Female Genital Mutilation Violates the Principle of Nonmaleficence

Update on this blog. 

One reader’s comment (which I have deleted because of basic, gross medical/surgical inaccuracies I will not share, or in any way validate) emphasized the “ritualistic” aspects of the more limited type (type 1) of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation, emphasis on Mutilation) performed in Indonesia.  

This is more non-sequitur cultural/clitoral relativist rubbish. 

Below I summarize (and reference) key conclusions from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics, published in the journal, Pediatrics, Vol. 102 No. 1 July 1998, pp. 153-156, which covers ALL forms—including type 1 FGM (which by definition “removes all or part of the clitoris”)—of this medically unwarranted, misogynistic barbarity:  

The physical burdens and potential psychological harms associated with FGM violate the principle of nonmaleficence (i.e., NOT doing deliberate harm), a commitment to avoid doing harm, and disrupt the accepted norms inherent in the patient-physician relationship, such as trust and the promotion of good health. More recently, FGM has been characterized as a practice that violates the right of infants and children to good health and well-being, part of a universal standard of basic human rights. [1]  

Parents are often unaware of the harmful physical consequences of the custom, because the complications of FGM are attributed to other causes and rarely discussed outside of the family. [2]

Furthermore, parents may feel obligated to request the procedure because they believe their religion requires female genital alteration. [3]  

Less well-understood are the psychological, sexual, and social consequences of FGM, because little research has been conducted in countries where the practice is endemic. [4]

However, personal accounts by women who have had a ritual genital procedure recount anxiety before the event, terror at being seized and forcibly held during the event, great difficulty during childbirth, and lack of sexual pleasure during intercourse. [5]  


[1] James SA Reconciling international human rights and cultural relativism: the case of female circumcision. Bioethics. 1994; 8:1-26

[2] Female circumcision/genital mutilation Forward News. 1990; 2:1-10

[3] Lightfoot-Klein H. Prisoners of Ritual An Odyssey Into Female Genital Circumcision in Africa. New York, NY: Haworth Press; 1989

[4] Dorkenoo E, Elworthy S. Female Genital Mutilation. Proposals for Change. London, England: Minority Rights Group; 1992

[5] Crossette B. Female genital mutilation by immigrants is becoming cause for concern in the US. New York Times. December 10, 1995:18

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