Circumcision and FGM

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Circumcision and FGM

Postby JP-plus » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:47 pm

So, I asked this in the main forum and got sent here.

I'm a circumcised male opposed to circumcision. I'm opposed to it for the same reasons I'm opposed to FGM (personal autonomy), and it makes sense to me to bundle them in the same package.

My question is, are they substantially different, and should not be bundled?
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby ceepolk » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:49 pm

yes they are and no they shouldn't.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby eNeMeE » Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:57 pm

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ edit- do not click this link if you don't want to read about FGM. It's the WHO factsheet on it.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby ischemgeek » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:20 pm

"Trigger Warning: Discussion of FGM Types" [ Show ]
To give you an idea, the most common and almost least-severe form of FGM, called FGM Type I, consists of a removal of the clitoral hood and far more often than not the clitoris itself. This form is typically less analogous to male circumcision and more analogous to cutting off a boy's penis. There is one subset of FGM I that is very analogous to male circumcision, where only the prepuce of the clitoris is cut off, however this by far less common than clitoridectomy and is in the vast minority of FGM assaults (I hesitate to use the word 'procedure' because that seems to me to legitimize it). Bear in mind that this is the least severe of the common forms of FGM.

The other forms are typically more severe. FGM Type II consists of removal of the clitoris, clitoral hood, and labia, while FGM Type III (infibulation) is the most severe and usually consists of removal of all of the above, and fusion of the wound to leave a small hole for urination and menstruation. Type IV is a catch-all for any other form of FGM, and ranges from acts less severe than FGM Type I to nearly as severe as FGM Type III, all of which are far less common than those of Types I, II, and III.

In all cases, these acts are usually done without anaethetic in unsterile conditions on children who are held down for it. They are so painful that girls have been known to pass out from the pain and break their own bones with the force of their struggle. In addition, all forms of FGM are associated with high risks of lifelong complications, including increased risk of infertility, increased risk of pre-eclampsia and other pregnancy disorders, increased risk of uterine infections, and severe pain with menstruation in addition to uniformly severe effects on the victim's sexual health, as well as short-term complications ranging from severe pain to death. Though it's hard to get the stats on it due to underreporting of complications and mortality, most people working in areas where it's prominent peg the mortality rate of these acts at about 10%.

Wikipedia has a fairly good article on it if the WHO link doesn't work for you (it's not working for me for some reason).


So, yeah. Not even close.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Lovely » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:43 pm

They are substantially different as others have given examples above.

They should not be bundled as they are not talking about the same thing. Equating them would be disingenuous and possibly harmful to groups that oppose FGM.

("If it's just circumcision then they've still got their female equivalent of a penis, why are they whining about that any more than male circumcision?")

There's a reason that it's not called female circumcision, because it's not equivalent. It had to be named correctly to show just how different it is.

I want to go one step further than what you've asked, though. Just so it's not misunderstood. While they are different, and they should not be bundled, that in no way means that we cannot oppose both. We should just be careful not to equate them when we do oppose them.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Grimalkin » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:36 am

Yeah, as others have said, huge difference. A penis is still normally functional without the foreskin. FGM, as I understand it, has the purpose of making female genitals non-functional.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby marinerachel » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:40 am

Only bundled when discussing the ways in which they are comparable. They differ overwhelmingly however and are both complex nuanced issues which need to be dealt which seperately.

We just shouldn't equate the two as it's extremely dismissive.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Xanthë » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:51 am

It’s also not uncommon for any FGM-related discussions, anywhere, to suffer a virulent invasion of “What About The Menz” which only serves to underline that the discussion should briefly acknowledge the common element of the undermining of bodily autonomy, and then the discussion of MC/MGM should be kept to a separate thread where it won’t constitute a derail. (Did anyone notice the offensive idiot called “Dick Scalper” falling into this pattern elsewhere here?)
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby rumblestiltsken » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:00 am

I hesitate to bring this up, because I am totally on board with the general agreement here - they are not the same ....

but ... (urrghh right?)

on Australian tv we get Germaine Greer on a panel program on occasion. My understanding is she has a strong dose of relativism in her feminism, but she has also been to Africa and many of the regions FGM is practiced. Her take on things was one I had not heard fully expressed before, and I am interested in hearing what everyone here thinks.

As a warning, she does minimise the practice to some extent, so if that is going to be tough to hear then best not to click the link.
Video link.

If anyone wants to watch the rest of it I really recommend the other panelists, at least if you ignore the British actor. I haven't rewatched this episode but the other two really struck me as very eloquent.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Yallery Brown » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:55 am

marinerachel wrote:We just shouldn't equate the two as it's extremely dismissive.


I can see how it is technically incorrect to equate the two - as we are dealing with a variety of procedures and different structures in either case.

However whilst people equating the two may not be right they wouldn't necessarily be dismissive. One can regard the whole ambit of coerced genital mutilation as an undesirable imposition without being blind to the relative horrors of the various procedures.

So I - speaking as an uncircumsiced male - certainly veiw a full clitoral excision as a vastly more destructive procedure than removal of the foreskin, though I also regard removal of the foreskin as a far more destructive procedure than the pricking of the clitoris in order to produce drops of blood (and I will add the caveat that this is with medical complications and cultural wedges being mooted for the sake of argument).

A lot of the angst in these comparative analyses rises from the fact that FGM covers a wider range of procedures than a typical circumcision.

Whilst as a matter of priority it makes sense to oppose those forms of genital mutilation that cause the most damage when talking about the practice in general it strikes me that the stance with most integrity is to either stand against the unconsentual/coerced mutilation of genitals, period - or name the procedures in a less vague fashion. Circumcision is a type of mutilation after all, and the equivalence of FGM to circumcision depends on the type of operation is question. All else being equal - clitoral excision strikes me as worse, removal of the clitoral hood strikes me as roughly equivalent, genital pricking strikes me as less severe.

A further complication might be the fate of those born gender-ambiguous, and the fact that they will tend to be assigned a gender and surgically manipulated to suit.

rumblestiltsken wrote:Her take on things was one I had not heard fully expressed before, and I am interested in hearing what everyone here thinks.


I recall her making a similar point in regard to Burkhas and Boob Jobs - but whilst I think her stance is worthy of consideration I think she misses an important aspect which is the one of consent.

So yes - women in the west may take unnecessary and sometimes dangerous lengths to prettify their genitals according to a shallow cultural norm.

That is tragic and - depending on their individual degrees of agency - they may be said to do so in some coerced fashion because that's the message they get.

But even so, even though that is tragic - it does strike me as being of a different class to injuries inflicted without consent.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby marinerachel » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:34 pm

Xanthë wrote:It’s also not uncommon for any FGM-related discussions, anywhere, to suffer a virulent invasion of “What About The Menz” which only serves to underline that the discussion should briefly acknowledge the common element of the undermining of bodily autonomy, and then the discussion of MC/MGM should be kept to a separate thread where it won’t constitute a derail.


Exactly.

The first time I was told I am required (not should or might want to or could benefit from) to discuss routine infant circumcision in the western world if I wish to discuss FGM, a little light bulb went off in my head. I was literally ordered not to discuss the issue of FGM without giving routine infant circumcision equal time and that if I didn't discuss routine infant circumcision alongside FGM and give it as much energy I was being divisive and hated men. It was completely irrelevant whether the procedures were equivalent. I was required to treat them as such because, if not, teh menz were being excluded.

That was my first real "What About Teh Menz" moment. That was when it became apparent to me we have a problem.

(Did anyone notice the offensive idiot called “Dick Scalper” falling into this pattern elsewhere here?)


Yup.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby eNeMeE » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:37 pm

Xanthë wrote: reference to another thread

Please don't. It happened in another thread, just let it die.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Brad » Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:01 am

ceepolk wrote:yes they are and no they shouldn't.

You overreach.
marinerachel wrote:Only bundled when discussing the ways in which they are comparable. They differ overwhelmingly however and are both complex nuanced issues which need to be dealt which seperately.


They're both literally mutilation, both are examples of religious poisoning, both are examples of the wrongheaded idea that parents have rights rather than responsibilities, and, while I can't speak for the origin of the practice in ancient times, circumcision's resurgence in america was a sex-negative anti-masturbation campaign (waged by [strike]Captain Crunch[/strike] Kellog) and FGM is motivated in part by sex-negativity.

So there is non-zero overlap, and the reasons circumcision is unethical are a subset of the reasons FGM is unethical, but denying FGM has a host of other substantial issues involved would be irresponsible in addition to patently incorrect.

On balance, I've never debated male circumcision without somebody bringing up FGM not that that excuses anything
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby cburschka » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:45 am

I agree that there is non-zero overlap, but I do not think this overlap can be used to fight both at once in a concerted action. Yes, "leave children's genitals alone" is a good sentiment to rally behind. However, this too easily equates the two, which ignores a whole host of the factors mentioned. To name one that hasn't yet been, FGM is principally occurring in a very poor region in Africa, while circumcision is moderately prevalent in the developed world - if nothing else, that requires completely different strategies to fight each. Any attempt to fight both either (if it equates them) minimizes the former or (if it doesn't) eclipses the latter.

I also agree that both must be fought.

Diverting the topic from either to the other is of course a fairly transparent tactic of relativisation. From FGM to circumcision is particularly pungent for all the reasons mentioned. From circumcision to FGM minimizes a lesser evil by invoking a greater evil in a fairly literal "Dear Muslima" argument.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Yallery Brown » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:36 am

Diverting the topic from either to the other is of course a fairly transparent tactic of relativisation.


Apt relativism in this case.

The various procedures covered by the term FGM are - in relation to one another and typical male circumcision - of varying degrees of severity and depth of consequence.

So if you want to be fair in a kind of categorical imperative sense the value to hold should be one of "I oppose all genital mutilation of children asides from issues of informed medical necessity".

Which is even-handed and provides a framework in which one can still abhor the more damaging procedures to a greater degree than the less damaging ones.

In the same way that someone who opposes racial violence is still able to distinguish a lynching from a beating in terms of severity.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby cburschka » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:44 am

I think I picked the wrong term with "relativise". The diversion I mentioned cannot be apt, because it is a diversion. It is aimed to draw attention to one at the expense of the other - as in "but X happens to A" in a discussion of Y happening to B, which is wrong even when X is infinitely worse than Y. The original "Dear Muslima" argument, which actually opens with FGM, criticizes the issue of harrassment at conventions - it could easily be aimed against the discussion of male circumcision, and would be equally out of place.

"I oppose all genital mutilation of children asides from issues of informed medical necessity"


Yep. As far as categorical imperatives go, this is gold.

I'd call these separate battlefields in the same war - like secularizing US highschools and protecting Indonesion atheists from incarceration. They stem from the same principle, and are both important, but mentioning them in the same breath might give people the wrong impression.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby qmartindale » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:41 am

FGM is illegal in North America and Europe, right?
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby cburschka » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:01 am

According to Wikipedia, it is a crime in all states of the European Union and the United States. Children are still at risk of being taken outside the country for it. There's a 2004 case where a German court specifically prohibited a mother from taking her daughter to Gambia (both are Gambian citizens exclusively)[1], but I didn't find any information for how this is handled in other countries.

It's illegal in many African countries too, including Guinea and Egypt, where it has enormous prevalence.[2] Most of the legislation is recent (including several laws passed last year), so that fight seems to be making at least some progress.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby GregoryInSeattle » Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:26 pm

There are many forms of female genital mutilation. All of them are medically unnecessary and (in western cultures) considered to be an act of violence against the girls too young to give informed consent.

The surgery that involves just removing the clitoral hood is anatomically identical to male circumcision. This surgery, done on women, is included in the ban of unnecessary surgery and is likewise considered to be an act of violence when done on girls too young to give informed consent. Considering this procedure, and only this procedure, and transforming the victim into a boy... should male circumcision be viewed identically, as medically unnecessary and an act of violence when done on boys too young to give informed consent?

I would say yes.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby cburschka » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:49 pm

The "anatomically identical" thing sounds dubious, because it is hard to evaluate when the anatomies are not, well, identical. Note that there are some infections that are treated by partial or complete circumcision, while the only medical reason Wikipedia mentions for a clitoridectomy is a rare cancer.

Still, a prophylactic circumcision is as medically unnecessary as a preemptive tonsillectomy. Any medically unnecessary surgery without informed consent should be considered an act of violence and forbidden; particularly when it permanently alters the body. There are currently efforts in Germany to get male circumcision (for non-medical reasons) banned, which has the rare effect of uniting Muslim and Jewish lobbies in anger.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby GregoryInSeattle » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:27 pm

The clitoral hood is the exact same piece of tissue as the foreskin. Let's keep the comparison between apples and apples.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby marinerachel » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:17 pm

The difference is in how the procedure is performed. The circumstances are nowhere near comparable nor are the risks. Little girls having their clitoral hoods cut off aren't anaesthetised having the procedure performed by skilled medical professionals in a sterile setting.

Even with the same piece of tissue being removed, what is done to a little girl in Sudan is vastly different from what it done to an infant boy in Ontario.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby GregoryInSeattle » Sat Sep 15, 2012 4:39 am

Infant boys are not anesthetized. And circumcisions done for religious reasons are typically done at home, by clergy.

Female circumcision -- meaning the equivalent procedure as male circumcision -- done in Ontario is still condemned as brutal and a direct violation of the girl's body integrity. And yet, male circumcision done in Ontario generally is not.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby marinerachel » Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:03 am

Very few circumcisions in North American are performed outside medical settings. The vast majority are routine infant circumcisions. They aren't religious in nature. They're senseless medical procedures.

Medical circumcisions, necessary or otherwise, aren't performed without anaesthesia anywhere in Canada. Sedation and general anaesthesia aren't used. That excrutiating part of the procedure involving sticking the infant in the penis with a needle and injecting them is the administration of the local anaesthesia.

And even without the local anaesthesia, what's done to baby boys is far safer than having your clitoral hood snipped off with a pair of dirty scissors or a rusty knife which is how MOST female circumcisions are performed.

The issues aren't equivalent despite the tissue removed being homologous. While the vast majority of males who circumcision is imposed on will have it done relatively safely in a low-risk setting under local anaesthesia the vast majority of girls who are circumcised will not have any of those benefits AND what is done to them is likely to be far more aggressive. The circumstances under which the two procedures are performed are vastly different in general.

What's comparable to female circumcision is "traditional" male circumcision as seen in places like South Africa where the methods are just as crude and the risks as high. It is a FAR more dangerous, damaging procedure than what's generally done to North American and European boys despite both procedures being the removal of the foreskin.

Both are violations of an individual's bodily autonomy - we know that. It's why we oppose unnecessary circumcision. The fact both are wrong doesn't make them equally harmful.
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Re: Circumcision and FGM

Postby Yallery Brown » Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:46 am

marinerachel wrote:The difference is in how the procedure is performed. The circumstances are nowhere near comparable nor are the risks. Little girls having their clitoral hoods cut off aren't anaesthetised having the procedure performed by skilled medical professionals in a sterile setting.

Even with the same piece of tissue being removed, what is done to a little girl in Sudan is vastly different from what it done to an infant boy in Ontario.

True - but is the circumstance here not so much a comparison between geographies as opposed to a comparison between procedures? It does seem somewhat disingenuous to state that "the circumstances are nowhere near comparable nor are the risks" and then compare a girl's third world experience with that of a boy in the first world.

So Canadian boys might get a better deal than Sudanese girls, but do Sudanese boys?

Whereas Canadian law prohibits medically unecessary tampering with an infant's vagina, it offers no such protection to the penis.
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