"Excision, circumcision: men's power over the child!"
by Jean-Pierre Rosenczveig
(translated by Michel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau)
"Believing the latest UNICEF report, "more than 70 million girls and women have undergone FGM in 28 African countries, plus Yemen". Of course, this figure must be taken as a rough estimate, revealing the extent of a practice that carries on despite opposition that arises not only in so-called Western countries, but also in Africa. In a majority, if not unanimously, states now condemn it.
Nevertheless, it dies hard. Regularly, some give it a religious legitimacy. Blame the Koran again. Fortunately, another reading of the texts, which does not allow excision, compels recognition.
For the international community, religion cannot make the law; legal standards adopted in common must.
In the case in point, the International convention on the rights of the child of November 20 1989 prohibits, with the diplomatic language that was unfortunately required, attacks to the physical integrity of a child which are not warranted by medical reasons:
"Article 24 3. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children."
And we are forced to acknowledge that human imagination is fertile to establish the domination of men over women, of adults upon children or of the group over the individual. The neck is stretched, the feet are pinched, things are introduced into the vagina, excision or circumcision is performed, etc... In short, the body of the other is deeply or indelibly marked to show her or him that it does not belong to her or him.
Excision is a real amputation of the woman with the concern of preventing her from enjoyment, this pleasure being kept for men. And it is successful. Women who have undergone that criminal assault bear it less and less and denounce that aggression. At best, they wish to find their bodily integrity again and, very fortunately, medical technology enables them to do so, as a report broadcast yesterday in France 2 News remarkably showed. We must be thrilled for them.
Yet, it is no small task for each one, particularly on the psychological level, if not the physical one, to follow that path in order to find their wholeness again; all the more since they already need to face their families. They often choose not to tell them about that reconstruction. The time will probably come when they will dare leading the fight openly. We must hope for it.
At all events, the previous generation was able to rebel and complain about the endured violence or seek help to avoid being excised.
French justice was able to help them in the 90s through symbolic trials with high media coverage both here and in Africa. Excisers have been condemned, parents sometimes too, to sentences of around 5-6 years imprisonment, part of which without remission.
Through the echo given to the debates and convictions, these trials in criminal courts probably contributed to affirm the prohibition. Obviously, by themselves, they were not enough to prevent further acting out, but they were necessary. They supported the resistance in Africa and helped significantly to eliminate the phenomenon in France.
It is desirable that those who practice that crime abroad, enable it or even incite to it should be punished in France as it is the case as regards sexual violence, should they be French or foreigners. French public order and international public order require it more than ever on behalf of human rights.
For those who might have been shocked that I have included circumcision in the list of condemnable sexual mutilations, I shall make it clear that I am aware that the implications upon sexuality are obviously different. Similarly, it is certain that circumcision may have been imposed in the past or may still be necessary for medical reasons, but in the majority of cases now, it is nothing of the sort; except for these rare cases that are medically justified, it meets the preoccupation of parents to "mark" their children religiously and this prospect comes into the purpose laid down by the International convention on the rights of the child.
It is time to have a public debate on this subject so as not to put only others' houses in order."