American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP) Is Advocating For U.S. Pediatricians To Perform Certain Types Of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

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Equality Now Calls On AAP To Revoke Elements Of Its 2010 Policy Statement That Endorses Pediatricans’ “Nicking” Of Girls’ Genitalia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
5 May 2010
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan, +1 212 586 0906, lanant@equalitynow.org

New York - International human rights organization Equality Now is stunned by a new policy statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which essentially promotes female genital mutilation (FGM) and advocates for “federal and state laws [to] enable pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ‘ritual nick’,” such as pricking or minor incisions of girls’ clitorises. The Policy Statement “Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors,” issued by the AAP on April 26, 2010, is a significant set-back to the Academy’s own prior statements on the issue of FGM and is antithetical to decades of noteworthy advancement across Africa and around the world in combating this human rights violation against women and girls. It is ironic that the AAP issued its statement the very same day that Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) announced the introduction of new bipartisan legislation, The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 5137), to close the loophole in the federal law prohibiting FGM by making it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the U.S. out of the country for the purpose of FGM

FGM is a harmful traditional practice that involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, and by immigrants of practicing communities living around the world, including in Europe and the U.S. It is estimated that up to 140 million women and girls around the world are affected by FGM. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the U.S. have either been, or are at risk of being, subjected to FGM.

FGM is a form of gender-based violence and discrimination that is performed on girls to control their sexuality in womanhood, guarantee their acceptance into a particular community, and safeguard their virginity until marriage. Taina Bien-Aimé, Equality Now’s Executive Director explains, “Encouraging pediatricians to perform FGM under the notion of ‘cultural sensitivity’ shows a shocking lack of understanding of a girl’s fundamental right to bodily integrity and equality. The AAP should promote awareness-raising within FGM-practicing immigrant communities about the harms of the practice, instead of endorsing an internationally recognized human rights violation against girls and women.”

The current policy is a regression from the AAP’s 1998 policy statement Female Genital Mutilation and raises great concern because it denotes a clear shift in addressing the issue. The World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have unequivocally opposed FGM as a “medically unnecessary” practice, and it is widely recognized that all types of FGM are a form of gender-based violence. Stemming from this perspective, the AAP’s 1998 statement sees the practice as a human rights violation, opposes all forms of FGM, and cautions pediatricians about their role in “perpetuating a social practice with cultural implications for the status of women.” In contrast, the new 2010 statement no longer uses the term “female genital mutilation” but refers to the practice as “female genital cutting (FGC) or ritual genital cutting,” makes no reference to the discriminatory aspect of FGM, and selectively opposes only those forms of FGM that in its view “pose the risk of physical or psychological harm.”

Taina Bien-Aimé adds, “Throughout the ages ‘cultural’ practices like foot binding in China have caused lifelong physical and psychological harm to women and girls. If foot binding were still being carried out, would the AAP encourage pediatricians to execute a milder version of this practice?”

The AAP’s proposition that pediatricians could offer to “nick” girls’ genitalia is problematic and troubling. Advocates also fear that mothers who have until now resisted community pressure and not subjected their daughters to FGM in the U.S., in part because of the anti-FGM law, could be forced under the AAP guidelines to ask pediatricians to “nick” their daughters’ clitorises if it is legally permitted. The AAP must revoke its statement, which comes at a time when several African and European countries have noted the increasing dangers of medicalization of FGM and specifically banned medical personnel from performing any form of FGM.

May 5, 2010 - 12:15