The law and ethics of female genital cutting

Shahvisi, Arianne and Earp, Brian D The law and ethics of female genital cutting. In: Creighton, Sarah and Liao, Lih-Mei (eds.) Female genital cosmetic surgery: interdisciplinary analysis and solution. Cambridge University Press. (Accepted)

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In this chapter, we contrast legal and ethical perspectives on two forms of nontherapeutic female genital cutting: those commonly known as “female genital mutilation” and those commonly known as “female genital cosmetic surgeries.” We begin by questioning the usefulness of these categories—and the presumed distinctions upon which they rest— stressing the shared features of the two sets of practices. Taking UK legislation as a case study, we show that there are troubling inconsistencies in the way in which female genital cutting is understood in Western contexts. Specifically: (a) all nontherapeutic genital alterations to female minors are criminalised, typically with harsh penalties for transgressing the law, while even more invasive nontherapeutic genital alterations to male and intersex minors are permitted and almost entirely unregulated; and (b) genital alterations of adult women regarded as “cosmetic” in nature are treated as legal, while in some jurisdictions, anatomically identical procedures classified as “mutilation” are illegal. This chapter highlights these and other inconsistencies, speculates as to why they arise in Western contexts, and explores the scope for more consistent and constructive attitudes and legislation.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: female genital mutilation, female genital cosmetic surgery, intersex surgery, male circumcision, genital autonomy
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Depositing User: Arianne Shahvisi
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2018 08:25
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2018 07:45

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