Reading this article brought to mind a topic that recently came up at a forum to discuss women’s place in Africa: the place of circumcision in women’s lives. One of the women in attendance insisted that women should be able to decide if they want their genitals cut.
It’s all well and good until one remembers that none of us lives in isolation. We are products of our society and upbringing making it difficult, sometimes impossible, for your average person to resist something that is the norm in a community.
Male circumcision was brought up and a speaker rightly pointed out that it is accepted without contest. I, too, used to be 100% anti-female cutting but I had room for male cutting. Talking to a few men and women who advocate for girls and boys to stay intact has changed my stance over time.
In the human rights world, there is the concept of free, prior, informed consent. I wonder how many young people who undergo genital cutting are presented with all the facts. I wonder how many freely choose to have their genitals cut. I ask myself what proportion of them would still want it if they were asked again at 20, say, knowing what we know.
Genital cutting may well be enthusiastically chosen by some people. As it is, I doubt we are at that point. Before then, how can this conversation be had with respect?
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