Obama tells Kenyans to stop female genital mutilation

Lauren Sardi

In an op-ed in today's New Haven Register, Lauren Sardi, assistant professor of sociology, said she was struck by President Obama recently urging Kenyans during his visit to Africa to end female genital mutilation, in which he stated, "These traditions may date back centuries. They have no place in the 21st century."         

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting, involves any number of procedures performed on a female's genitals, ranging from a ritual nick to infibulation, the most well-known and horrific form of FGM. What most people don't know, however, is that infibulation, which includes the complete removal of external female genitalia and a suturing of the vaginal opening, occurs in less than 1 percent of all documented cases of FGM, according to the World Health Organization. By far, the most common form of FGM involves a procedure in which only the female foreskin is removed. 

"Does this sound familiar?" Sardi asks. "It should, because it's the most common surgical procedure performed in the United States without anesthesia, without informed consent, and without any valid medical reason - except that it's routinely performed on baby boys shortly after birth. Most people in the United States would cringe at the thought of anyone comparing any type of FGM to male circumcision. But the reality is that both procedures share much in common. Before we point the finger at other countries, it's a good idea to take a look at our own traditions first. We might be surprised by what we learn about ourselves." 

Sardi's current research focuses on the medicalization and human rights implications of male circumcision in the United States. She has recently published an article on parental decision-making processes surrounding the procedure. 

If you're interested in interviewing her, please contact John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, at 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).

Learn more about Sardi

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