Female Genital Mutilation Imagine standing next to a camp

Female Genital
Mutilation

Imagine standing next to a camp fire
and not having the sensory input to tell you, “Hey, we are too close to this
heating source” because it was removed from you at a young age as a result of a
decision made by your parents. Instead of moving to a comfortable position out
of the “too hot zone”, you continue to walk forward and find yourself burning
alive without the feeling of the heat. Although, that is an extreme example, that
is exactly what desensitization is. Desensitization consists of the removal of
receptiveness to stimulation. This includes a vast array of stimuli; one can be
desensitized physically, mentally and emotionally. In particular, this research
piece has been constructed to argue that female genital mutilation, which is a
form of desensitization of the female sexual reproductive organ, for any
cultural reason is wrong and is not medically necessary.

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Female genital mutilation procedures
are performed to intentionally alter or cause injury to a female’s genital
organs for non-health related medical purposes. Female genital mutilation is
categorized into four of the following major types: I, II, III & IV. Type I
is referred as a clitoridectomy, which is the removal of the clitoris. Type II,
also referred to as an excision, is the partial or entire removal of the
clitoris and the labia minora. Type II can occur in simulation with the removal
of the labia majora or without its removal and allowing it to remain fully
intact. Type III is referred to as infibulation, which involves the creation of
a covering seal from repositioning the labia minora or majora. Type III can
occur with the addition of clitoridectomy or without it. Lastly, Type IV is the
cumulation of all three of the harmful procedures with non-health related medical
purposes performed to the female genitalia. Piercings, scraping and cautery to
the female genitalia are a few examples of Type IV. This procedure is rarely
performed on adult women, but mostly completed on young girls that range from
infancy to adolescence. Annually, approximately 3 million girls are at risk for
female genital mutilation (“Female genital mutilation”). It is most commonly
practiced in some regions of Africa, countries in the Middle East and Asia.

Female genital mutilation is a global concern.

Ruth Macklin’s article, “Obligations
of Physicians”, on multiculturalism, states that many immigrants would migrate to
the United States and European countries and demand their daughters to undergo
the female genital mutilation procedure at young ages. In the absence of their daughter’s
opinions, many parents believe that the procedure should be done in order to
protect their daughters. A father from Somalia particularly believed that the
procedure would preserve their daughter’s virginity for the ideals of their sacrosanct
Muslim religion. Another immigrant from Africa had a similar view with the father’s
stance about the procedure, but had her own distinctive beliefs as well. She believed
that the procedure will aid in helping their daughter sustain from prematurely
leaving home and participating in the procreation of offspring out of wedlock,
which is highly frowned upon within many religions. In actuality, the parents
fail to recognize and understand that these procedures do not guarantee that their
daughters will abstain and listen to their religious and cultural views. Furthermore,
some societies have the procedure done for reasoning’s beyond religion and
preventative measures. These societies partake in these procedures because of
the tradition within their culture. Along the lines of culture preservation,
they believe in the continuation of this procedure as a vital entity. Lastly, some
perceive the clitoris as unclean, unfeminine and male-like. Therefore, creating
need for the clitoris to be removed because of the female notion of what it is
to be a female, which is to be to be clean and beautiful.

Although the surgical procedure has
been illegal in the United States since the year 1997, there has been evidence
that many immigrants’ requests for the procedure have been honored and granted.

Since those immigrants were granted permission to get the procedure done, they
have to be disclosed with all the risks and consequences involved from this
practice.

At one extreme is the reply that in
the United States physicians are obligated to follow the ethical and cultural
practices accepted here and have no obligation to comply with patients’
requests that embody entirely different cultural values. At the other extreme
is the view that cultural sensitivity requires physicians to adhere to the
traditional beliefs and practices of patients who have emigrated from other
cultures (Macklin 122-123).

Cultural sensitivity should not be taken into
consideration, if the procedure is not in the best interest of the child’s
health. The procedure may put them at risk for harmful psychological and
physical consequences. When immigrants come to the United States to request the
procedure, doctors should not be obligated to perform such procedures simply
because their cultural values in their native country vastly differ from the cultural
and medical practices in America. The countries that practice and perform
female genital mutilation view circumcised women as the stereotypical or
cultural norm. Macklin argued that countries who view that practice as “normal”
are equivalent to the viewing of malnutrition and malaria in some African
countries, which is very prevalent, as “normal”. Normality’s of whether a human
condition is statically normal is irrelevant, when the focus should be on what
is ethically best for the overall human life condition.

According to the World Health
Organization, there are no health benefits to females who partake in the
genital mutilation procedure but rather receive, only harmful effects. The
procedure removes the clitoris and damages healthy, normal genital tissue. The
damages left from the procedure creates a platform of impediments with the
natural functions of a female’s body at any stage in their life. Some of the immediate
risks from this platform created by the procure of the procedure consists of
and is not limited to severe hemorrhage bleeding, urination problems, cysts,
vaginal infections, childbirth complications, menstrual problems, abnormalities,
and a high chance of newborn deaths. In Egypt, there was a case where a female
genital mutilation procedure was performed illegally. This procedure was banned
from Egypt in 2008. The head of the hospital and two doctors faced allegations
because it was the procedure was performed illegally and it caused the
teenager’s death. The two doctors ended up being referred for prosecution and
the hospital was shut down (Eleftheriou-Smith). Had the doctors followed the
ethics and laws set in place, then there is no doubt that she would be living,
since unanimously the procedure is what was the cause of her death. This
procedure involves snipping the sensitive genital nerve end tissues that cause
excruciating pain. The use of anesthesia is needed during the procedure, but
not always used; even when it is used, it’s not always effective. These
immediate risks can eventually lead to long-term health consequences that can
occur anytime during their life. Here are the following long-term repercussions
of female genital mutilation: chronic genital and reproductive tract
infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, irregular
menstrual cycles, female sexual health, obstetric complications, perinatal
risks, psychological consequences and an increased risk for transmitting human
immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV (“Female genital mutilation”).

Female genital mutilation is
internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and
women. “The International Human Rights law including the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (1948) proclaims the right for all human beings to live in
conditions that enable them to enjoy good health and health care” (Fisaha 5).

It is argued that it is a gender-based human rights violation that intends to
control women’s freedom and sexuality. Another argument is that the human right
to be involved in one’s culture has the same significance as other human
rights. Nevertheless, the human right of culture does not ratify practices that
blatantly cause harm to another. Parents wanting to have the procedure done is
not a formal consent given by the person getting the procedure done regardless
of whether the child is old enough to completely understand or comprehend at
all. I understand that a parent has to give informed consent for their minor
child, but this case should be treated differently because the procedure is
once again, not medically necessary. The right of the child needs to be taken
into consideration because this procedure violates the “central notion of the
Convention on Rights of Child” (Fisaha 5). According to the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, it is important that the cultural values and traditions of
people serve as a protection and agreeable development of the child.

This procedure has caused tensions
between universalism and cultural relativism. Universalists argue that female
genital mutilation affects the health and well-being of girls and women because
the procedure is widely performed under unsanitary conditions (Fisaha 3) that
can cause immediate and long-term health issues. Universalist feminists also
argue that this procedure weakens the sexual desires of women which can cause
them to be vulnerable to the domination of a man. Despite all the health risk
facts involved in this procedure, relativists believe that it is part of
raising the girl properly and do not worry about the negative consequences.

Cultural relativism views all cultures to be truthfully ethical and equal; each
culture also has the “freedom of practicing all that is relevant and valuable
to the society regardless of the responses and viewpoints of” (Fisaha 4)
another culture or other cultures. Cultural relativists deem a tradition to be
ethical, moral and valid to societies who practice it. Some communities in
Africa believe that the husband and wife can be in danger if the woman is left
uncircumcised because the head of the baby is not supposed to touch the uncut
clitoris; if it does, the baby will have redundant cranial fluid. Some even say
that the baby will die if it touches the mother’s clitoris during birth. It is
even further said that the woman’s breast milk will be poisonous for the baby and
the man’s penis will become infertile if it touches the woman’s clitoris. A
mutilated wife is also meant to fulfill the sexual satisfaction of the husband.

Female genital mutilation is said to be a precondition to be an adult and
belong to the human race, if not, she will be isolated and denied rights to
interact with others. These myths have no scientific truths to them and were
used to justify the practice of this cultural tradition. I would have to agree
from a universalists’ perspective on female genital mutilation.

In conclusion, female genital
mutilation procedures need to be ceased because it is more harm than good. Today,
female genital mutilation is banned and illegal in several countries throughout
the world (McCarthy). Although this this practice is performed for cultural
traditions, doctors should not consider cultural sensitivity since it puts a
child’s health at risk. Many cultures want to continue this practice in order
to prevent their baby girls from having sex before marriage. This procedure
does not ensure the enculturation of girls. Health benefits from this procedure
are non-existent and can even result in death. This procedure violates the
human rights of women and young girls. Universalists have a more ethical and
moral point of view against female genital mutilation than cultural
relativists. There is no valid reason to put any female at a high health risk
with this type of surgery, especially a child.

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