Monday, September 09, 2013

  • Monday, September 09, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
From The Guardian:
Campaigners say that a tangled mix of family pressure, cultural traditions and religious motivations make FGM – illegal for almost 30 years in the UK – hard to eradicate. It has been documented in 28 countries in Africa and in a few countries in Asia and the Middle East. The practice involves removing all or part of the external female genitalia (including the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora – and in some cases the narrowing of the vagina), and is usually carried out before the age of 15. As well as the risk of bleeding to death or infection, a terrifying array of physical and psychological problems can follow.

Today 30,000 girls in the UK are said to be at risk of this form of mutilation, while 66,000 live with the consequences of it. Yet no one has ever been prosecuted for carrying out or abetting the practice (which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years).

...Although Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities carry out FGM, mainstream spiritual leaders from all three religions have denied that the practice stems from religion.
Do any Jewish communities carry out FGM?

There are two different sources that I can find, one which is almost certainly false and one which appears to have been true, years ago.

In the book Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised? Gender and Covenant In Judaism by Shaye J. D. Cohen, he tracks down a single mention of the practice among Egyptian Jews by Greek geographer Strabo. After looking at the evidence, however, Cohen believes it was simply a mistake on Strabo's part, as he was assuming that Jews from Egypt had taken on Egyptian customs. He quotes Philo as being quite emphatic on the matter that Egyptian Jewish men, not women, were circumcised.

The second source, which seems much more authoritative, comes from the paper "Ritual female genital surgery among Ethiopian Jews" by Grisaru, Lezer and Belmaker of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In their article they note that most Ethiopian Jewish women claimed to have undergone female circumcision, although only 27% showed any physical signs of any surgery, which is in itself an interesting anthropological issue as far as how much to trust what people say in surveys.

The astonishing part, though, is that as soon as the Ethiopian Jews arrived in Israel, the practice ceased completely. This shows that they did it because of the surrounding Ethiopian culture, but no one claimed - even as a folktale - that this was a Jewish custom. Belmaker wrote a separate paper about this phenomenon:
A group of Ethiopian Jews who had immigrated to Israel was interviewed by an Amharic translator, and examined during routine gynecological examination...All women interviewed reported that FGM was universal in Ethiopia, but none intended to continue this practice with their daughters. All stated that this was a practice that would be left behind in their country of origin. ...
Ethiopian Jews, who practiced a major form of FGM in Ethiopia, give up the custom upon arrival in Israel and no reports exist among pediatricians, gynecologists or the press of FGM among Jews of Ethiopian origin in Israel.
While the only verified cases of FGM among Jews were the anomalous instances from Ethiopia, the practice today has completely disappeared among that community.

Which means that the Guardian is, once again, wrong.

One fact from the second Belmaker paper should have been included in the Guardian article, but wasn't. Bedouin Muslim women who had practiced FGM in Israel have also abandoned the practice, except in a symbolic form, in recent decades. This means that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has managed to effectively eradicate FGM - far more successfully than even Western countries have been!

A good reporter would have found out that piece of information. A good reporter would have spent time to research and write why Israel has been successful in eradicating FGM when the UK has so many thousands of cases of women being mutilated every year.

That would be a good story, but, again, this is the Guardian.

UPDATE: CiFWatch, predictably, has an excellent response to the Guardian.

UPDATE 2: The article was corrected.



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