Female genital alterations, performed for cosmetic reasons, receive no censure from the WHO and are legal. These procedures are performed mainly for aesthetic, non-medically indicated reasons, to affirm culturally specific feelings of self-worth and definitions of beauty. These procedures, legally performed on minor children, can include piercing, clitoral unhooding or hoodectomy, the removal of parts of the labia minora, labia majora and prepuce, the trimming of the clitoris, or even the shortening the subcutaneous part of the clitoris.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery discussed the skyrocketing growth in demand for female genital surgery that includes frequently requested procedures such as “reducing the clitoral hood”. The Society proudly stated that as of 2012, twenty-one percent of its 2,600 board-certified plastic surgeons performed such procedures. From 2014 there was an 80 percent increase in cosmetic genital surgery for girls. A 2013 British report found the number of labial reductions on girls and women done by the National Health Service had increased fivefold over 10 years.
According to the WHO’s definition of FGM, all such procedures, which are more invasive than female circumcision, should be classified as female genital mutilation. However, these cosmetic procedures are not considered FGM by the WHO. This hypocrisy highlights the fundamental problem: the WHO and the global anti-female genital alteration movement censure female circumcision without reason.
Since it is performed on adults and minors alike, it is clear that the crux of the WHO’s argument is on the risks and harm associated with the procedure and to a lesser degree on the age of the circumcised person. (Indeed, if the age of the person being circumcised were a primary issue, the WHO would also call for a prohibition of neonatal male circumcision, which is clearly not the case.) Since hoodectomies are not declared FGM, to term female circumcision – a less invasive procedure than hoodectomy – as FGM, is incorrect, unfair and clearly biased.