Gender myopia and sexual violence

I don’t want to imply any less seriousness surrounding these findings, because they’re worth noting and correcting:

Nearly 60 percent of women in Ethiopia is subject to sexual violence by a partner, a new UN report revealed yesterday.

The report said violence against women persists at high rates around the world, and governments are not doing enough to prevent it.

This is a real issue, and stopping it is a legitimate government task. However, given the UN’s misguided stance on equality, this makes me angry:

At a news conference launching the report, Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo called violence against women “a pervasive phenomenon- it’s really a global problem that has to be addressed.” “According to the quantitative estimates, which certainly underestimate the amount of violence that occurs, at least one out of three women experiences violence at some stage of their lives,” he said. “The report states that the major form of violence takes place at the domestic level, in the households … and it takes place in societies throughout the world.” In addition to spontaneous violence, the report also condemned what it found to be high levels of institutionalized violence, such as female circumcision, estimating that 130 million girls and women living today had undergone this practice.

I’ve made the distinctions between male and female genital mutilation before, mostly to explain that it’s a difference in degree, not kind. I stand by that. The UN rightly addresses female circumcision as institutional violence, yet promotes male circumcision as an appropriate prevention tool against HIV infection. From the Fact Sheet, consider these statements:

Depending on culture, circumcision is usually performed soon after birth or during adolescence as a coming-of-age rite.

It is estimated that globally, about 20% of men, and some 35% of men in developing countries, are circumcised for religious, cultural, medical or other reasons.


Female genital mutilation/cutting (sometimes incorrectly referred to as female circumcision) comprises all surgical procedures involving partial or total removal of the external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for cultural or other nontherapeutic reasons.

There is no condemnation of injuries to male genital organs for cultural or other nontherapeutic reasons, even though such reasons are explicitly included to explain why parents cut their male children. If the UN (and anyone else who denies the obvious similarities) browsed through justifications for female circumcision in countries that permit it, they would recognize arguments bearing a striking resemblance to the reasons given for male circumcision in developed nations. Hygiene, aesthetics, partner approval, they’re all there. So what’s different? Do we permit assault because it’s not as bad as murder?

4 thoughts on “Gender myopia and sexual violence”

  1. Why was my comment about these hypocritical swine rejected? Do you have an unwritten policy against using profanity? I looked all over your website but I couldn’t find any “rules for posting” or whatever. Please explain.

  2. Scott,
    I do not have a policy, written or unwritten, regarding comments. I didn’t even write the disclaimer on this page. It’s standard to Movable Type.
    As for the profanity, I don’t have a problem with it. Search for almost any swear word on my site and I’ve used it. I didn’t publish your comment because I felt it would be detrimental to what I was trying to say. It was simply the context.
    I sympathize with your anger and sentiment. Hell, I’ve even been there myself more times than I’d like. I know that infant male circumcision is despicable, as you do. But I want to win the issue more than vent, so I try to stick to facts and logic.
    I admit, I’ve posted angry rants here, and probably will again. But I’ve found they get me in trouble more than they help. For example, I don’t like the word “swine” here. I think it’s counter-productive. It’s the act I’m against, not the people who do it, however horribly and indefensibly mistaken they are.
    Bottom line: I think your comments have been helpful to what I’ve posted. But I also try to keep in mind that pro-circumcision people might stumble upon my site. I’d rather they make the intellectually difficult choice to ignore my logic, even though it’s correct, than to dismiss me because I rant and call them names. People already think we’re fringe crazies. We’re the rational ones, so it’s worth showing that.

  3. I respect your reasons for not publishing my comment but I’m still kind of disappointed. I, for one, am tired of playing Mr Nice Guy with people who are anything but nice.
    I find anti-FGM activists who are always rationalizing and trivializing the problem of MGM to be a particularly odious bunch of hypocrites who deserve all the scorn they get (which unfortunately isn’t very much). One day I hope to have my own blog, and when I do, I guarantee you I’m not going to mince any words when discussing this subject.

  4. Sticking with today’s theme

    If the topic wasn’t so serious and offensive, I’d be laughing at this ridiculous assertion:In order to support countries or institutions that decide to scale up male circumcision services, WHO, the UNAIDS Secretariat and their partners are developing:t…

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