Genital examination of girls
Friday July 20, 2007
Dear Alice Miller,
To combat the horrible tradition of female circumcition, mostly done to girls whose parents come from some of the African countries, many Norwegian politicians now want girls’ genitalia to be examined. Because they don’t want to stigmatize ethnic minorities (the 1 % of the population in Norway that belongs to the risk group), many politicians want all girls to be examined.
In my opinion this is a very bad proposition. Many girls, as we all know, have experiences of sexual abuse, and I strongly believe that this kind of examination may re-traumatize them. Since female circumcition may occur at any time in girls’ lives (in Kenya og Tanzania in puberty or before wedding), one ought to examine them every year until the girls are grown ups. I would be very scared if I still were a girl. I remember well how it was to be a traumatized child. Last week I also heard about a former sexually abused girl, who became desperate when she heard about this proposition. Therefore I write about it, on mails to politicians, on the Internet and in newspapers.
Some politicians use as an argument that such examinations of the genitalia can identify ethnic Norwegian girls who are sexually abused. They are wrong. A study from 2000 by American paediatricians, “A case-control study of anatomic changes resulting from sexual abuse” (in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) concluded that findings strongly suggestive of sexual abuse were observed in less than 5 % of abused (genital penetration) girls. Focus must be on the child’s history, say the authors. (And have the politicians forgotten sexually abused boys?)
Most doctors, The Norwegian Medical Association, including the gynecologists’ and the paediatricians’ organizations, oppose examination. No psychologists, including child psychologists with competence on trauma, have said anyhing about it. I now wonder what thoughts you have about this. Do you think it may be traumatic for many children?
Yours sincerely, S.T., Oslo, Norway
AM: I hope that normal people like you will do their best to make clear that this “project” is born out of a sick, perverted mind and should in no way be realized. We think always of Norway as a very progressive country. How is it possible that such an ignorant, dangerous idea came up in this place? I was shocked when I read your letter and share your arguments.