Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Ritual Nick

What's the ritual nick?   A ceremonial pinprick or 'nick' in a young girl's clitoris.

Female circumcision otherwise known as female genital mutilation, has been illegal in the US and other countries, including Australia for some time. 'Intactivists' have been positioning male circumcision as male genital mutilation and campaigning to make male circumcision illegal too. In Dakar, on the west coast of the African continent, lawmakers from 27 African countries, together with envoys from the African Union and United Nations came together in early May 2010 to create a resolution which clearly bans female genital mutilation as a violation of human rights.

"The African Union's envoy Yetunda Teriba stressed that the West had a role to play in combating genital mutilations".

Just as the African nations are moving to ban the practice of FGM, the American Academy of Paediatricians recently  suggested a 'ritual nick' may be a good idea for girls from other countries to stop them being taken overseas for more severe forms of 'cutting'. What a confusing message to send!  That suggestion created a wave of criticism and caused the backdown of the AAP on this idea.

And now the clever country is getting in on the act. Our Australian doctors are considering this as a way  of dealing with female genital mutilation! What are RANZCOG thinking?  Obviously they are not thinking.

The 'ritual nick' is being called a 'modified' form of genital mutilation. Now that's a perfect example of a 'minifism' '

'Minifisms' is a word coined by Lawler (1991) describing behaviours which minimise the significance or severity of problems.

and get this:

"But experts are divided on whether to allow the practice, given that in some cultures it is used to remove the sexual feelings of women".
I'm speechless with that remark. I'd love to know which experts and experts on what exactly? 

Intactivists have considered the 'ritual nick' suggestion as a way to defuse and take attention from the growing call to have male circumcision made illegal.

This link is to the Intactivists page, where you will find recent media on the AAP moves and counter moves on 'the ritual nick'.

Marilyn Milos, a long time campaigner for the ending of circumcision said

"Circumcision is where sex and violence meet for the first time."
What do you think of that statement?

and finally, I refer you to Jeannine Parvati Baker's piece quoting Marilyn Milo's comment.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

Lawler, J. (1991). Behind the screens: Nursing, somology and the problem of the body. United Kingdom:
Churchill Livingstone


infomidwife said...

Thanks Carolyn for bringing this barbaric practice to our attention. I cannot believe that Australian and NZ doctors are even considering this!
In terms of ethics and law their are several issues. Firstly this is unethical on all counts, "do no harm", "to do good", I think these terms have been forgoten. To consider doing it (the nick) to stop underground activities is is the key....

In terms of the law I would think that this would have to be a court order as it is considered a life changing event...therefore not up to doctors or parents to make this decision... it would be up to the court to decide what is "in the best interest of the child" and I could not see an Australian or NZ court allowing this to happen.
The long term health issues for these girls women as you know are horrendous....all for the sake of "the Ritual Nick" I think not! and again it is another way to control women, yet again.......women have the right to enjoy their sexuality......lets keep the pressure on.....

Carolyn Hastie said...

As you say Pauline, to consider doing the ritual nick to stop underground activities is a weird and stupid thing to do.

The proposed compromise on female genital mutilation sends the wrong message for people with deeply ingrained cultural practices such as the cultural desirability of FGM. For others seeking to change these practices, 'compromise' can only create confusion.

Letters to RANZCOG and AAP are in order.

Thanks for your comment Pauline.

lisa said...

I came across this article a few days ago and was completely shocked by the fact it would even be considered.

Cropping ears and docking tails of dog is illegal in this Country so why on Earth would anyone consider it to be acceptable to circumsise a human being, unless it was medically necessary of course. Does it mean human beings body bits are less 'valuable' than animals? I can assure you, you will not find a qualified vet in Australia who would be willing to re-instate such a barbaric practice on animals.

If any mutilation is considered acceptable, by respected groups, many more women will suffer from the long term effects plus it will not stop those who 'perform' the ritual as a rite of passage.

Why can't our children's bodies be left alone? Why does anyone feel the need to remove parts of it?

I am just horrified.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Good point about puppy dog's tails being sacrosanct. Thanks for bringing that point into the conversation Lisa.

Interesting that our culture thinks clitorises can be given a little 'nick' to make them more acceptable and the protective hood of the penis can be removed. Obviously these parts of the human body are not rated as highly as dogs' tails.