CLITORAID responds to critics: ‘This baseless smear campaign is costing genitally mutilated women the valuable support they need to get corrective surgery.’
LAS VEGAS, April 19 – Las Vegas-based, non-profit organization CLITORAID, which helps victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) receive reconstructive surgery, released a statement today in response to accusations of non-accountability, insensitivity to women’s rights, concerns of African cultures and questions about the overall safety and effectiveness of the surgery it sponsors.
Professor Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, assistant professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, and Caille Millner, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, spearheaded what CLITORAID representative Nadine Gary called “a vicious attack of misinformation and distortion of truth.”
“Their statements, especially in Millner’s April 14 article “Wrong Approach to Genital Mutilation,” led to an online petition that cost CLITORAID the participation of its fundraising partner,” Gary said, adding that adult toys retailer Good Vibrations of San Francisco “was bullied into canceling its summer fundraising campaign on behalf of CLITORAID after receiving a petition signed by over 200 people.”
“The funds from Good Vibrations would have purchased medical equipment for our new hospital in Burkina Faso,” Gary said. “Now that won’t happen. It’s so unfair. The allegations are baseless – and some are just plain stupid.”
As an example, Gary said both critics lambasted CLITORAID for its fundraising slogan “Adopt a Clitoris” as though the phrase was meant to be taken literally.
“This slogan was intended to pique curiosity and attract donors,” Gary explained "and thanks to it, we manage to fund the building of our hospital as well as training of our surgeons and operating on a few women here in the US".
“Patients’ names are kept confidential and in no sense whatsoever was anyone adopting or trading body parts. But that’s what these people implied. They don’t seem to know the difference between a figure of speech and reality. Meanwhile, not even one woman awaiting clitoral repair surgery through CLITORAID has complained about the slogan. In fact, none of them have ever even mentioned it!”
As for the allegation that CLITORAID is insensitive toward women and toward members of local African cultures still practicing FGM, Gary pulled no punches.
“Brutal, violent acts like female genital mutilation don’t call for sensitivity,” she said. “They demand immediate action, and that’s what CLITORAID is doing.”
She likened the call for sensitivity toward those in Africa who perpetuate and condone FGM to those who were “sensitive” toward slave owners or Nazis.
“Slave owners in the American South thought Northerners were insensitive to their needs,” Gary said. “And it wasn’t considered polite in Nazi Germany to ask what was happening to the Jews. Both situations demanded blunt, effective, immediate opposition, not sensitivity toward the perpetrators and their supporters.”
She said the same principle applies for eliminating FGM and restoring clitoral functionality through surgery for as many victims as possible.
“This is a senseless, horrible act that causes excruciating pain and sexual deprivation for millions,” Gary said. “While other organizations just discuss and wring their hands, CLITORAID acts. Our first hospital dedicated to clitoral repair surgery will open in Burkina Faso in 2011. And some women assisted by CLITORAID have already had the procedure done successfully here in the United States, at our head surgeon’s Colorado clinic.”
Gary said the San Francisco article was especially disturbing because it demonstrated “blatant prejudice toward Raelians.”
She pointed out that Raelianism is an officially recognized religion in the United States.
“Millner dissed Clitoraid because its founder, Maitreya Rael, teaches that all life on Earth was created scientifically by extraterrestrials,” Gary said. “But acceptance or rejection of that belief doesn’t change the fact that Clitoraid’s clitoral reconstructive surgeries and related therapy are done by professionals. And those professionals are not Raelians. They volunteered to work with Clitoraid because they know the surgery is effective and that women are waiting for it. They wanted to help.”
Gary said Larry Ashley, Ed.S., LADC, LMSW, LPC CPGC, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, university professor and sexual trauma counselor, sees each Clitoraid-sponsored patient, and that renowned sexual therapist Dr. Betty Dodson created the post-surgery sexual therapy program that complements the procedure.
“This great team of volunteer professionals is made up of non-Raelians who have chosen to work with Clitoraid,” Gary said. “I notice our critics neglected to mention them.”
Regarding the surgery’s safety and efficacy, Gary said the reconstructive procedure sponsored by Clitoraid was devised by surgeon Dr. Pierre Foldes in France, where cost of the treatment is reimbursable under the country’s universal health care system.
“Dr. Foldes isn’t affiliated with the Raelian Movement in any way, nor is he even affiliated with Clitoraid,” Gary said. “But Dr. Marci Bowers, Clitoraid’s head surgeon, trained directly under him. Dr. Bowers is also a non-Raelian, and she is training other physicians to perform the procedure. The surgery is safe and effective and it’s performed in accredited hospitals.”
Gary said critics of Clitoraid should practice what they preach.
“Millner and Professor Kamau-Rutenberg say Good Vibrations should have exercised due diligence before associating with Clitoraid, but they didn’t do their own. These two women should have known better. They turned the truth about Clitoraid completely upside down out of their own prejudice and a lot of ill-founded assumptions. In the process, they hurt many good people. And those they’ve hurt most are the FGM victims on our waiting list.”