Saturday, May 29, 2010
Two days ago it was reported that The Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is now considering legalising the practice of female genital mutilation, in an attempt to cater to particular cultural traditions. These operations have been illegal in the country since the 1990s, but the number of children being admitted to hospitals with ruptured bladders and severe haemorrhaging as a result of illegal backyard surgeries has compelled the community to rethink the ban, and provide a “less severe” form of mutilation. Unlike male circumcision, female genital cutting offers no health benefits, and procedures are known to cause severe bleeding, difficulties urinating, and later, potential childbirth complications as well as newborn deaths. There is no doubt that the traditional method of female circumcision is an exceedingly traumatic experience for the child involved, who is likely to be aged between infancy and fifteen years old. There are several cultural and religious reasons for this practice, but my personal favourite was explained by a notable Egyptian physician, who explained that female circumcision keeps girls clean, and prevents them from running after men. Women will suffer a decreased libido, and will therefore resist any “illicit” sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed, it is trusted that the fear of pain from opening it will discourage women from pursuing premarital sex, seeking extramarital sex, and, well, enjoying sex in general.
Popular in the Middle East, female circumcision is frequently described as an “age-old Muslim ritual.” Funnily enough, there is no mention of it in the Koran, and only receives a fleeting mention in the authentic hadiths. In fact, there are no religious scripts that prescribe the practice at all. In Sudan, nine out of ten girls undergo the most severe form of circumcision, where the entire clitoris is removed, as well as most of the labia. The sides are then sutured together, often with thorns, and only a small matchstick diameter is left opened for urine and menstrual flow. After marriage, women are then forcibly penetrated by their husbands, but, thankfully, there exists special “honeymoon centres” in which the bothersome screams of virgin brides cannot be heard.
So rest assured. We, as a diverse, tolerant, and noble country, are willing to endorse blatant child abuse and excessive discrimination against women in order to meet the traditional requirements of separate cultures. While we throw up our arms and attack the bigots who try to ban the burqa, the ritualistic maiming of children on the other hand seems fine.