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Monday, April 23, 2018

New York withdraws statue of the controversial 'father' of gynecology

Por Nina

New York retired this week, from Central Park, the statue of a nineteenth-century gynecologist who experimented with black slaves without anesthesia, at a time when the United States increasingly confronts racism in its history. A city commission recommended in January that the statue of J. Marion Sims be moved from Central Park to a Brooklyn cemetery where the gynecologist was buried, and that steps be taken to explain the legacy of a man considered the father of modern gynecology.

"It's about time!" Shouted an African-American woman, one of the nearly 25 people who attended the statue's retreat. "Sims is not our hero," others shouted. "It's important to recognize that their contributions really occurred at the expense of women who could not consent to their experimentation," said Bernadith Russell, a New York-Presbyterian hospital physician. "I recognize his contributions but it is as if Josef Mengele had contributions in the field of medicine, we would not put a statue of him because of how he got that information," he added. Mengele was a German Nazi doctor who experimented cruelly with prisoners in concentration camps during World War II.

As explained by BBC World, Sims describes in his own autobiography how he put women on their knees and elbows, naked and held by other men, "while he introduced elements in their vaginas to practice experimental surgeries." All these without anesthesia or consent. At least 11 slaves were operated under these conditions, of which only the name of three is known: Lucy, Betsy and Anarcha.

This is one of the four statues on public lands that the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, agreed to move after the commission's report, while the United States debates the old tributes to legates increasingly questioned. De Blasio, a Democrat, commissioned the report after a bloody neo-Nazi protest in Virginia last August that gave way across the country to initiatives to remove symbols from the pro-slavery south in the civil war.

New York will keep the statues of Christopher Columbus and former US President Theodore Roosevelt, and a plaque dedicated to Philippe Petain, a hero of World War I who later collaborated with the Nazis, although he will add to all these monuments additional legends that will grant more contexts. A monument to the indigenous peoples will be placed near the statue of Columbus at the entrance to Central Park. Columbus, considered the "discoverer" of America, has become a symbol of the genocide of the Native Americans.

Many complain that the statue of Roosevelt, triumphant on horseback and accompanied on foot by an American Indian on one side and an African on the other, is an image of the racial hierarchy. "We will add detail and nuances to the representations of these stories, instead of withdrawing them completely," de Blasio said in January.