The Horrific Experience of Female Genital Mutilation
Yasmin Mumed remembers her screams and the blood on her floral dress the day she underwent female genital mutilation in Ethiopia at the young age of six. She is now 24 years old and is currently living in Toronto but is still haunted by the horrors of this experience. FGM is illegal in Canada but the government suspects of the practice called “vacation cutting” where parents bring their children to countries where FGM is legally practiced so the procedure can be done. According to the World Health Organization, FGM includes all procedures that alter the female genital parts that are not related to any medical reason. More than 200 million women alive today have been cut in countries where FGM is practiced. This is an extremely controversial issue as it is considered a violation of human rights of girls and women. But in some cultures, this practice is widely tolerated. The aim of this paper is to argue that female genital mutilation should be abolished as it is morally wrong based on the Divine Command Theory.
Divine Command Theory is an ethical theory according to which morality is ultimately based on God’s commands. Anything that goes against the commands of God is considered immoral therefore God’s commands should be the basis for moral judgements. God’s commands are written in religious texts such as the Bible, Torah and Quran. These texts are studied and taught by religious authorities such as the Pope, Rabbis and Imams. Literary resources on FGM is very limited, however, religious authorities unanimously agree that FGM has no basis in religious texts. In Judaism, when boys reach the age of eight, they must be circumcised, but nothing is written about female circumcision. According to Rabbi Zsi Solomons, FGM is a different matter altogether as it permanently damages the female organ and a woman’s sexual pleasure. He also adds that in the Jewish literature called Talmud, it recognizes women’s sexual desire, meaning that the copulation of a woman and a man is the most sacred part of marriage therefore both should gain pleasure from it. Some also argue that FGM is rooted on Islam, but there is no mention of it in the Quran, instead, it condemns the disfigurement of the creation of God as something the Devil would do (Patel). Furthermore, Pope Francis shares his stand against FGM and calls it a “type of degradation that reduces [women] to mere objects that are bought and sold” (qtd. in Bianchi). This confirms that FGM is a practice against the commands of God and is considered morally wrong therefore everybody should not practice it.
However, the biggest opposition to this argument is Cultural Relativism where it implies that in some societies, female genital mutilation is not a form of degradation but an essential ritual for women, therefore, their ethical values must be respected. Cultural Relativism is an ethical theory according to which same moral principles hold for all members of a particular society, but may differ from one society to another, and should be the basis for moral judgements (Burno and Rally). In several societies, FGM is a cultural rite of passage to womanhood (Ali). Bettina Shell-Duncan, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington, once witnessed FGM in Kenya where it is traditionally performed right before marriage. Shell-Duncan explains that the bride was proud; she looked up straight and did not flinch because this is how in their society a woman proves her maturity. After the procedure, Shell-Duncan came back with antibiotics but was surprised to see the bride joyfully dancing with the crowd, then the bride told her that “if [she] didn’t do that, [she] wouldn’t be a woman [that day]” (qtd. in Khazan). Therefore, it is incorrect to say that FGM is a form of degradation since women in certain cultures respect it and consider it as an important rite of passage to their womanhood as what has been practiced in their society.
To a certain extent, this argument is judicious, but one still needs to consider the roots of this tradition and the authority of God. In Ethiopia, a Jewish minority group called Falashas are practicing female genital mutilation. Daniel Buff, an Internal Medicine specialist and an Orthodox Jew, states on his letter to his editor that “as a persecuted and isolated Jewish enclave for thousands of years, the Falashas did not have access to either definitive Jewish texts or informed rabbinical sources”. In Islam, FGM was first thought as a religious obligation, but after several research and studies, Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf, an Imam in Somalia, explains that “it was then confirmed that FGM was harmful to women’s health and that it was not at all obligatory in Islam”. Though there are no religious texts that condone FGM, misinterpretation of religion can be the basis for some cultural traditions, thus proving that the idea of the passage to womanhood lies on a false premise. More importantly, as Peter and the apostles stated in the Bible, “[w]e must obey God rather than any human authority” (New Living Translation Acts 5.29) which claims that God is the higher authority. This negates Cultural Relativism’s argument since one should not follow what the society or a cultural tradition requires them to do, instead everybody should obey God because He has the highest authority and is ubiquitous. God has created the transition to womanhood a natural process wherein FGM is not required and instead condemned.
When Yasmin Mumed had her first sexual experience, she found out that something was different with her. She felt like she was not woman enough and she did not feel whole. Yasmin is only one of several Canadian women who are affected by this practice. They are physically and emotionally suffering. This is not what God intends His creation to feel. God only spoke to Abraham to circumcise men and it is also proven that male circumcision has a sanitary purpose. However, female genital mutilation is not commanded by God and it also results in harmful side effects. Most importantly, we should remember that God is a God of purpose, there is a reason He created the female genital organ as it is. We should obey His commands because practices like FGM is comparable to implying that God made a mistake and us humans know better.
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