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The law and ethics of female genital cutting
chapterposted on 2023-06-09, 11:29 authored by Arianne ShahvisiArianne Shahvisi, Brian D Earp
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.
- Accepted version
PublisherCambridge University Press
Book titleFemale genital cosmetic surgery: solution to what problem?
Department affiliated with
- BSMS Publications
Full text available