Sunday, January 20, 2008

Circumcision: The Difference

There's an article on female circumcision in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine today. Also a slide show.

Some people might get the idea that female and male circumcison are the same and if one is bad, so is the other.

Well, read carefully, there in the article:-

Any distinction between injuring the clitoris or the clitoral hood is irrelevant, says Laura Guarenti, an obstetrician and WHO’s medical officer for child and maternal health in Jakarta. “The fact is there is absolutely no medical value in circumcising girls,” she says. “It is 100 percent the wrong thing to be doing.” The circumcision of boys, she adds, has demonstrated health benefits, namely reduced risk of infection and some protection against H.I.V.


Anonymous said...

Read the article.

"Siti Rukasitta, who has been a circumciser at the foundation for 20 years, said through an interpreter that they use a small pair of sterilized scissors to cut a piece of the clitoral prepuce about the size of a nail clipping."

The difference? Male circumcision does not remove just a small part of the prepuce at the end, but the entire prepuce including a large swath of inner and outer mucosa, permanently externalizing the glans for a lifetime of unnatural friction.

There is only one way to conclude that the practice described in this article is worse than male circumcision, and that is to view it through the lens of cultural bias.

Objectively, this variety of genital reshaping of girls is no worse than the genital reshaping of boys.

It's tempting to think "our ways" are better than "their ways", but are they really?

YMedad said...

The difference is, as the article states, that there seems to be a medical benefit involved with male circumcision. As for unnatural friction, I have read that the amount of non-desirable elements than can collect in an uncircumcised penis is not the best.

Anonymous said...

"there seems to be a medical benefit involved with male circumcision"

That is a popular perception in some places, yet medical organizations worldwide agree there are no benefits which justify the surgery in healthy neonates. Furthermore, even a modest benefit could not ethically justify removing healthy sexual tissue from a person without their consent.

"I have read that the amount of non-desirable elements than can collect in an uncircumcised penis is not the best."

Again a popular belief in some places, but a misconception, and were such reasoning valid, would permit removal of a whole host of other body parts too. The prepuce helps keep the glans safe and clean, like the eyelids help keep the eyes safe and clean. Again, most importantly, such beliefs about hygiene are ethically insufficient to deprive another person of their healthy sexual tissue.

YMedad said...

This doesn't happen to males:

“Female genital mutilation, also misleadingly known as female circumcision, is usually performed on girls ranging in age from 1 week to puberty. Immediate physical complications include severe pain, shock, infection, bleeding, acute urinary infection, tetanus, and death. Long-term problems include chronic pain, difficulties with micturition [urination] and menstruation, pelvic infection leading to infertility, and prolonged and obstructed labor during childbirth."

See British Medical Journal. 1993 Aug 21;307(6902):460.

YMedad said...

The BMJ site is here

Anonymous said...

What you described is not what is depicted in this article.

Are you familiar with female genital reshaping practiced in Indonesia? You should be after reading this article carefully.

This particular form of FGM is nothing like that. It is a medicalized procedure, performed under conditions as sterile as male circumcision, and it removes only a fraction of the prepuce, while male circumcision removes much more of the prepuce.

The simple fact is, in Indonesia, parents have genital reshaping to very young girls which by every objective measure is less severe than male circumcision. Sometimes it is as minor as just a scratch or nick to the prepuce. That doesn't make it acceptable, but it does make it less injurious than typical male circumcision.

Don't get confused by the very wide range of female cutting practices. Some are severe and damaging in the ways you described, but that is not what's experienced by the girls in this article.