Should African women be able to engage in the practice of female circumcision, or genital mutilation as critics call it? That was the question at the heart of a debate at the American Anthropological Association over the weekend.
The New York Times' John Tierney described the views of one of the pro genital-cutting African scholars: "She has lamented that her Westernized 'feminist sisters insist on denying us this critical aspect of becoming a woman in accordance with our unique and powerful cultural heritage.'"
Tierney quotes from an essay written by the scholar, Fuambai Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago: "I offer that the bulk of Kono women who uphold these rituals do so because they want to - they relish the supernatural powers of their ritual leaders over against men in society, and they embrace the legitimacy of female authority and particularly the authority of their mothers and grandmothers."
In her view, genital cutting is a feminist act.
Amnesty International, the human rights organization that recently ran afoul of pro-lifers for changing its position on abortion calls genital cutting a crime. In a series of ads picturing roses nipped and tucked, Amnesty says "Every year, two million girls suffer the pain of genital mutilation-a clear violation of their human rights. No government should continue to ignore this crime. Help us to stop violence against women."
Crime or feminist act? Wrong at all times for all cultures? Or okay under some circumstances? Does the Bible forbid it? These are the kinds of hard questions that will increasingly face Christians, countries and cultures as the world becomes a smaller place.