THE American Academy of Pediatrics has reversed its recent proposal that doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or nick on a girl’s clitoris if it would keep their families from sending them overseas for a full circumcision.
The AAP said last month that it would like American doctors to be given permission to perform the ceremonial procedure on girls born into communities that practice female genital mutilation.
The proposal, made to placate immigrants from mainly Muslim cultures – African, Middle Eastern and Asian – ignited a storm of criticism from opponents of female genital mutilation.
Dr Judith S Palfrey, President of the Academy, said:
We’re saying don’t do it. Do everything that you can to support that family in this tough time, but don’t be pulled into the procedure.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP who vigorously campaigns to protect women from militant Islam, pointed out:
Female circumcision is a custom in many African and Asian countries whereby the genitals of a girl child are cut. There are roughly four procedures. 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 circumciser 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.
There is a more sinister meaning to the word ‘nick’ if you consider the fact that in some cases it means to cut off the peak of the clitoris. Proponents compare “nicking” to the ritual of boy circumcision. But in the case of the boys, it is the foreskin that is all or partly removed and not a part of the penis head. In the case of the girls, the clitoris is actually mutilated.
Then there is the second method whereby a substantial part of the clitoris is removed and the opening of the vagina is sewn together (infibulation). The third variation adds to this the removal of the inner labia.
Finally, there is a procedure whereby as much of the clitoris as possible is removed along with the inner and outer labia. Then the inner walls of the vagina are scraped until they bleed and are then bound with pins or thorns. The tissue on either side grows together, forming a thick scar. Two small openings roughly equal to the diameter of a matchstick are left for urination and menstruation respectively.
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.
But the majority of girls are subjected to FGM to ensure their virginityâ€”hence the sewing up of the opening of the vaginaâ€”and to curb their libido to guarantee sexual fidelity after marriage, hence the effective removal of the clitoris and scraping of the labia. Think of it as a genital burqa, designed to control female sexuality.
Hirsi is universally reviled by Muslim fundamentalists. What seems to to irk them most is the fact that she’s a stunningly attractive female who refuses to cover up her features with a burqa or niqab. So its not unusual to see her depicted on Islamic blogs with her face digitally distorted. The one on the right appeared on the Rupee News blog.