Is it a case of ‘The West knows best’?

Re “A horrific practice,” editorial, Feb. 20

The Times’ attack on female genital mutilation is the latest salvo in a decades-long campaign that is essentially a continuation of a simple concept: The West knows best. The logic in this campaign is full of faults. How exactly will ending female circumcision end inequality in Africa? You pointed to those thousands of villages that have given up the practice. OK, are women in those villages any better off? Are they no longer sold off into marriage? Do they feel liberated? Or are they simply confused as to why they no longer go through a practice their ancestors did?

Do some follow-up. God forbid there be a two-sided debate on this like there is for American male circumcision. Oh, wait ...



Culver City


Female genital mutilation often produces lifelong scar tissue that makes it difficult to urinate. The scar tissue can also impede labor when giving birth and cause the even more horrific obstetric fistulas that render a girl or woman incontinent. Surgical repair is needed. The United Nations Population Fund is fighting this mutilation worldwide and working village to village among leaders and especially with imams to discourage the practice. Since 2002, the Bush administration has refused to fund this organization. Last year, 180 countries contributed. Shame on us.



The writer is co-founder of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA (


I was pleased to see The Times call for an end to female genital mutilation around the world. I only hope to see a similar call for an end to male genital mutilation, more commonly known by the euphemism “circumcision,” a practice that is legal and customary in the United States. Both women and men are entitled to an intact body and to natural sexual function, and any accommodation to religion or culture that permits these barbarisms is, as you note, a serious affront to our most basic human rights.