The United Nations General Assembly's human rights committee unanimously voted to enact a global ban against female circumcision, instructing the UN's 193 member states to take direct action by enacting legislation and leading education campaigns for both young women and men in order to penalize violators and protect women and girls from "this form of violence."
Female circumcision — which critics (like the UN) usually call female genital mutilation (FGM) — usually involves completely removing the clitoris and sometimes other parts of the genitals, too. It can lead to a bunch of terrible, hurtful shit: infection, painful sex, complications in childbirth, death. It's also seen by many as a surefire way to oppress women, since, besides all the aforementioned possible side effects, it eliminates any sexual pleasure you'd get thanks to the clitoris and whatever other parts of your vulva/vagina are carved up. There's also the issue that people worldwide still cower in misogynist fear of female sexuality; getting rid of the clit is a great way to ensure they never have to think of women as sexual beings ever again! According to the UN, 70 million girls and women were circumcised in 2010 in countries all over the world, from Iraq to Indonesia.
José Luis Diaz, Amnesty International's UN representative, said FGM is "an indictment of us all that a girl or young woman can be held down and mutilated is a violation of her human rights," according to the Guardian. But not everyone feels that way; there's also a significant contingent of people who say critics are practicing "cultural imperialism," misunderstand the repercussions, and are hypocrites who are fine with reality TV-friendly vagina-related surgery (hello, vaginal rejuvenation) and, of course, male circumcision. Others hate the concept but worry that banning FGM isn't the solution, since girls and women can be shunned from their communities if they're not cut; it's complicated, because telling people their culture is barbaric isn't really a great or productive way to enact change. But what's the solution?
According to the UN, the solution is clear — ban it — and the resolution should be approved by the end of the year; with 110 sponsors and high-profile supporters (including Hillary Clinton, pictured above on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation), it's pretty much impossible it won't pass. "I think that together we can change the fate of many young girls around the world, and today this goal appears closer than ever," said Italy's UN ambassador, Cesare Maria Ragaglini. "The resolution, in condemning the practice and promoting social and educational programs, is … the beginning of a new journey."
UN committee calls for ban on female genital mutilation [The Guardian]