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← Stop female genital mutilation in the UK! - Avaaz.org petition

LaurieB's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by LaurieB

It has been stated and agreed upon in this thread that circumcision of boys is a milder offense than FGM of girls and I'll be the first to agree because the consequences later in life for the girls are severe. I acknowledge that we shouldn't clutter up this thread with discussion of the male procedure. However, if I may, I'd like to share a few cultural insights that occur to me while reading the above comments.

As stated before, I lived for some years in Algeria where boys are circumcised with much joyous ceremony and FGM, as far as I know, is not done. I want to point out that circumcision in the West is a very different procedure than the one done in North Africa and the Middle East. A quick snip-procedure in a modern hospital bears no resemblance to the hack jobs that the other boys endure.

The North Africans circumcise at between 4 to 8 years old, in general. Those boys know exactly what will happen. The family and neighbors gather in the boys house at the agreed upon day. It's a big crowd. There are traditional party foods and singing and clapping. Then a bunch of adults gather around the boy, Take off his pants, spread his legs, hold him down tightly so he can't move, and the "specialist" starts slicing his foreskin off of his penis. The screaming and crying is ear splitting and it's making me sick to think about it. After they wrap him up and dress him in a little ceremonial robe/dress he spends the rest of the day laying there sobbing in wracking pain. No painkillers. Antibiotics? I doubt it. I rarely found anyone in those days who ever heard of antibiotics. Most argued with me when I tried to explain the idea. Needless to say, infections for these boys were prevalent and severe. It takes them weeks to recover from the physical trauma, not to mention the psychological trauma. It is also common that the procedure gets botched up and has to be redone! My own husband suffered through this hatchet job twice because it wasn't done well the first time. He tells me that he knows plenty of cases like his.

Please bear with me as I explain that horrific procedure. The point that I am trying to make here is that genital mutilation of children, boys and girls, is thought of as just "something that we just do" and "It's part of our religion!" although I doubt that, and "It's fine, don't worry about it! We all survived it just fine" and "the boys like it because they get candy and gifts of money after it's done!" They don't know that it is possible to circumcise boys in the first week of life in a sterile, clean hospital with anesthetic and antibiotics and to have the procedure done by a medical doctor who has devoted most of their lives to learning.

Granted, I've never been present at a FGM procedure but much of the description above must be the same. I doubt if it is done in a big family group because they won't put a girl's genitals on public display the way they will with a boy's, but I think that all else will hold similar. You see, I don't think that people in these societies really do see much difference between the two procedures. Wouldn't a better strategy be to strongly condemn genital mutilation in general? Oh, no, because then we'd have to take a long hard look at our own sterilized, anesthetized, hospitalized version of it and there's the rub.

Wed, 06 Jun 2012 20:13:23 UTC | #945949