Russian Orthodox Archpriest Opposes Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

The former spokesman of Russia’s Orthodox Church has come out in support of claims made by a top Muslim cleric earlier this week endorsing female genital mutilation.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who was the head of the church’s public relations department until 2015 and continues to be outspoken and influential, has come out in support of Ismail Berdiyev on his Facebook page.

Berdiyev, an influential Islamic mufti in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus declared Wednesday that “it is necessary to circumcise all women, so sexuality decreases and there is no debauchery on Earth,” Russian news agency Interfax reported.

While Berdiyev has attempted to retract his claims, after they prompted a backlash from other Russian muftis, Russia’s top Muslim cleric and the Russian Ministry of Health, the Russian Orthodox Church’s ex-spokesman has lent his support.

Chaplin, who was the head of the church’s public relations department until 2015 and continues to be outspoken and influential, compared the criticism of Berdiyev to “feminist howling” and “the will of the hysterical.”

“I have known this esteemed man for 25 years and we have had our disagreements from time to time,” Chaplin wrote on Facebook. “He told us about his tradition, time honored and recognized by the majority of women brought up with this tradition. Why should they not have a right to it?”

“We Orthodox Christians have different traditions and this has never stopped us from respecting the traditions of neighboring peoples,” Chaplin wrote, seemingly unaware that even before retracting his statement, Berdiyev noted that “female circumcision” was not an Islamic practise per se.

Instead, Chaplin accused the U.N. of double standards by seeking to ban female genital mutilation but allowing male circumcision. The U.N. and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have campaigned for years to end the practise of any female genital cutting for non-medical reasons and have stressed that it is not comparable to male circumcision.

In fact, the term “female genital mutilation” is intended to distance practises of forcibly cutting female genitalia to reduce the ability to enjoy sex or even have it altogether, from male circumcision—a far less harmful and more common practise.