On 22 February this year Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman tweeted a photo in what has been largely interpreted as an attempt to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation, and to make a tenuous link between the practice and the proposed development of a mosque in her area.
The Councillor has been a vocal objector the mosque since a proposal for it’s development was approved by Bendigo City Council last June.
The tweet, which can be seen below, was in response to a tweet to her from a supporter of the proposal to build the mosque.
If by tweeting this photo Councillor Chapman was attempting to highlight a disturbing cultural tradition, then we agree. These customs and traditions have no place in any modern society. Although as far as we are aware, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone involved with the proposed mosque practices or supports female genital mutilation.
What the media who have covered the story so far and Councillor Chapman may not realise though is that the children in the photo are actually male.
Articles at news.com.au and the Age and the Herald Sun have interpreted her intentions to be highlighting female genital mutilation, although ABC News seems to be a little less sure, with this article which is careful not to assume what the gender of the children may be.
A copy of the original, unpixelated photo can be found here (warning: disturbing content), which clearly shows that this is the aftermath of male infant genital mutilation.
“Oh, we could have this here too?” she tweets. Yes, we already have this here. It is commonly called circumcision, and is performed on over 12,000 baby boys in Australia every year. It is even subsidised by our Government through the Medicare system, and is completely unregulated. Anyone can be a circumciser and a male child can be circumcised for any reason, with any implement at any location.
We wonder if Councillor Chapman is aware of her apparent mistake, wonder what her position is on male circumcision.
Perhaps, like us, she makes no distinction between gender in her objection to genital mutilation. Although if this was the case, she could not justifiably use the picture to object to the development of the mosque given that male circumcision is pervasive throughout both muslim and mainstream Australian cultures.