Intended for healthcare professionals


Ending genital mutilation

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 02 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:570

Women in Africa have many other problems besides genital mutilation

  1. Caroline Scherf, research fellow in gynaecology (
  1. Department of Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff CF4 4XX
  2. Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation, POB 56178, Tel-Aviv 61561, Israel

    EDITOR—Abboud et al have confirmed the continuing existence of traditional genital surgery for men and women.1 Targeting the social and political situation of women at risk is needed in order to question and eliminate these practices. This requires some insight into traditional ceremonies and their importance and not, as Abboud et al suggest, the complete prohibition of the procedure. It also means looking at many more problems and human rights abuses than only female genital mutilation.

    As the title of, and the picture in, Abboud et al's personal view show, this particular aspect of oppression arouses voyeuristic interest, being both gory and titillating. Similar titles of meetings, documentary films, and articles have succeeded in creating an alien, repulsive image of people living in traditional societies,2 a bit like those that follow reports of cannibalism.

    This sort of publicity is unhelpful and often results in “do-gooders” from rich countries appearing in Africa and behaving once again like patronising …

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