by Georganne Chapin
On Wednesday, February 6, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) rolled out — with much digital fanfare — International Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation.”
After scanning the promo, I’m inspired to suggest a few alternative monikers. How about International Zero Tolerance Day for Genital Mutilation (unless You’re a Boy, in which Case You’re Out of Luck)? Well, that’s probably too many words, so how about International Cultural Blindness Day? Or, better yet, International Hypocrisy Day? Let me explain.
On a polished new website for its “Born Complete” campaign, UNFPA decries the cultural practice of cutting girls as “reflect[ing] deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.” Really?
It’s good to hate FGM, and it’s essential to protect girls from the practice. It’s also irrefutable that many women around the world have less freedom and opportunity than their male counterparts. But to condemn FGM on the grounds that it constitutes sex discrimination is truly mystifying, given the nearly universal circumcision of boys in countries where FGM is practiced.
Particularly hypocritical and galling to me is the fact that my own country is the largest non-Muslim boy-cutting nation in the world: although the numbers are slowly falling, more than one million boys born each year in U.S. hospitals are sexually mutilated within a few days of their birth (and only a handful of those surgeries are carried out as religious rituals).
Yet, the United States of America is blithely and uncritically on board with the UN’s claim that FGM constitutes sexual discrimination. This is corroborated by the current push by (mostly female) state legislators to implement laws declaring it a crime to cut only the genitals of girl children for non-medical reasons. This trend has accelerated in the wake of a Michigan court dismissing charges against a female doctor who performed minor genital-altering surgery on three young girls whose immigrant parents solicited the procedure. Incidentally, the dismissal was based on the judge’s ruling that the federal anti-fgm law is unconstitutional – NOT because it implicitly exempts boys from protection, but because it attempts to regulate activities that properly belong under the jurisdiction of the states.
I do believe it’s only a matter of time before there will be a court challenge to the state FGM laws as discriminating against boys and intersex children. I’m less sure when the international human rights establishment will start to celebrate “Born Complete” and being “intact” (am I being petty to complain that the UN appropriated this term from the American intactivist movement?) as applying to all children.
But those are topics for another day. In the meantime, hypocrisy rules!