Female Circumcision Linda Burstyn ("Female Circumcision Comes to America," October Atlantic) is right on target. Female genital mutilation is child abuse, a serious human-rights violation, and a crime as serious as rape. The United States needs to outlaw the practice, to see that its practitioners are prosecuted, and to do everything possible through international organizations to eliminate the practice worldwide.
Respect for cultural differences cannot justify toleration of genocide, torture, slavery, child prostitution, and other violations of universal human rights. Female genital mutilation is no different from these other crimes.
Linda Burstyn's article is based on claims of a dubious character, to say the least. The mention of cultural relativity in connection with female genital mutilation is a laughable attempt at being cynical. The whole story, in fact, is laughable journalism--a collection of unchecked claims and impromptu interviews of nameless men.
I am not sure how much FGM is practiced in America or by whom. Mimi Ramsey says that families chip in to pay the airfare for a traditional person to perform female circumcision. What nationality are these families? Among the several Ethiopian families I know all over the United States, I have not heard of even one that practices female circumcision. I realize this does not give me the authority to say that no Ethiopian practices female circumcision. But I can confidently say that an appreciable percentage of urbanized Ethiopians at home and abroad have abandoned female circumcision altogether--not only because of the suspiciously unscientific claim that it has an adverse effect on female sexuality but also because it is now rightly regarded as a hazardous ritual.