Not to open back up the great circumcision wars of 2007, but as someone who has written about experiments in using male circumcision as an HIV preventative, I feel obliged to recognize that the idea, it seems, has run amok. According to the UN's IRIN news service, Kenyan proponents of female genital mutilation are now claiming that the practice reduces women's likelihood of contracting the virus. Their rationale?
"When you are cut as a woman, you do not become promiscuous and it means you cannot get infected by HIV; even our men want circumcised girls who will not turn out to be prostitutes," said Grace Kemunto, a traditional circumciser.
I feel the need to make a bit of a mea culpa here. As encouraging as the studies were showing up to a 60 percent reduction in HIV infections among African men who had been circumcised as adults, I must now conclude that public health messaging must remain focused on safe sex and women's liberation. Transposing the experimental findings on men's circumcision and HIV onto women is especially dangerous, because FGM actually increases a woman's chance of contracting STIs — not to mention the devastating effects the practice has on a woman's ability to experience sexual pleasure:
FGM/C increases a woman's risk of HIV primarily through the use of a single blade to cut several girls during traditional circumcision. There is also an increased risk of hemorrhage, leading to a greater likelihood of blood transfusions becoming necessary during circumcision, at childbirth, or as a result of vaginal tearing during sexual intercourse, with an even higher risk in areas where a safe blood supply cannot be guaranteed.
cross-posted at TAPPED