Essay on Female Genital Mutilation

Submitted By mitchy69
Words: 1737
Pages: 7

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and Ethical Relativism

Over the last century, women have undergone extreme changes in their social/economic standing. The right to vote, right to education, right to work are just a few of the many changes that women have received. In the last 50 years, a new topic has arisen by the name of female genital mutilation/cutting or FGM/C for short. FGM/C is a practice carried out mostly in parts of Africa and is illegal in many countries including The United States of America. There are many health complications that have been known to associate with the practice. To date, there are no benefits that can be seen after undergoing the surgery. An estimated number of 100-140 million women are currently affected by FGM/C worldwide (WHO, 2010).
Female genital cutting is practiced currently in over 20 countries worldwide (Althaus, 1997). In these 20+ countries, anywhere between 43-97% of the women who are able to reproduce, have been circumcised (Althaus, 1997). Although these stats are interesting, they should be read with caution due to the fact of data limitations. Regardless of the limitations, the problem is still relevant no matter what part of the world. In regards to FGM/C, there are four different types of procedures, the first being clitoridectomy. During this particular practice, the clitoris is partly or totally removed from the genitals. In a few very rare cases, just the hood, or prepuce, of the clitoris is removed. The second type of surgery is called excision, wherein the clitoris and labia minora are either completely or partially removed. The third major type is known b y the name of infibulation. This is seen as the most harmful kind of mutilation. In this, an excision is performed, but afterwards, the labia majora are cut/scraped away completely leaving the woman bare, raw and flat. Then, the surface is either stitched together or the legs of the female are tied together. As the surgery heals, the scar tissue binds with the labia, which then covers most of the vaginal orifice (Althaus, 1997). The last type of surgery is any other manner in which the vagina is altered. No matter which type of the surgery a girl gets, she is no longer a natural female. At the international scale, FGM/C is very well recognized as a human rights violation. What the practice does, is reflect the existing inequality between men and women. This is a very extreme definition of when Westerners call discrimination. In most cases, the woman is not even a woman yet. Female circumcision is often seen as a rite of passage into womanhood. In accordance with these facts, the practice is a direct violation of the rights of children (WHO, 2010). Not only is this practice a violation of rights, most of the time, it is not done by a licensed doctor. The people who do the circumcisions are often elderly women who are also present at childbirths (WHO, 2010). Knowing this, the practice is drawn out to be even more of a violation against the basic inalienable rights that any human being possesses. Most research points to the fact that this act is done as a rite of passage into womanhood, not as a life choice. Female circumcision is often viewed as a social necessity in order for a girl to become both a woman and a wife. Because FGM/C is seen as a social convention, the pressures to give in and undergo the surgery are very great. This is a major contributor in why girls decide to get the procedure done. More times than not, female genital cutting is openly associated with being “pure” and “clean” in the cultures that still hold the practice as a value (WHO, 2010). In most cases where the ethics of keeping FGM around, cultural traditions are brought up in order to back the viewpoints of the practitioners. At other times, the fact that the practice is “religious” is also used often, though there is no evidence that the idea is religiously supported. Even though many people who