Don't Retract Pack

Female and Male Toe Cutting: Whose Rights are Violated?

Imagine for a moment a society in which there is a centuries-old practice of toe cutting. Girls get both large toes cut off at birth, boys get one. Questions are not raised as to the legitimacy or need for the practice, because it is just taken as something you do. It keeps the feet cleaner. The toes are not missed, and after all, who wants toe jam or ingrown nails to deal with?

In this toe-cutting culture, we look on with horror when a newborn baby, without anything more than a sugar water dipped pacifier and a little numbing ointment on the toes, is strapped to a board, to have the toe/s cut off. All babies scream out, or lapse into a semi-comatose state to survive the pain and trauma. Toes are sold for science - medicinal studies or adult body surgical use, or they are tossed as medical waste. Girls bring in more profit in this way because there are two for each born, and boys have just one removed.

Let's step back and look at this situation. Whose basic human rights to bodily autonomy are violated in this society? Both girls and boys? Only one or the other? Does the number of toes amputated correlate with how much of a human rights violation it is for either girls or boys?

What if we are only to cut off the end of the toe, just beyond the joint, on boys, and continue to remove the entire toes on girls. Whose human rights are then violated? Only girls? Both sexes?

When an intersex baby is born, society determines whether baby will be deemed 'boy' and have only part of one toe cut off, or 'girl' and have both toes amputated. Is this baby's human rights more or less violated than other girls/boys born that same day?

It would seem that most of us agree that the severity of what is needlessly amputated does not determine whether or not something is a violation of human rights. It is the act of forced cutting itself, upon the body of a non-consenting person, without medical necessity, that constitutes a violation of human rights. 

We approach professionals within this society and ask with bewilderment WHY this continues to be done. Please stop, we beg. But they tell us that the boys have a toe removed to prevent the foot fungus that more often stems with the large toe, to deter from so many hangnails, and all the dirt that isn't easily managed in childhood. Girls have both removed because as it prevents them from outdoing the boys in races... they cannot run or jump or walk or balance quite as well, and remain where they should be -- in their place within this society -- secondary to men.

After understanding the cultural reasonings, whose basic human rights to bodily autonomy are now being violated?

In the end, the justification given by those beholding the knife does not determine a human rights violation, or lack there-of. It is the forced act of cutting - the behavior, the action against another human being - that constitutes a violation of human rights.


Related Reading: 

History of Female Circumcision in the United States:

FGM / MGM: Similar Attitudes and Misconceptions:

Female Genital Mutilation Federal Law / Bill in the United States:

Should I Circumcise? The pros and cons of infant circumcision:

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