A story in today’s Independent newspaper suggests that the NHS (the National Health Service, the UK’s point-of-contact free medical care for all service) will, in future, categorise patients it treats and who have evidence of genital piercings as having suffered FGM -female genital mutilation.
I’m not sure what the picture lookalike worldwide, but here in the UK there is a groundswell of opinion that FGM needs to be outlawed.
FGM -Female Genital Mutilation- is essentially female circumcision. It is practiced widely, and almost exclusively, across northern and central Africa. I would be opposed to the practice, on the basis that there is never a need for it, in terms of health benefits. There is also little evidence of it even being a practice particularly bound up in religion. At the same time, I wouldn’t be too enamoured with its name. Mutilation is an emotive word which, for me, provides a vital clue into the historical perspective of the practice’s critics : people with an agenda in cultural imperialism as much as anything else. Many of the posters and campaign literature associated with groups keen to see the practice end frame their graphics in similar emotive, blood-stained illustrations.
It would, I think, be better if the practice was referred to as ‘female circumcision’, and have the practice of genital cutting for both men and women described in similar terms.
You can read a UNICEF report on the practice of FGM here.
It’s also easy to support an ending to the practice on the basis (from a western perspective) that it’s a form of child abuse, carried out against minors who are not afforded the voice to say ‘no’ (not dissimilar to the male version performed on infants). The male variant does, in a small number of cases, have sound medical reasons as to why it should be carried out, but these do not normally manifest themselves before adolescence or adulthood, when the person undergoing surgery would have the cognitive power to understand what’s going on and why.
The BBC also provides a guide into the practice of FGM in light of these new rules.
A clitoral hood piercing is, apparently, the most popular form of genital piercing and naturally there are those in the UK who think these latest guidelines overstep the mark. Possibly they do, but there seems to me to be sound reasons why they’re in place. The practice of FGM is illegal in the UK. There are many immigrants who live here and who will be culturally aligned to the practice. So when their daughter is born, where does the cultural practice take place? In back street ceremonies, I would imagine, and thus the guidelines are in place where children, in particular, come into contact with the NHS and it’s a duty to report this form of child abuse.
Within Second Life there are literally dozens of forms of piercings that can be purchased, all very visible within the SL naturist community.
It’s not something I would do myself in RL, or even would wear in an SL context, but despite my personal dislike of piercings (I only ever had my ears pierced, once, when I was a teenager and when my earlobe became infected I swore ‘never again’) I do find myself in sympathy with those who say there is a clear difference between a child suffering widespread mutilation of their genital area and a consenting adult who chose to have a piercing -which can be removed and the area return to its pre-pierced state.
I understand the NHS’s reasons for adopting this approach. I’m less confident in us reading, somewhere down the line, that NHS staff have chosen to report an adult woman’s clit ring as FGM and that a court case regarding it is about to commence. Does that sound silly? Probably, but I live in the UK which has a great track record in busybodies choosing to over-step their remit quite simply to comply with ‘rules’ and without the application of that rarest of commodities, ‘common sense’.
Readers beware: research into this article has revealed that several (male) journalists are describing this as ‘vaginal’ piercings. You can’t have a vagina pierced in such a manner. The clitoris and labia, yes, the vagina, no. Please be aware of this if following down any links written by (male) journalists. If they’re this good with their personal road map to a woman’s body, one can only despair if they’re trying to negotiate the London Underground. Vagina to Clitoris, one way, with a change at Labia, only to discover they’ve emerged at Anus in error…. 🙂