fgm-banIt is too easy and prevalent in our media to reduce everything to initializations and euphemistic terms to make them less offensive. Resist the urge. We are talking about mutilation. Call it mutilation. Call it Female Genital Mutilation.

Don’t hold back. If it make other people feel uncomfortable, good. How do you think the girl feels?

Let’s be clear what we are talking about.

Female genital mutilation means cutting off the girl’s clitoris and clitoral hood usually without anaesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor blade, or scissors. In many cases it also includes cutting off some or all of the inner and outer labia, sometime fusing the wound together to close the vagina. Less common, but still prevalent, is cauterizing the clitoris with a heated iron or caustic substance.

Many of the advocates and practitioners will extoll the virtues and benefits of this practice, often closing their argument with a statement to the effect that it is always the girl’s choice.

Let us examine that. An infant, pre-pubescent, or adolescent girl just starting puberty is held down by family members, her legs forced open, and her clitoris is cut off with a pair of scissors. Where does choice factor in?

Regardless of all the reasons put forward, female genital mutilation has only one purpose – to guarantee that a girl stays a virgin, both by removing her ability to experience any pleasure, and by making attempted sex obvious by the opening of the wound.

Indeed, the other side of this practice is when a man gets to tear his new bride open like a birthday present. The rending of her flesh and flowing of blood is proof of her virginity.

More than 125 million girls and women alive today have had their genitals mutilated

What I find most curious and disturbing is the overwhelming silence from the women’s community.

This practice is most prevalent in Africa and Middle East, and is often associated with Islamic Sharia law.

Some argue that it is not an Islamic practice. The Health Minister of Egypt, Ismail Sallam, announced a ban on FGM in 1996. This was upheld by a junior administrative court in Cairo.

Yet Sheik Youssef Badri, a fundamentalist Muslim, took the health minister to court.

In 1997, an Egyptian court overturned the ban. Eight Muslim scholars and doctors had testified that the ban exceeded the government’s authority and violated the legal rights of the medical profession. Sheik Badri commented:

[Female] circumcision is Islamic; the court has said that the ban violated religious law. There’s nothing which says circumcision is a crime, but the Egyptians came along and said that Islam is a crime.”

He claimed that many Muslim women are pleased with this victory of Islam over its enemies.

Is this why so many say nothing?

Is it the fear of interfering with the religious practices of Islam?

Is this a case of “out of site, out of mind?” Because the average woman does not see it, it is unimportant?

Is it the belief that this is a regional problem – not something we should be concerned with here?

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that over 168,000 girls and women living in the U.S. have either been, or are at risk of being, subjected to Female Genital Mutilation.

Is the Women’s Movement meaningless?

Either the women’s movement stands for all women, or it stands for none.

Either it protects the integrity of all women’s bodies, or it protects none.

Either it is fair and consistent in its protestations, or they all become meaningless.

Consider this: Abortion rights advocates will, without hesitation, confront Christians praying and protesting in front of clinics, yet say and do nothing about the Muslims who actually mutilate girls and women, claiming to respect their religious rights.

If you saw a child being tortured, would you act to stop it? Yet here it is before you – why do you do nothing?


Author: Nick Batik (the Cowboy Buddhist)

I was raised a Quaker and later converted to Buddhism around the time I met His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1981. Along with my parents and family, I have been active in civil rights and women's rights since the 1960s. I am the product of strong women – two grandmothers who owned and ran businesses in an era when women did not own or run businesses. One of whom who was a crippled, non-english speaking immigrant, in a time and place where women couldn’t vote or own property, immigrants were feared and hated, and there were no laws, protections, or support of any kind for the handicapped. Yet, despite all this, she built a business that was franchised on three continents. I have a sister who is a medical doctor, and one who worked the North Sea oil rigs. I have traveled the world, and currently live in Texas.