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Cultures: The Case Of Genital Mutilation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 3201 words Published: 9th May 2017

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This article explained the reasoning and differing views on female genital mutilation. The article describes in detail the three types of female genital mutilation, or FGM. The first is called clitoridectomy, in which part of the clitoris or the whole clitoris is removed. The bleeding caused by this procedure is usually stopped by either applying direct pressure or stitching the wound. The second type of genital cutting is call excision. In this procedure, both the clitoris and the labia minora are removed, and the bleeding after the procedure is stopped by stitching up the wound. The third and most extreme method of genital cutting is called infibulation. In this method, the entire clitoris and labia minora are removed, and incisions are made into the labia majora. The raw surfaces of the labia majora are then either stitched together or made to be held together until they heal together. The newly formed skin covers the urethra and the majority of the vaginal opening. Infibulation is not used as frequently as the clitoridectomy or excision, but it is still used on rare occasion. No matter which form of genital cutting is used, there have been many extensive and sometimes chronic health problems associated with female genital mutilation. These include chronic and repeated infections, difficulties in urination and menstruation, pain during intercourse, infertility, and obstruction during childbirth, causing painful tearing and excess bleeding. Most of these are caused most by the infibulation method, as it obstructs the most. However, major complications can still arise from the other two methods as well. These complications are generally ignored in cultures where female genital mutilation is accepted as a cultural norm. This practice is seen as a cultural norm in such countries as Africa and the Middle East. The World Health Organization states that between 85 and 115 million women worldwide have undergone genital cutting. Most of these instances have occurred in regions of Africa or the Middle East, although there are now beginning to be small numbers of cases reported in countries such as Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It seems that the conclusion being argued for in this article is that the mutilation of female genitalia is wrong, regardless of any persuasion – cultural or otherwise. This article makes reference to several cases that argue for the ethical soundness of female genital mutilation, and it refutes each of these as invalid arguments.

The first of these arguments states that it is morally wrong to criticize the practices of another country unless we are prepared to equally criticize similar practices in our own country, and states that the United States is guilty of doing this. While it may be true that the United States can tend to be oblivious to the plight of other countries in some respects, body image is not one of them. American women are all too aware of what it means to feel pressure to adapt to the “right” or ideal body image, because of the heavy influence the Western culture feels from the media to look a certain way. The tacit influence the media has on the Western culture is that if you do not look like the women on the television screen, you are a failure. It is untrue for this argument to state that the United States is not critical of themselves in the same way. Therefore, this argument is not valid.

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The second argument states that it is morally impermissible to criticize the practices of another culture until their own culture is completely free of all evil and immoral practices. This argument is, to put it plainly, ridiculous; how can it be morally permissible to ignore a cry for help just because the one who hears the call is not perfect? This would make helping anybody at any time completely immoral. For example, a doctor would not be able to help a patient if he engaged in a morally questionable activity at any time in the near past. This goes directly against the Hippocratic Oath that the doctor takes that explicitly states that he is to help people. This argument is also invalid.

The third argument says that female genital mutilation is equal in morality to dieting and body shaping in the Western culture. However, there are several basic differences between the two practices. The first difference is that while dieting and body shaping is completely voluntary, genital mutilation is an involuntary procedure. The father makes the decision about whether or not to make is daughter participate in genital mutilation. The girl is then held down by several grown women while the procedure is performed so she doesn’t jerk away. Dieting and body shaping are completely by choice, regardless of the pressure one may feel from the media or their peers. Another difference is that genital mutilation cannot be undone. Dieting, on the other hand, is very easily reversed. A third difference is that genital mutilation is mostly performed in unsafe and unsanitary conditions that children should not be exposed to, and dieting is not. A fourth difference is that female genital mutilation causes extreme health risks, not limited to death. Dieting only causes problems like this when taken to extremes, such as anorexia and bulimia. These are both reversible and treatable. A fifth difference is that female genital mutilation is usually performed on girls much too young to know the difference, or even give consent. (Even if she were old enough, consent would be irrelevant anyway.) Dieting, on the other hand, is something young adults and adults partake in. All of these differences illustrated are more than enough to prove that dieting and genital mutilation are not even close to being related in any sense. Therefore, this argument is also invalid.

The fourth argument states that female genital mutilation involves the loss of a function that is not vitally essential to the lives of those losing it, and that the Western culture attaches far too much significance to it. To imply that genital cutting is depriving a woman of sexual pleasure is to say that she is merely a sexual being, and that is degrading to women. There is no difference between genital cutting and leading a life of celibacy. While the outcome of genital cutting and celibacy may be the same, we cannot say that the two are equal. Celibacy can be ended at any time, if the individual so chooses. That is the fundamental difference: choice. Female genital mutilation is not optional, voluntary, or reversible. Therefore, this argument is invalid because the premises do not match the outcome.


Sex & Consequences: World Population Growth vs. Reproductive Rights by Margaret P. Battin

This article addresses the issue of world population growth while also explaining how the human race can have children within the carrying capacity of the land and the environment around them, thus proving more responsible.

The conflict in the article is that human can reproduce at a rate that strips the land of vital, life sustaining resources by overpopulating it. This can be dangerous and life threatening to the human race as a whole. Land is a finite resource and can only sustain and support a certain number of people. Anything beyond that number could be fatal. According to the author, Battin, our current world population is 5.8 billion people. The growth rate of the population is that it doubles once roughly every 40 years. At this rate, the population is set to hit 12.5 billion by the end of the century. Another 40 years later, and the population will be at 25 billion, and then 50 billion, 100 billion, and so on. However, the land cannot sustain this many people, so the population will never actually hit this extreme. The population will shrink in size again due starvation or other natural causes before it ever gets that high. Now the problem is, how to keep that from happening? Thomas Malthus theorized that the population needs to be controlled; while he did not advocate direct population control, he thought perhaps the morality and common sense of the population would serve as a sort of birth control. However, he knew that the reality was the population would still go through stages of overpopulation and starvation. Therefore he said that population control must be exerted from an outside source to keep the human population from dooming themselves to extinction.

The feminist group, on the other hand, believes that the controlling of the population growth equates to controlling people. Also, they are convinced that contraceptive programs are tested exclusively by first world male doctors, and they test their programs on less privileged third world women. As one feminist movement states, population control is “racist, sexist, and classist.” It also states that the contraception programs try to force the values of a first world, well-off group of people onto the less privileged. There is a conclusion to help settle this dispute, which will be explored in detail.

The “solution” that the author argues for is that everybody in the world, male and female, should use a form of super effective, easily reversible automatic birth control, or contraception. There are two major types already on the market for women. These are the intrauteral Copper T380A, and the subdermal Norplant. For men, nothing is readily on the market; however, there are several automatic contraceptive options for men being tested for use on humans. If everyone used a form of automatic background birth control, pregnancy would be a choice rather than a chance.

The argument for this type of logic is that in the United States, roughly 50% of all pregnancies are not planned. Also, half of these unplanned pregnancies are aborted. This is generally due to the fact that the parents are simply not prepared for a pregnancy, including – and especially – pregnancies that occur because of failed birth control. These pregnancies would most likely be welcomed at a later time, when the parents were more prepared and ready for a pregnancy and to start a family. Granting the individual the ability to choose when they wanted a pregnancy to occur would put much more power in the hands of the individual to help control the population growth. Generally speaking, parents would not choose to have as many children or pregnancies as they would if they left it to chance. Also, women would not fall prey to agreeing to something in the heat of the moment, or being coerced into agreeing to bear a child. A pregnancy would not occur as a result of rape, or because of a misuse or nonuse of a birth control method. This opens a whole new world to women; instead of making the option to be pregnant a negative choice to a positive choice. Instead of risking getting pregnant, a woman would be able to choose when to allow her body to become pregnant. There would also be a degree of reproductive freedom for men as well. They would not have to worry about accidentally causing a pregnancy, and then having to be responsible for the child that they helped create. They would be completely free. While they could still be tricked by a woman who had her device removed without his knowledge, there is much less risk than if the woman forgot – accidentally or purposely – to use her birth control or misused it. However, the woman still holds the majority of control over the result of the contraception in the intercourse.

The logic used here is that if everyone used background contraception, then everyone would be free to make the decision on whether or not to become pregnant or not.

Everyone has the right to choose whether or not they want to be pregnant.

Background contraception grants that choice.

Therefore, all humans should be made to install automatic contraception.

While this is a valid argument, I am not sure I agree with it. While this would indeed solve the reproduction growth crisis, it would also take away human free will. Many people may not be receptive to this type of control, not to mention that these types of automatic contraception are not particularly inexpensive. It would not make sense to initiate a population growth control based on these two factors alone. As Battin points out, the initiation of this type of control has an almost fascist sound. Forcing everyone into the same type of contraception would pose as a major threat to free will, and would cause some dire consequences to occur for those enforcing it.


Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Toward a Re-Vision of Human Rights by Charlotte Bunch

For centuries, there has been a distinction between human rights and women’s rights. This distinction is disconcerting; because of it, numerous heinous crimes have been committed against women, including mutilation, starvation, and murder. Technically, because there is a distinction, women’s rights are not classified as human rights. Since women are humans, why are women’s rights not viewed as human rights? Does this make women less human than men? Surely this cannot be so. While it is obvious that women are no less human than men, they are sometimes treated as such – a lower life form. Even in situations that men and women are both treated unfairly, it is the male that is seen as mistreated, and the female almost fades into background noise. In a male-predominate culture, women are seen as not as important, and are often treated as lesser to the male, even in their suffering.

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While the concept of human rights is one that is widely internationally known and accepted, women’s rights are not as commonly accepted as humane or even right. However, it has been theorized that the universality of human rights can be used as a tie to help bridge the gap between human rights and women’s rights. In 1948, the Declaration of Human Rights was set forth. This outlines the guidelines of the basic rights we as human beings have. In that Declaration, Eleanor Roosevelt fought to add Article 2, which says that all people have the right to everything enclosed in the Declaration, “…without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.” The addition of not discriminating against gender was meant to begin to fix the issue of women’s subordination.

There are four approaches that the author, Bunch, speaks about, which she believes to be an effective way to bridge the gap, so to speak, between human rights and women’s rights. While these approaches can apply to several areas of life, she writes that they are particularly helpful in drawing a connection between human rights and women’s rights. They also demonstrate how violence toward women is a violation of basic human rights.

The first approach that Bunch speaks about is to take into account the specific needs of women as civil and political rights, while also calling to attention the particularly heinous tortures women suffer through simply because of the fact that they are female. One instance where this has been done is when the Women’s Task Force of Amnesty International took a stand to launch a campaign for women who are held as political prisoners and are sexually abused, which causes them to not be able to care for their children and thus causing a violation of human rights on the children. This directly links a violation of women’s rights to a violation of human rights. This is a valid and sound argument; it shows a clear, direct correlation between the two premises – that a violation of women’s rights causes a violation of human rights – and therefore, it is wrong.

The second approach is to regard women’s rights as socioeconomic rights. This is in regards to food, employment, shelter, and health care. This is the view taken by those who would view human rights as too individualized, and take women’s rights as a purely economic issue. In other words, human rights do not have meaning without an economic definition. This helps to galvanize women into protecting themselves from workplace violence, and from being taken advantage of by employers. Women cannot be targeted as cheap, easily exploited employment, because this would violate their human rights. This is also a valid argument.

The third approach is to view women’s rights through a legal scope. There have been new legal guidelines set in place to guard against gender discrimination, and this has added a new dimension to the women’s rights debate. The specific laws that state the legal issues behind gender discrimination and violence against women are one major example of this third approach. These laws have made it possible for women to be able to fight for their rights to be treated fairly, as human beings, rather than a lower life form to males. The most important international form of this law is called the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which has been stated to be “essentially an international bill of rights for women and a framework for women’s participation in the development process…[which] spells out internationally accepted principles and standards for achieving equality between women and men.” This Convention has been accepted by 104 countries, as of January 1990. This means that all countries that have agreed to and accepted the Convention must adhere to and abide by the laws stated within it, and a report must be submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, proving their compliance to the Convention. However, the Convention never actually directly addresses the issue of violence against women. This is its one shortcoming; it does, however, clearly state a human rights outline for women within it. If all governments accepted this Convention, this would be a great way to start heading in the right direction toward men and women being treated equally. This is a valid and sound argument

The fourth and final approach that Bunch explains is to view human rights through feminist lenses, so to speak. What this means is that we are to view human rights in such a way that more thoroughly examines how human rights affect this lives of women in depth, and then asking how human rights can be more responsive and sensitive to women. While the other three approaches merely had a feminist taint, this approach is the most blatantly feminist; it clearly takes a stance that purely centered around women, and waits for no one to tell them if their approach is an accurate human rights issue or not. The danger in approaching the issue with this narrow scope is that it rules out too much reason. While it may be a valid argument, in my opinion, it has not been thought through thoroughly enough and is simply ignoring some of the basic rules of logic.


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