Primum Non Nocere

Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes the case in The Daily Beast against the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) proposal to allow doctors to preform a ritual “nick” on a female child’s clitoris, an alternative to more severe forms of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

I am familiar with this debate in two ways. First, I come from a culture where virtually every woman has undergone genital cutting. I was 5 years old when mine were cut and sewn. Second, while serving as a member of parliament in the Netherlands, I was assigned the portfolio for the emancipation and integration of immigrant women. One of my missions was to combat practices such as FGM.

To understand this problem, we need to begin with parental motives. The “nicking” option is regarded as a necessary cleansing ritual. The clitoris is considered to be an impure part of the girl-child and bleeding it is believed to make her pure and free of evil spirits.

The AAP, whatever their good intentions, needs to recognize that this dignifies FGM by helping to remove the stigma behind it. Just because a practice is common or traditional or religious does not mean it deserves any special privileges. What if a medical academy endorsed ritual pedophilia or ceremonial incest? What doctor would condone or perform, say, grazing a child’s genitals in sexually suggestive ways in order to placate the child’s abusive parents? Does anyone think it would improve anything if they did? What about ritual cannibalism – a swift and modest surgical cut from a child’s backside could provide a medically “harmless” morsel for those looking for the taste of the divine? I don’t think I’m making too extreme a comparison; for example, Catholics’ history with pedophilia and cannibalism isn’t hypothetical. And to be clear, ritual FGM isn’t as ceremonial as some might hope.

First there is the ritual pinprick. This is what Pediatrics refers to as the “nick” option. To give you an idea of what that means, visualize a preteen girl held down by adults. Her clitoris is tweaked so that the circumcizer can hold it between her forefinger and her thumb. Then she takes a needle and pierces it using enough force for it to go into the peak of the clitoris. As soon as it bleeds, the parents and others attending the ceremony cheer, the girl is comforted and the celebrations follow.

It is bad enough that crazy fanatics are mutilating young girls; doctors need not join in.  

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