Intended for healthcare professionals


Female genital mutilation: whose problem, whose solution?

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 13 July 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:106

What values are being supported?

The fact that there may be some cultural value to something does not-
-or should not--prevent us from examining it.

Footbinding in China had a lot of value--crippling a girl in infancy
was indicative of a social status that did not require her to walk easily.

As to the "pride" of those who have undergone mutilation--a child who
started to earn a living by digging in mines in the 19th century might
also have felt pride. Does that mean we should reinstigate this practice?

As to the cosmetics of genitalia--many women in New York get a
"brazilian" wax--extremely painful, but setting a new standard on what is
considered good grooming. But that is a choice made by a grown woman, not
a child.

And as to those who consider the choices equivalent, I would urge
them to consider how they would feel if forced to undergo genital
mutilation--at childhood or any other point.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 July 2006
Joan McClusky
Medical writer
New York, NY 10003