Female genital mutilation and male circumcision: toward an autonomy-based ethical framework
Brian D Earp
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Abstract: The non-therapeutic alteration of children’s genitals is typically discussed in two separate ethical discourses: one for girls, in which such alteration is conventionally referred to as “female genital mutilation” (or FGM), and one for boys, in which it is conventionally referred to as “male circumcision.” The former is typically regarded as objectionable or even barbaric; the latter, benign or beneficial. In this paper, however, I call into question the moral and empirical basis for such a distinction, and I argue that it is untenable. As an alternative, I propose an ethical framework for evaluating such alterations that is based upon considerations of bodily autonomy and informed consent, rather than sex or gender.
Keywords: FGM, circumcision, gender, sexuality, autonomy, consent
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