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Imagine standing next to a camp fire and not having the sensory input to tell you, “Hey, we are too close to this heating source” because it was removed from you at a young age as a result of a decision made by your parents. Instead of moving to a comfortable position out of the “too hot zone”, you continue to walk forward and find yourself burning alive without the feeling of the heat. Although, that is an extreme example, that is exactly what desensitization is. Desensitization consists of the removal of receptiveness to stimulation. This includes a vast array of stimuli; one can be desensitized physically, mentally and emotionally. In particular, this research piece has been constructed to argue that female genital mutilation, which is a form of desensitization of the female sexual reproductive organ, for any cultural reason is wrong and is not medically necessary.
Female genital mutilation procedures are performed to intentionally alter or cause injury to a female’s genital organs for non-health related medical purposes. Female genital mutilation is categorized into four of the following major types: I, II, III & IV. Type I is referred as a clitoridectomy, which is the removal of the clitoris. Type II, also referred to as an excision, is the partial or entire removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. Type II can occur in simulation with the removal of the labia majora or without its removal and allowing it to remain fully intact. Type III is referred to as infibulation, which involves the creation of a covering seal from repositioning the labia minora or majora. Type III can occur with the addition of clitoridectomy or without it. Lastly, Type IV is the cumulation of all three of the harmful procedures with non-health related medical purposes performed to the female genitalia. Piercings, scraping and cautery to the female genitalia are a few examples of Type IV. This procedure is rarely performed on adult women, but mostly completed on young girls that range from infancy to adolescence. Annually, approximately 3 million girls are at risk for female genital mutilation”. It is most commonly practiced in some regions of Africa, countries in the Middle East and Asia. Female genital mutilation is a global concern.
Ruth Macklin’s article, “Obligations of Physicians”, on multiculturalism, states that many immigrants would migrate to the United States and European countries and demand their daughters to undergo the female genital mutilation procedure at young ages. In the absence of their daughter’s opinions, many parents believe that the procedure should be done in order to protect their daughters. A father from Somalia particularly believed that the procedure would preserve their daughter’s virginity for the ideals of their sacrosanct Muslim religion. Another immigrant from Africa had a similar view with the father’s stance about the procedure, but had her own distinctive beliefs as well. She believed that the procedure will aid in helping their daughter sustain from prematurely leaving home and participating in the procreation of offspring out of wedlock, which is highly frowned upon within many religions. In actuality, the parents fail to recognize and understand that these procedures do not guarantee that their daughters will abstain and listen to their religious and cultural views. Furthermore, some societies have the procedure done for reasoning’s beyond religion and preventative measures. These societies partake in these procedures because of the tradition within their culture. Along the lines of culture preservation, they believe in the continuation of this procedure as a vital entity. Lastly, some perceive the clitoris as unclean, unfeminine and male-like. Therefore, creating need for the clitoris to be removed because of the female notion of what it is to be a female, which is to be to be clean and beautiful.
Although the surgical procedure has been illegal in the United States since the year 1997, there has been evidence that many immigrants’ requests for the procedure have been honored and granted. Since those immigrants were granted permission to get the procedure done, they have to be disclosed with all the risks and consequences involved from this practice. At one extreme is the reply that in the United States physicians are obligated to follow the ethical and cultural practices accepted here and have no obligation to comply with patients’ requests that embody entirely different cultural values. At the other extreme is the view that cultural sensitivity requires physicians to adhere to the traditional beliefs and practices of patients who have emigrated from other cultures.
Cultural sensitivity should not be taken into consideration, if the procedure is not in the best interest of the child’s health. The procedure may put them at risk for harmful psychological and physical consequences. When immigrants come to the United States to request the procedure, doctors should not be obligated to perform such procedures simply because their cultural values in their native country vastly differ from the cultural and medical practices in America. The countries that practice and perform female genital mutilation view circumcised women as the stereotypical or cultural norm. Macklin argued that countries who view that practice as “normal” are equivalent to the viewing of malnutrition and malaria in some African countries, which is very prevalent, as “normal”. Normality’s of whether a human condition is statically normal is irrelevant, when the focus should be on what is ethically best for the overall human life condition.
According to the World Health Organization, there are no health benefits to females who partake in the genital mutilation procedure but rather receive, only harmful effects. The procedure removes the clitoris and damages healthy, normal genital tissue. The damages left from the procedure creates a platform of impediments with the natural functions of a female’s body at any stage in their life. Some of the immediate risks from this platform created by the procure of the procedure consists of and is not limited to severe hemorrhage bleeding, urination problems, cysts, vaginal infections, childbirth complications, menstrual problems, abnormalities, and a high chance of newborn deaths. In Egypt, there was a case where a female genital mutilation procedure was performed illegally. This procedure was banned from Egypt in 2008. The head of the hospital and two doctors faced allegations because it was the procedure was performed illegally and it caused the teenager’s death. The two doctors ended up being referred for prosecution and the hospital was shut down. Had the doctors followed the ethics and laws set in place, then there is no doubt that she would be living, since unanimously the procedure is what was the cause of her death. This procedure involves snipping the sensitive genital nerve end tissues that cause excruciating pain. The use of anesthesia is needed during the procedure, but not always used; even when it is used, it’s not always effective. These immediate risks can eventually lead to long-term health consequences that can occur anytime during their life. Here are the following long-term repercussions of female genital mutilation: chronic genital and reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections, painful urination, keloids, irregular menstrual cycles, female sexual health, obstetric complications, perinatal risks, psychological consequences and an increased risk for transmitting human immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV (“Female genital mutilation”).
Female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. “The International Human Rights law including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) proclaims the right for all human beings to live in conditions that enable them to enjoy good health and health care”. It is argued that it is a gender-based human rights violation that intends to control women’s freedom and sexuality. Another argument is that the human right to be involved in one’s culture has the same significance as other human rights. Nevertheless, the human right of culture does not ratify practices that blatantly cause harm to another. Parents wanting to have the procedure done is not a formal consent given by the person getting the procedure done regardless of whether the child is old enough to completely understand or comprehend at all. I understand that a parent has to give informed consent for their minor child, but this case should be treated differently because the procedure is once again, not medically necessary. The right of the child needs to be taken into consideration because this procedure violates the “central notion of the Convention on Rights of Child”. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is important that the cultural values and traditions of people serve as a protection and agreeable development of the child.
This procedure has caused tensions between universalism and cultural relativism. Universalists argue that female genital mutilation affects the health and well-being of girls and women because the procedure is widely performed under unsanitary conditions that can cause immediate and long-term health issues. Universalist feminists also argue that this procedure weakens the sexual desires of women which can cause them to be vulnerable to the domination of a man. Despite all the health risk facts involved in this procedure, relativists believe that it is part of raising the girl properly and do not worry about the negative consequences. Cultural relativism views all cultures to be truthfully ethical and equal; each culture also has the “freedom of practicing all that is relevant and valuable to the society regardless of the responses and viewpoints of” another culture or other cultures. Cultural relativists deem a tradition to be ethical, moral and valid to societies who practice it. Some communities in Africa believe that the husband and wife can be in danger if the woman is left uncircumcised because the head of the baby is not supposed to touch the uncut clitoris; if it does, the baby will have redundant cranial fluid. Some even say that the baby will die if it touches the mother’s clitoris during birth. It is even further said that the woman’s breast milk will be poisonous for the baby and the man’s penis will become infertile if it touches the woman’s clitoris. A mutilated wife is also meant to fulfill the sexual satisfaction of the husband. Female genital mutilation is said to be a precondition to be an adult and belong to the human race, if not, she will be isolated and denied rights to interact with others. These myths have no scientific truths to them and were used to justify the practice of this cultural tradition. I would have to agree from a universalists’ perspective on female genital mutilation.
In conclusion, female genital mutilation procedures need to be ceased because it is more harm than good. Today, female genital mutilation is banned and illegal in several countries throughout the world. Although this practice is performed for cultural traditions, doctors should not consider cultural sensitivity since it puts a child’s health at risk. Many cultures want to continue this practice in order to prevent their baby girls from having sex before marriage. This procedure does not ensure the enculturation of girls. Health benefits from this procedure are non-existent and can even result in death. This procedure violates the human rights of women and young girls. Universalists have a more ethical and moral point of view against female genital mutilation than cultural relativists. There is no valid reason to put any female at a high health risk with this type of surgery, especially a child.
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