Friday, March 26, 2004
Georgia Nixes Genital Piercings for Women 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the cloudy sidelines of the Great American Culture Wars, yet another nixie from Dixie:
ATLANTA (AP) -- Genital piercings for women were banned by the Georgia House Wednesday as lawmakers considered a bill outlining punishments for female genital mutilation.

The bill would make such mutilation punishable by two to 20 years in prison. It makes no exception for people who give consent to have the procedure performed on their daughters out of religious or cultural custom. An amendment adopted without objection added "piercing" to the list of things that may not be done to female genitals. Even adult women would not be allowed to get the procedure. The bill eventually passed 160-0, with no debate.

Amendment sponsor Rep. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, was slack-jawed when told after the vote that some adults seek the piercings. "What? I've never seen such a thing," Heath said. "I, uh, I wouldn't approve of anyone doing it. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to be doing."

The [Georgia] ban applies only to women, not men.
{sarcasm} Well, no, of course it doesn't apply to men...that would mean Georgia would have to start arresting mohels and doctors who perform male circumcisions, as well as body-piercing artists and practitioners of FGM. If Bill Heath doesn't approve of women having genital piercings, then, by gum, Georgia women just won't be able to have them. End of discussion. {/sarcasm}

All joking aside, if I somehow come across as being "pro-FGM" (female genital mutilation): no, I don't think we should allow FGM in the U.S. It is a deeply hurtful, reprehensible practice, and while we can not easily stop it outside our shores, we can pass laws and educate people within our borders about its unacceptability. On the other hand, decorative genital piercing is worlds away from FGM, just as FGM (often termed "female circumcision") is a completely different - much more invasive - procedure than its male equivalent.

FGM is nothing less than the permanent sexual maiming of girls and women. While some people invoke "cultural relativism" to justify allowing FGM in the United States and Europe, there clearly needs to be a line drawn somewhere. Chinese foot-binding is another such unjustifiable cultural practice, as is settee (or sati) and "honor-killing". Viewed on this continuum of grey areas, FGM clearly does fall on the dark side.

This Georgia bill is a perfect example of seemingly well-intentioned laws squirreled by legislators' ignorance of the finer points of fact - if politicians don't know the difference between decorative genital piercing and FGM, then they need to get educated before they consider passing laws. We need worldly, informed lawmakers - not cloistered ones.

For a well-spoken, piercing (sorry, couldn't resist) rebuttal to Bill Heath's spur(s)-of-the-moment lawmaking, check out BMEzine.