Genital mutilation: America’s double standard
9 Feb, 2011 17:56
While Americans are outraged at the thought of female genital mutilation in Africa, practices just as shocking and unwelcome have been taking place in the US and have remained behind closed doors for years.
Genital mutilation in Africa has the face of young girls awaiting senseless pain and disfigurement. A tradition condemned by the United Nations, denounced by human rights organizations, and deemed barbaric across the United States. Yet something just as shocking is going on as close to home as Manhattan; performed by a barber in a dingy backroom, but by a certified doctor in a respected hospital, who monitors the success of his genital surgeries by methods unheard of before. “He is asking very young children, as young as age six to experience these sensations on their genitals and then report back to him how it feels, and that’s what we feel could be very-very damaging to these children,” said Anne Tamar-Mattis, the founder and executive director of Advocates for Informed Choice.Doctor Dix Poppas, the only doctor in the US known to do this, ignored RT’s many requests for an interview.In a scientific report available online, the doctor sites using cotton tip applicators and a device generating vibratory stimulus – to determine – after operating on girls’ genitals – whether or not their clitoris has preserved sensitivity.Some have been finding reason to back these practices up.“This is a medical test. Like other examinations we do in an office setting,” said urologist Dr. David Diamond. But to many familiar with genital surgery – and common sense – this practice is simply outrageous. “His methods are pretty scary. The idea of stimulating little girls with something like a vibrator, you can see immediately why this would be seen as objectionable,” said New York psychologist and certified sex therapist Tiger Devore. An estimated four to five of these surgeries are performed in America every day. Yet their success or failure is known only decades later when silent children find their voices.“We have large numbers of people who have experienced these surgeries, who are saying that they are harmful,” said Tamar-Mattis. People like Janet Green, born with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, also known as undetermined sex say the choice to operate, made by doctors and parents, was subjective in her personal case, as well as countless others.“Many of these surgeries have no medical necessity. It really is a cosmetic surgery that is done on infants and on children. There are people that are doing these surgeries, because they think it will prevent their child from being a lesbian,” said Green. What child genital surgeries also do not often prevent is a life time of suffering.“They were done at the expense of their sensation, at the expense of their not being comfortable with intimacy, so the goal of having us be able to be intimate was really lost,” Green explained. Decades after the woman’s surgeries, the medical community still has no proof that operating guarantees a patient a fulfilling life – male or female.Sex therapist Tiger Devore feels they are victims of medical research.“They have been experimenting on our bodies since the fifties, and they have to stop doing that as quickly as possible, because there are lots and lots, and lots of us telling them – it’s not working”, said the former patient.His first surgery at three months and his last at 46, Devore’s life has been a chain of operations.“When a baby comes out, they look between the legs, and they try to say it’s a boy or a girl. In my case they looked and said ‘hm…’ If there is a medical necessity – no problem, but there was no medical necessity in my case. And I had 20 surgeries,” Devore stated. Devore said the rate of suicides among young males operated on as children has been sky rocketing. He is now crusading for limiting surgeries to adults able to voice their consent.“Congress acted immediately, amazing rapidly to condemn female genital mutilation in some far away country, but to be confronted with the fact that the same is happening under surgeons knifes to both male and female genitals it’s a terrible thing for them to have to look at, they don’t want to admit that,” he added.Female genital mutilation has affected up to 140 million girls and women, and more than 3 million girls are at risk every year. The number of patients in the US whose lives has been forever changed by unwanted surgeries might never be determined.