I’m sorry for the theme today, but this story warrants a mention:
A father stands accused of the unthinkable: brutally cutting his daughter’s genitals.
The girl was only 2.
I’m not going to say anything beyond the obvious, for it’s unnecessary. The Female Genital Mutilation Act prohibits what the father allegedly did to his daughter. His action¹ is despicable and demands a harsh penalty if he is convicted.
That’s not the end of the story, from my perspective. The obvious connection to male circumcision should be clear. I’ve made the comparison in the past, maintaining that the difference between the two is one of degree, not kind. For anyone who disagrees, consider:
Adem’s trial may be a landmark case for health and human rights activists fighting against the African custom they call genital mutilation. But for those close to the victim, this trial is about vindication and healing for a little girl who was forced to endure unbearable pain.
In America we circumcise healthy infant males without anesthesia². How much pain do they endure? Is it unbearable? The comparison is not ridiculous.
“When I saw that child I saw myself. I could see the pain in her eyes,” said Soraya Mire, a filmmaker and activist who was circumcised when she was 13 in Somalia. Mire is known for her 1994 documentary “Fire Eyes” in which she chronicled her struggles after having the procedure.
I met Ms. Mire at the 9th International Symposium on Circumcision in Seattle this August, where she shared her story. I listened as she advocated the position that both male and female circumcision are genital mutilation. By stating that, and in posting my agreement, I don’t mean to minimize what she endured or what this little girl endured. It only indicates that the severity of the cutting does not change the ethical violation of the action, the genital cutting of a healthy, non-consenting person. Societal customs may differentiate between the two, as our’s does, but where it differs, it is wrong. Both are barbaric violations of individual rights.
Fortunate Adem [the girl’s mother] refused to comment for this article but has said her daughter suffered severe pain since the circumcision.
“Her whole life has been changed,” she said. “She is going to be traumatized psychologically. Parts of her body have been taken away from her without her consent. They need to look at this child the same way they would if she had been raped.”
We can argue about the various issues involved with Ms. Adem’s statement, but one of her claims applies to male circumcision, as well. If removing parts of a girl’s healthy genitalia without her consent is wrong, it’s wrong for boys. There are no exceptions based on ease of removal or societal tradition.
¹ The father pleaded innocent. The article mentions a claim that the mother’s family could’ve performed the circumcision. I do not know. Whoever circumcised the girl should be punished.
² Please do not mistake this as an argument that using anesthesia permits the surgery’s justification. Anesthetized circumcision should be the minimum level of medical intervention, but it does not change the unethical nature of non-medically indicated circumcision on an unconsenting individual. Any argument that it does is mind-numbingly misconceived.