Female genital mutilation violates human rights

I had to write regarding the Jan. 29 article on professor Elizabeth Boyle’s lecture on female genital mutilation, “U prof: Westerners mishandle female circumcision issues,” endorsing the cutting off of women’s genitals as “cultural” and therefore excusable.

The obvious flaw in this argument is that if culture can justify human rights abuses, any kind of horrible atrocity one can imagine (and the slicing off of a child’s genitals is not the least of those) can be justified in this way.

Would Boyle similarly endorse a culture that summarily cut off children’s arms or burns some alive? According to her argument, yes. If we were to object to such practices, we’d just be showing our “Western intolerance.”

Presumably, Boyle would not object to any human rights abuse, so long as there was a history for it. Of course, what Boyle is ignoring is the fact that cutting off a child’s genitals is an inexcusable invasion of its human rights, whether or not the culture approves of it.

And curiously, what she ignores completely is the glaring fact that the main “cultural” reason behind the cutting off of a girl’s clitoris, inner and outer labia, and sewing up of her vagina is that it will make sex so painful for her that she won’t have any. This isn’t some quaint cultural ritual, it’s misogyny in action.

For those human enough to feel sickened by the thought of taking a child and cutting off its genitals, visit www.equality now.org for more info on how activists within cultures and communities that have female genital mutilation are working to end it.

Hannah Stein
law student