Since 2006, a controversial organization has asked for donations, promising to surgically restore the clitoris of women, mainly in Africa, who have suffered FGM: female genital mutilation. Clitoraid does this by asking people to "adopt a clitoris."
An important article published today in SF Gate, part of the San Francisco Chronicle, has a title that begs to be read: Wrong approach to ending genital mutilation, by Caille Millner. For anyone who has not yet been aware that this campaign existed at all, Digital Journal's KJ Mullins had reported on it as far back as 2008. Like many others, those who donated more than $120,000 within months in the U.S. alone, KJ believed the original PR and thought Clitoraid was a humanitarian organization.
KJ included a well made, smart video by the Clitoraid organization, and when one listens and watches it is quite difficult to see what should be wrong with this campaign. That is, until one finds out who's behind it. To make this short, here's a description of it from the website of Dr Petra Boynton: Clitoraid is funded by an organisation called the Raelians. Depending on who is defining, this organisation can either be described as a religion or a cult. It is notorious for a number of reasons (including its view of sexuality and believing in intelligent design), but most famously for claiming it has cloned a baby human through a venture called Clonaid. The so-called Raelians have been founded by their self-appointed leader, one Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon (1946). After being a sports-car journalist and test driver, he transmuted into Rael once he had made personal contact with the Biblical god Yahweh, which he says occurred in 1973.
The aforementioned Dr Petra Boynton has made many attempts to get critical and scientific questions answered from the group, yet they either do not reply or offer anecdotal evidence only of how happy African women are who have undergone their surgical restoration practice for which donors/adopters have paid.
Many others - individuals and organizations, specialists and women who have themselves undergone FGM - have meanwhile voiced serious doubts about both the Clitoraid organization and the very business-like scheme they have devised. Even the slogan "adopt a clitoris" shows that this organ is treated without much respect, regarded more or less as a commodity.
Asked about what she thought of Clitoraid, its website and the campaign in general, a woman who has every right to have her thoughts respected is on record with the following statement: "The background info is pretty accurate, but restoring the clitoral nerve is nonsense. I assume it's a money making scheme. Sleazy way to make a buck." The sentence is by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, possibly the world's leading researcher in the field of female genital mutilation, also known by the abbreviation FGM.
Sometimes, erroneously, it is thought that Clitoraid has been founded by a French surgeon, Dr. Pierre Foldes. That is not the case. Dr Foldes is the developer of a surgical method that does not actually reconstruct a clitoris after circumcision or excision, rather, he reshapes the vulva in a way that allows underlying clitoral tissue to come forward. He has trained other surgeons in this method, but when asked to get involved with Clitoraid, he declined. It is also quite telling that while Clitoraid claims it will cost billions and trillions to help African women, Dr Foldes offered his work in Africa free of charge.
While none of the people or organizations who object to the "Adopt a Clitoris" campaign want FGM to continue, most think that any funds should rather be spent for educating women and men in the afflicted countries, in other words to work on the prevention of more clitoris excisions rather than letting this terrible practice go on and focus on the illusion that what has been taken, amidst much pain and suffering, can be given back in a so-called 'Pleasure Hospital' - which is how Clitoraid names its facilities.
Because FGM and all that surrounds it, including Clitoraid and its campaign, is a multifaceted and sensitive subject, the above article cannot be more than merely a short overview. For those with a deeper and perhaps professional interest, here several links to related websites, articles and researchers:
Caille Milner's article that spawned my attentionQuick and short item at Boing BoingArticle on the work of Dr. FoldesFGM in Africa by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein
Dr Petra Boynton (with Rael/Clitoraid video)