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October 09, 1997 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-09

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The Michigan Daily - Th
.Afican doctor discusses
female circumcision myths

By Peter Romer-Friedman
Daily Staff Reporter
Nahid Toubia, the first woman doctor
of the African nation of Sudan, set off a
*ery dialogue last night in Rackham
about the truth of female circumcision.
Toubia was born in Sudan, but has
worked all over the world as a neuro-
surgeon, pediatric surgeon and general
practitioner. She is a feminist, a politi-
cal activist and founder of an interna-
tional women's health organization. She
was also health adviser to Sudan's gov-
Female circumcision, commonly
nown as female genital mutilation,
,practiced in 28 African countries.
It is performed on five to 95 percent
of those nation's females, according
to Toubia.
"In general, it's a ritual of cutting of
the female genitals to a certain degree.
This is part of growing up,"Toubia said.
Toubia did not want to talk about
the actual circumcision, which she
said about 200,000 women in the
nited States have experienced.
nstead, she focused on how the
American media distorts the issue and
how Americans judge the act as a
human rights violation without think-
ing about the people who must deal
with it.
"What happened historically is that

people contorted and misinformed
about the health problems," she said.
"The whole health concern has
obscured the human rights concern.
"The fact is, there's a child, and
someone will hold the child down with
or without anesthesia. It's a violation of
human rights but the parents want to
normalize their children, much like
Jewish parents circumcise their chil-
dren," Toubia said.
Toubia said babies and young girls,
who endure the most circumcisions, have
no way of consenting to the act. That is
why she has proposed a law to the U.S.
Congress that a woman must be 18 to
legally consent to circumcision.
"If an African woman wants to have
the circumcision at 18, it's her right.
Nobody has the right to circumcise a
child without consent. That's a basic
human rights violation," she said.
Next, Toubia blasted the American
media for their allegedly poor coverage,
which has caused detrimental effects on
the issues of female circumcisions.
"Should Americans get involved?
Yes. Should the American media get
involved? No. They're there to enter-
tain," Toubia said. "Having female gen-
ital mutilation on the six o'clock news
is new and exciting. It's great for
American media. If you get a black
woman to say female circumcision is

bad, it's even better."
Toubia said people cannot be effec-
tively educated through the media. She
contands that Africa has been equated
with famine and female genital mutila-
tion, and little else.
Psychology Prof. David Winter noted
that Toubia had a bad experience on the
Oprah Winfrey Show, and said the
media does not help educate the public
about the issue.
"The media is complex and it arous-
es and exposes, but it inevitably starts to
sensationalize because it has to sell,"
Winter said.
Toubia pointed out how circumcised
women are offended by the term
"female genital mutilation" because for
millions of women, female circumci-
sion is culturally acceptable.
"If you were circumcised and if your
doctor was doing research, do you think
you'd like your doctor to ask if you were
mutilated or if you're circumcised?"
Toubia said.
Toubia also said that Americans stig-
matize the practice of female circumci-
sion when they.alter themselves with
plastic surgery.
"We're doing plastic surgery and sex
changes in America, but we can't cir-
cumcise women?" Toubia said.
Although Toubia focused on many
of the unfair portrayals of female cir-

Dr. Nahid Toubia spoke last night at Rackham's Amphitheatre about the media's portrayal o
performed in 28 African countries and urged Americans to get involved.

cumcision by the media and
Americans, she did say that there is
hope for the future. Her own group,
Ranbo, which deals with international
issues of women's health, offers
resources to Africans and creates edu-
cation and reliable information for the
United States.
"You have to have education, infor-
mation and resources for a 'no'to mean

'no.' These resources are not in Africa
now," Toubia said.
Many students spoke positively of
Toubia's discussion. Juliet Nimako, an
LSA senior born in Africa, said she was
happy to hear Toubia shed light on cer-
tain issues.
"It was interesting to have a different
perspective on female circumcision. It's
interesting to hear from an African's

can a
but s
low hi

Institute for Social Research set
1o celebrate golden anniversary

t The once-small institution is now the
largest and oldest University-based
research unit in social studies
JyMaria Hackett
ally Staff Reporter
Fifty years ago, government researcher Robert Kahn
returned to the University in the newly formed Institute for
Social Research.
At the time, the ISR was small -- "only a handful of peo-
pie," Kahn said.
"We were located in a few rooms in the basement of the
University Elementary School," he said.
Today, the group has more than 400 people, and Kahn is
still researching at ISR. He sat on the committee to plan the
anniversary events.
"We decided that ISR is the largest and oldest University-
ased research unit in the social studies and should celebrate
ahalf a century of continued research and growth," he said.
The celebration kicks off today with the first in a series of
distinguished speakers.
"It's very special because we're drawing attention to two
Tacts,' said ISR Director David Featherman. "One, ISR has
been on campus for 50 years and it is a major source of inter-
disciplinary research. And two, the U of M campus is unusu-
al in that it is so strong in research."
ISR will sponsor several events throughout the year,
Scluding a series of six distinguished lectures, several sym-
posiums on various topics and an alumni weekend.
The topics range from racism to the Holocaust to the use
and abuse of social research.
None of the speakers are current University faculty, but
two of them, Prof. Hazel Markus and Prof. Charles Tilly pre-

A local research group is seeking non-smokers with a
in a research study. The purpose of the research is to
between two currently available medications for the1
There are a total of 8 visits over the study perio
procedures include pulmonary function test
Participants will receive free study medica
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All visits will occur in a private
If you are interested in participating, pleas
or e-mail

viously taught at Michigan.
"The idea was to bring different voices of leadership to the
campus to stimulate our thinking and get the students
involved by hearing someone they can't just hear in lecture"
Featherman said.
Gwen Maes, an administrative associate at ISR, coordinat-
ed many of the events, which will be capped off with an ISR
alumni weekend next year.
"We did a little research on who would be huge as far as
distinguished lecturers go," Maes said. "We're trying to bring
students together with these distinguished lecturers"
Each of the speaking events is done with a co-sponsorship
from another department at the University because ISR pro-
motes interdisciplinary research, she said.
The anniversary events have another purpose - to edu-
"One of the things we're trying to explain this year is to
explain to people in the wider community the importance of
social science, not only in the intellectual community, but in
their daily lives," Featherman said.
The lectures are open to the University community as well
as Ann Arbor residents.
"It's highly intellectual, a lot of fun and education and, in
it's own way, it's giving back to the University," Maes said.

ursday, October 9, 1997 - 7A
if female circumcision, which is -
of view. As an African myself,'1
ppreciate it," she said.
t LSA senior Karie Morgan said
a made too many broad statemetits.
thought she made a lot of gener-
tions and simplified many
s," Morgan said. "She said that it
't her responsibility to educate,
till feels responsibility as a f1l-
asthma to participate
study the difference
treatment of asthma.
d of 16 weeks. Study
ts and 2 blood draws.
tion, research related
ensations up to $320.
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