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No Compromise on Female Genital Cutting

I had a discussion with some people a few years ago about genital mutilation and specifically female genital circumcision (FGM). As a woman, I can’t imagine anything more horrific than having my clitoris circumcised. I was especially offended by a comment from one of the males in the group I was with; he actually said that if a girl had never had a clitoris, she wouldn’t miss it.

Salon just ran an intriguing piece about female circumcision in the United States which focuses on the topic of a genital nick. Currently,  it is illegal to circumcise a woman in the US, but despite the prohibition of female circumcision, approximately 228,000 American girls have had their clitorises circumcised. A genital nick, which is a small cut to the genital hood,  is sometimes thought of as a controversial alternative to a full procedure.

In April, the American Academy of Pediatrics  revised their official policies on FGM in two ways. First, the organization chose to exchange the name “mutilation” for “cutting” for the purpose of cultural sensitivity and stigma avoidance. Second, the organization recommended offering “the nick” as an alternative to Female Genital Mutilation with the idea that less girls would be harmed in the long run. While some pediatricians touted this compromise as a win-win, the anti-FGM community reacted in strong opposition.

"The AAP's suggestions are the equivalent of advising doctors to agree to bind three toes instead of a girl's whole foot, or supporting child marriage at age 13 instead of 8," said Taina Bien-Aimé of Equality Now.

Due to the outpouring of complaints from the international community, the AAP retracted their compromise. The group  came out against offering a genital nick as a compromise to Female Genital Mutilation, but kept the more neutral term of “cutting” to alleviate some of the stigma for those who have had the procedure done.

There are several different types of genital mutilation (or cutting); one procedure involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris, while others are more extensive. So far, there is little that can be done to reverse the procedures entirely. However, Pierre Foldes, who is a French surgeon, has performed some reversal surgeries, which can provide the women with some sexual feelings in their genitalia again. He notes that the surgeries cannot reverse female genital mutilations entirely and that the reversals are dangerous if not performed correctly.