Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Female Genital Mutilation v Male Circumcission 2

There is always a problem when people do compare things that should not be compared. In this case I mean FGM and MGM and I am realising each time I say FGM must end, then someone would say how about MGM. I never said MGM is good but comparing the two, FGM mutilation is the worst and here is why.

Frankly, the commonly performed version of male circumcision isn’t as serious as many of the widely performed FGM practices. Yes, removal of the foreskin causes harm and, despite claims to the contrary, has no detectable medical benefits, but FGM often goes far further. Leaving aside the horrible pain that the severe mutilation of a structure as sensitive as the clitoris causes (to have anything approaching a point of comparison, don’t think of removal of the foreskin, think instead of someone cutting a chunk out of your glans) The scarring of the woman’s genital tract can easily result in Obstetric fistula and complications in pregnancy or birth, assuming that the victim does not die soon after the initial mutilation occurs due to blood-loss or secondary infection.

In some forms of FGM, the entire clitoris and most of the labia are excised in their entirety, and the vaginal opening sewn shut except for a small aperture left for urine and other bodily secretion, until the victims wedding night, when the stitching is either cut or ripped open. The level of physical and emotional trauma the victims suffer is hard to imagine.

Then there is the social context of the respective behaviours. Removal of the male prepuce, while painful, disturbing and entirely unnecessary, is viewed primarily as a form of rite of passage – a means of identifying the victim as part of the in group. While these elements also feature in FGM, the symbolism goes far further. The labia and clitoris are removed in a bid to destroy the victim’s ability to experience sexual pleasure, as an expression of the utter contempt that the cultures and religions that perform this horrific abuse hold women and female sexuality in. It is believed that by removing these structures, women will not be ‘tempted’ to take charge of their own sexuality. Further, some cultures believe that by excising the seat of female sexual pleasure you also remove a component of the woman’s free will, thus rendering her more biddable. It is a twisted attempt at sympathetic-magic-based mind-control.

Finally, there is in some ways the most horrific and repugnantly misogynist component of all – in no small degree FGM is performed in pursuit of the aesthetic preferences and perceived convenience of the men of these cultures. It is a concrete expression of the idea within these societies that women aren’t actual people at all – that they exist as mere chattel for men, to be used for the pleasure and gratification of men and discarded at the whim of men.

Given all these factors, comparing male circumcision and FGM as somehow equivalent is highly inappropriate, and may easily be interpreted as an attempt to dismiss the suffering, and silence the voices, of women by means of a wilfully facile comparison to a superficially similar cultural rite that doesn’t cause anything approaching the same level of physical harm or carry the same toxic social baggage.

Think again and help us end female genital mutilation.


  1. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but I believe you may have some of the facts wrong. 85% of FGM victims experience Type I/II which is roughly equivalent to male circumcision. 15% of victims experience type III which is definitely worse than the male form.

    In Africa, male circumcision is often performed in unsterile environments with crude implements. In Egypt and Southeast Asia, FGM is performed in sterile hospital environments just like male circumcision. Most of the time (55%) anesthesia is not used for male circumcision in the USA.

    Male circumcision started in the United States as a means to prevent masturbation. It was used to control the sexuality of slaves in the American South as a means to solve the "rape problem". Male circumcision is just as much about sexual control as FGM is. A US congresswoman recently said that male circumcision was good because it helped to prevent teenage pregnancy.

    Anti-FGM researchers recently did a study and the results, much to their dismay, were that FGM reduced HIV transmission. Research also showed that FGM victims experience sexual pleasure and orgasm despite their mutilation.

    FGM practitioners claim health benefits---just like male circumcision practitioners.

    I don't intend for this to be a pissing match, but stating incorrect information and using that to justify a viewpoint is not right. As I've said before, even the "ceremonial nick" that the AAP supported is abhorrent and I'd fight against that as much as I'd fight against the more extreme forms. Cutting any genitals is insanity and it all needs to stop no matter what gender.

    P.S. If you need sources for any of the above statements I've made, let me know. I can back up all of it.

  2. I appreciate your concern but l think you are basing your argument on what people who have no direct link with those who went through procedure say. I have been involved and I have evidence

  3. Why is that people are quick to try and say the other is worse. This to me blindly ignores facts. I am not talking about statics carried out where HIV / Aids is not prevalent. I am talking of real people and real threat. Do not compare Figures recorded where people have FGM done in clinics. I am talking about FGm done in the back of beyond in an African rural village.

  4. If you have noticed I have not said Male circumcision is good. I am aware of some of the dangers but I am only stating facts based on the HIV risks for those genitally mutilated.

  5. You only talk of Egypt and USA, are your facts considering those who are infibulated in the interior of Africa and risk lesions on the genitalia when they are being opened up by partners which then easily lead to infection.