And Now to Ruin Your Day, Female Genital Mutilation

Excerpt presented without comment.  Article authored by Will Bordell, posted at ButterfliesandWheels.orgGo read the whole thing.  Thanks to Ophelia Benson for drawing attention to the articleI’ll be back in the morning after work with my thoughts on Pulpit Freedom Sunday and the tax exempt status of churches, as well as various other bits of disbelief that need fostering.  I’ll even throw in some snark to make up this day ruiner.  Hey, not everything can be all snark , sarcasm, and fun when horrific shit like this not only goes on daily, but is defended by some as nothing but a “cultural difference.”   


In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it?

Each girl will be pinned down, with no anaesthetic, whilst 8,000 nerve endings cringe at the touch of an unclean scalpel. Each girl will scream and writhe and howl – but you won’t hear any of them. Each girl will be irreversibly, unbearably, agonisingly mutilated.

“I heard it,” described Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “like a butcher snipping the fat off a piece of meat. A piercing pain shot up between my legs”. Skin rips, blood pours, cries screech. But it wasn’t over for her just yet: next “came the sewing… the long, blunt needle clumsily pushed into my bleeding outer labia,” thread weaving through thread to leave behind only a miniscule opening for urination and menstruation.

The scars of this torture, butchery on a factory-line scale – and that is the only way to describe it – will never fade. Premenstrual cramps, traumatic periods, an interminable stench of soured blood (caused by menstrual difficulties), problems with pregnancy and childbirth, pain during sexual intercourse, psychological damage and the risk of fistula are but a few of the long, long list of health complications that will haunt every girl’s adulthood. That’s if they survive the immediate blood loss, infection and severe trauma. It’s an experience from which a child may never fully recover.

Conservative estimates suggest that over 100 million women worldwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Article Five of the UN Declaration of Human Rights decrees that no one “shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. And surely such human rights are universal; or else they are nothing.

Yet it is so easy to fall into the relativist quicksand, to jettison logic and lose perspective. Dr Richard Shweder is convinced that “many African women view [the clitoris] as an unbidden, unwanted, ugly and vestigial male-like element that should be removed”. In the guise of ‘tolerance’ for the beliefs and practices of other cultures, what is revealed is a shameless double standard, a prescription for inaction and indifference in the face of the most horrendous cruelty, a blank cheque for tyrants and oppressors. We mustn’t let the wool be pulled over our eyes.


The excuse of ‘it’s their culture’ has surely run its course. According to Maryam Namazie, such myopia only “legitimizes and maintains savagery”. When the rhetorical gift-wrap is discarded, relativism is no more than a hollow shell of reality. When you put culture first and human beings second, the only result is violations of human rights.


Every time we flinch in debates over the universality of human rights, another girl flinches at the sight of the razor blade or shard of glass that may well ruin her life, or end it.

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