New York Times


We were surprised by a misleading attempt to set up an opposition between male and female genital cutting in Sara Corbett’s otherwise fascinating article in The Times Magazine (“A Cutting Tradition,” January 20, 2008).

Noted opponents of female genital cutting (FGC), as well as most European and African observers, are skeptical of attempts—such as Laura Gaurenti’s—to excuse genital cutting of males (“circumcision”) while simultaneously vilifying FGC. Such ventures violate basic principles of fair play, not to mention the constitutional doctrine of equal protection.

In fact, precisely the same justifications are used for both male and female genital cutting—esthetic appeal, “health,” custom, and religion. Yet male circumcision continues to be the most common medical operation performed on males in this country, while simultaneously the only procedure performed without medical justification. It is ironic that we have passed legislation against female genital cutting and prosecuted a grand total of one individual in the eleven years the law has been in effect, while we continue to cut more than a million male children per year.

With your position as perhaps the world’s premier newspaper comes the responsibility to investigate and publish the truth. We ask that you set the record straight on this issue. Let’s protect all children from needless and painful surgery, whatever type of genital equipment they may have.

J. Steven Svoboda
Executive Director
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child