A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates giving the female babies of immigrants that support female circumcision a tiny “nick” on their clitoral hood. The premise of this recommendation is that this strikes a middle ground between leaving the genitals intact and full removal, thus supposedly lessening the chance that the families will attempt this on their own or take their daughters abroad to receive the surgery.
As this seems to endorse a rather barbaric (not to mention illegal) practice, it has naturally attracted its fair share of criticism. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), who has recently introduced the Girls Protection Act, which would make it illegal to transport minors outside of the USA to have their genitals cut, calls the proposal, “the wrong step forward on how best to protect young women and girls.” The recommendation has also attracted strong condemnation from victims advocates and human rights groups, which argue that the procedure is much more painful and traumatic than the so-called “pin prick” that the doctors equate the “nick” to.
An interesting comment on the matter was given by Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory, who argued that despite all of the debate going on about the “nicking,” those involved are ignoring the fact that the small cut is, “not comparable to the widely accepted practice of male circumcision, which is far more extreme.” While Ms. Clark-Flory is entitled to her own opinion on the matter, she is not, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “entitled to her own facts.” Female circumcision is an extremely brutal practice, which frequently involves the removal of the entire clitoris (analogous to the male penis) and in some cultures even the sewing shut of the labia. Although the “nicking” may not be as severe as the practice that these girls might endure in their home countries, the concept, shaming and assaulting women for their sexuality, remains the same. This is in no way comparable to male circumcision, which apart from its religious and cultural significance, has many practical hygienic benefits and is meant in no way to physically and emotionally hurt male babies (regardless of what those in the anti-circ crowd may say). Male circumcision is not extreme — genital mutilation is. Confusing the two simply makes it easier to justify baseless arguments that benefit no one.