by the Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa
from the Hastings Center Report ( a bioethics research institute)
Starting in the early 1980s, media coverage of customary African genital surgeries for females has been problematic and overly reliant on sources from within a global activist and advocacy movement opposed to the practice, variously described as female genital mutilation, female genital cutting, or female circumcision. Here, we use the more neutral expression female genital surgery. In their passion to end the practice, anti-mutilation advocacy organizations often make claims about female genital surgeries in Africa that are inaccurate or overgeneralized or that don’t apply to most cases.
The aim of this article—which we offer as a public policy advisory statement from a group of concerned research scholars, physicians, and policy experts—is not to take a collective stance on the practice of genital surgeries for either females or males. Our main aim is to express our concern about the media coverage of female genital surgeries in Africa, to call for greater accuracy in cultural representations of little-known others, and to strive for evenhandedness and high standards of reason and evidence in any future public policy debates. In effect, the statement is an invitation to actually have that debate, with all sides of the story fairly represented.
For nearly three decades, there has been an uncritical relationship between the media and antimutilation advocacy groups. In the face of horrifying and sensational claims about African parents “mutilating” their daughter and damaging their sexual pleasure and reproductive capacities, there has been surprisingly little journalistic exploration of alternative views or consultation with experts who can assess current evidence.
We recommend that journalists, activists, and policy-makers cease using violent and preemptive rhetoric.
We recommend a more balanced discussion of the topic in the press and in public policy forums.
Many highly educated women in Africa embrace the practice and do so without negative health consequences.
For the sake of a balanced discussion, it will be necessary to create a context where women can express their support for the practices without being attacked. African women who live outside Africa but who grew up in regions of Africa where genital surgeries are routine and have a positive connotation should be included in a more respectful and productive discourse that creates a supportive or protective context against stigmatization, fear, or humiliation.
Some medical practitioners have suggested that the horror-inducing media coverage of the topic over the past three decades can have a psychological impact on a woman’s genital self-image upon immigration to countries where female genital surgery is condemned, thereby inducing an “acquired sexual dysfunction.”
Read the rest of this detestable article: Media Should Not (sic) Condemn Female Genital Mutilation.