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Promoting genital autonomy by exploring commonalities between male, female, intersex, and cosmetic female genital cutting

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All forms of genital cutting – female genital cutting (FGC), intersex genital cutting, male genital cutting (MGC), and even cosmetic forms of FGC – are performed in a belief that they will improve the subject’s life. Genital autonomy is a unified principle that children should be protected from genital cutting that is not medically necessary. Safeguarding genital autonomy encompasses helping societies and individuals to explore wounds common across different forms of genital cutting regarding gender, power, the quest for cultural belonging, and social and sexual control. A desire to prevent alternative sexualities helps explain the origins of MGC’s medicalization starting in the nineteenth century, as well as the roots of the failed attempt to similarly medicalize FGC. The child with ‘ambiguous’ genitalia brings us face to face with the failure of the attempted alignment of sex and gender. Medical ethics, law, and human rights suggest a path forward toward genital autonomy.
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Keywords: female genital cutting; genital autonomy; human rights; intersex genital cutting; male circumcision

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 2013

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  • Global Discourse is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented journal of applied contemporary thought operating at the intersection of politics, international relations, sociology and social policy. The Journal's scope is broad, encouraging interrogation of current affairs with regard to core questions of distributive justice, wellbeing, cultural diversity, autonomy, sovereignty, security and recognition. All issues are themed and aimed at addressing pressing issues as they emerge. Rejecting the notion that publication is the final stage in the research process, Global Discourse seeks to foster discussion and debate between often artificially isolated disciplines and paradigms, with responses to articles encouraged and conversations continued across issues.

    The Journal features a mix of full-length articles, each accompanied by one or more replies, policy papers commissioned by organizations and institutions and book review symposia, typically consisting of three reviews and a reply by the author(s). With an international advisory editorial board consisting of experienced, highly-cited academics, Global Discourse publishes themed issues on topics as they emerge. Authors are encouraged to explore the international dimensions and implications of their work.

    All research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and double-blind peer review. All submissions must be in response to a specific call for papers.

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