...Female genital cutting is often a coming-of-age ritual practiced in various parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but the procedure isn't just invoking concerns in the developing world. Religious and cultural beliefs fueling female circumcision often follow immigrants and refugees who move to America. Rarely have cases of female genital cutting been documented in the U.S., but much more likely, cutting has moved underground in the U.S. and overseas, advocacy groups and doctors say.
In the U.S., an estimated 228,000 women have been cut -- or are at risk of being cut -- because they come from an ethnic community that practices female genital cutting, according an analysis of 2000 Census data conducted by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The Census reports there are roughly 150 million women living in the United States.See--it's not so bad, really. We wouldn't want "some women" to feel "dirty or unmarriageable," would we?
The World Health Organization estimates up to 140 million women and children worldwide have been affected by female genital cutting. The WHO defines female genital cutting as a process that alters or injures female genital organs for nonmedical purposes.
There are several types of female circumcision. The most severe types require the inner or outer labia to be sewn together, a procedure performed in parts of Somalia and Egypt. Other forms include excising the entire clitoris or part of the clitoris.
Genital cutting dates back at least 5,000 years, says Marianne Sarkis, a professor of international development at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Some women desire the procedure because they believe they are dirty or unmarriageable if they are not cut, she said. There are cultures that begin cutting women as early as infancy, while some wait until adolescence.
One recalls the thrilling words of Gen. Sir Charles Napier, who, when confronted by a barbaric though age-old practice told its practitioners:
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.Notice he didn't say: "To 'accommodate' your, ahem, 'colourful' Third World custom, we will allow you to burn women 'a little bit'--up to their knees, say." But then, Sir Charles had no doubt that his "custom" should trump one that was inherently backward, barbaric and cruel. Would that American physicians, the ones prepared to accommodate FGM proponents by performing a "little nick" on little girls, had it in them to manifest the same sort of civilizational confidence.