Zero tolerance for genital mutilation: a review of moral justifications

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • Zero tolerance for genital mutilation: a review of moral justifications

      Brian D. Earp:

      Purpose of review. To summarize and critically evaluate the moral principles invoked in
      support of zero-tolerance laws and policies for medically unnecessary female genital
      cutting (FGC). Recent findings. Most of the moral reasons that are typically invoked to
      justify such laws and policies appear to lead to a dilemma. Either these reasons entail
      that several common Western practices that are widely regarded to be morally
      permissible and are currently treated as legal—such as intersex “normalization”
      surgery, female genital “cosmetic” surgery performed on adolescent girls, or infant
      male circumcision—are in fact morally impermissible and should be discouraged if not
      legally forbidden; or the reasons are being applied in a biased and prejudicial manner
      that is itself unethical, as well as inconsistent with Western constitutional requirements
      of equal treatment of individuals before the law. Summary. In the recent literature,
      only one principle has been defended that appears capable of justifying a zero-
      tolerance stance towards medically unnecessary FGC without relying on, exhibiting, or
      perpetuating unjust cultural or moral double standards. This principle holds that, in
      countries whose ethicolegal traditions are shaped by a foundational concern for
      individual rights, respect for bodily integrity, and personal autonomy over sexual
      boundaries, all non-consenting persons have an inviolable moral right against any
      medically unnecessary (or medically deferrable) interference with their genitals or
      other private anatomy. In such countries, therefore, all non-consenting persons,
      regardless of age, race, ethnicity, parental religion, assigned sex, gender identity, or
      other individual or group-based features, should be protected from medically
      unnecessary genital cutting, regardless of the severity of the cutting or the expected
      level of benefit or harm.
      Ein Recht auf ein Leben mit vollständigen Genitalien muss in Deutschland möglich sein