the way to go about it. Lawmakers are currently drafting more effective legislation, such as HR 5137, which would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the U.S. out of the country for the purpose of FGM. According to Equality Now, "the bill will hopefully also call for the launch of culturally sensitive outreach programs in FGM-practicing immigrant communities in the U.S. to educate parents about the lifelong harms of FGM."

The new AAP statement opposing all forms of FGM can be read here:
AAP Anti-FGM Statement

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

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