This intellectual blind spot is still wrong.

In response to S. Kadokech’s essay claiming that female circumcision is a cultural right I blogged, here’s an opinion discrediting the ridiculous claim.

Here he is introducing the old fashioned concept in the FGM debate of the ‘arrogant perceiver.’ This concept holds that aliens in communities that practice some practices measure those communities’ standards by their (aliens’) standards and arrogantly perceive those communities’ standards as barbaric and outrageous.

This concept has been widely criticised because it ignores the idea that there are minimum standards below which any community cannot justifiably treat its people. You cannot say that because in our community it’s a cultural practice to kill baby girls those people who criticised our practice do so because they perceive our cultural right arrogantly.

Kadokech has misunderstood or deliberately ignored the meaning and extent of human rights in Uganda. It’s true that all Ugandans have a right to practice their cultural practices.

Of course. This is obvious, so you probably suspect there’s a reason I’m bringing it up. Indeed.

It is wrong to equate FGM with male circumcision. These are two different things, carried out differently with different consequences. Men who undergo circumcision do not cease to be sexually sensitive.

Once again we get the same warmed-over nonsense. Forced genital cutting is bad for girls because the cutters just want to diminish female sexuality. It’s not the same for boys, because cutters do so to help the boys through circumcision’s medical benefits. Uh-huh. The distinction between right and wrong in unnecessary genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is a subjective analysis of the validity of intention. That can never be right.

The parallel is transparent when looking at this honestly:

On the issue of consent, the majority of the people who are subjected to FGM are young girls who are compelled by their parents or guardians, on whom they depend for financial support and many other things. They never consent and where they allegedly consent they never offer informed consent. We have read about cases in Kenya, Ethiopia, Senegal, Egypt and many other parts of the world where FGM is practiced that girls as young as eight years fall victim.

Infant males are not asked if they consent. An infant is younger than eight, so he can’t even surrender the uninformed consent “offered” by the girls.

Kapchorwa is not an exception. If FGM is based on consent, why don’t those communities who practice it avail all the relevant information to the potential victims in time and let them make decisions whether to undergo the practice or not when they reach the age of 18. The only information availed to the young girls is that when if they don’t undergo FGM they will not get married, or they will be a disgrace to their families.

And infant males are circumcised in the United States because their future female sex partners will find the foreskin disgusting and will refuse to have sex with him. You don’t want your son to die a virgin, do you?

The author goes on to discuss an earlier notion that Chinese girls would be unable to get married if their parents didn’t bind the girl’s feet. Same thing. Cultural pressure used as an excuse to force body modifications on a non-consenting individual is wrong. There is no difference, regardless of whether it’s feet-binding, arranged marriages┬╣, female genital cutting, or male genital cutting. This includes potential health benefits, since some benefit could inevitably be argued from any preventive cutting. Infant mastectomies, anyone?

Human rights require more than good intentions and potential benefits.

┬╣ Kip made this astute comparison in the comments here.

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