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In 38 states, female genital mutilation (clitoridectomies on minors for non-medical reasons is type I) is illegal. There was once a female genital mutilation act (18 U.S. Code § 116), but it has been declared unconstitutional (as far as I know).

Circumcising minors is a controversial topic. In the U.S., guardians have found a host of ways to rationalise removing part of their sons’ penises, but it is not difficult to poke holes in these reasons. In fact, circumcision originally became prominent in the U.S. as a way to prevent masturbation (which obviously does not work).

That leads me to my question. Female genital mutilation also is rooted in attempting to limit sexuality—yet, unlike involuntary circumcision, it is illegal in most of the United States. So why is forced circumcision of minors legal? I’m looking for an answer that can reconcile the two.

Comment on accepted answer: I recognise that female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice and a major human rights epidemic. I do not mean to propagate the idea that they are of equal severity. I hope that accepting Ted Wrigley’s answer reflects that and can help spread wisdom about the problem.


8 Answers 8


Clitoridectomies are not equivalent to male circumcision. Clitoridectomies are equivalent to removal of the glans (the head of the penis, which contains most of the nerve endings that produce sexual pleasure). It is possible to do an equivalent of circumcision on a female: i.e., removing the clitoral hood which normally covers the clitoris, leaving the clitoris exposed. This is sometimes done as an elective (cosmetic) surgery, and is a cultural practice followed by the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam, and among certain cultural groups in Indonesia and Malaysia (around 60-70 million cases across SE Asia). But that is not a distinction made under US law, and for the remainder of this answer, I will refer to this practice as 'female circumcision,' and will use the term 'clitoridectomy' to refer to the more drastic procedures.

In every US state, the full or partial excision of the penis of a male child or young adult would be punishable at the very least as assault causing great bodily harm and felony child abuse. No laws have been specifically passed against this practice, because it is not an established practice of any known group; any case in which this occurred would be treated as an idiosyncratic crime under established law. Laws have been passed against clitoridectomies because that is an established practice of certain tribal groups, and opposing a cultural tradition of that sort calls for specific legal definition and action beyond the normal sanctions for individual crimes.

Male circumcision, whatever its pros and cons, does not significantly interfere with reproduction or sexual pleasure (well... there are arguments that it has some negative impacts on the latter, but they are too complex and nuanced to get into here). Arguments in favor of male circumcision generally rest on issues of cleanliness, disease prevention, or cultural heritage, and most men adapt to the procedure perfectly well. There is evidence to suggest that female circumcision (which only removes the clitoral hood) is equally innocuous. But the US discourse focuses on those cases where the clitoris or parts of the labia are removed, caustic materials are used destroy genital sensitivity, or other permanent damage is inflicted on the female genitalia. These are perceived (under the title female genital mutilation) as acts of oppression against women, since the common perception is that the cultures that perform such acts intend to suppress female sexuality by reducing sexual pleasure. Those activities and beliefs are antithetical to the ideals and values of the US, and it is impossible to monitor individual procedures to ensure they conform to the mildest type, so the entire range of practices has been outlawed.

N.B. In reference to a dispute in comments about the nature of the surgical equivalence... The clitoris, like the penis, has both a shaft and a glans, and in both cases the glans contains the vast majority of nerve endings that produce sexual pleasure. However, the male organ combines the channel for the transfer of semen (as well as for urination), while the female organ is separate from both those functions. The removal of the clitoris has no direct effect on the capacity to reproduce; the removal of the penis — though it does not make a man sterile — makes reproduction impossible without artificial insemination. Clitoridectomies remove the clitoris and the external portions of the clitoral shaft, so for the purposes of this answer we treat a clitoridectomy as equivalent to the removal of the male glans. For both men and women, removal of the glans still allows them to feel some sexual pleasure — the shaft itself is sensitive, and for women, part of the shaft is internal, and may survive excision — but such pleasure is greatly diminished.

  • 16
    I recognise that it is a barbaric practice and a major human rights epidemic. I do not mean to propagate the idea that they are of equal severity. I hope that accepting your answer reflects that and can help spread wisdom about the problem. Apr 4, 2020 at 23:04
  • 15
    @gen-zreadytoperish: no worries; I recognize your intent, but felt the need to word things strongly. Apr 5, 2020 at 6:40
  • 12
    I don’t feel like you were too strong at all Apr 5, 2020 at 6:40
  • 11
    Clitoral hood removal (or even a less invasive 'symbolic' version of it) is the prevalent method of female genital mutilation among South Asian Muslim communities: theislamicmonthly.com/…
    – cyco130
    Apr 6, 2020 at 8:03
  • 13
    Unfortunately, I find this answer very badly researched. See this post here for my research and discussion on the topic: [nonestdeus.com/archive/posts/26]. Circumcision can and does cause sexual insensitivity of the glans. Apr 7, 2020 at 20:43

It takes time for things to change. 200 years ago slavery was legal. 50 years ago genital mutilation was acceptable, and so was electroshock therapy for gay people. Today those things sound like atrocities.

Perhaps in another 100 years male circumcision will likewise be condemned, and (as far as religious beliefs are concerned) it may well become illegal to force minors into a religion.

In the end, both kinds of genital modification go against the philosophy of independent choice, under which every autonomous person should be free to decide what to do with their body or life without constraints or compulsions. Any non-medical surgery without a competent personal consent goes against this idea.

  • 7
    This answer seems to overgeneralise a bit. It's a big world.
    – gerrit
    Apr 6, 2020 at 8:52
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    @gerrit The part about the idea of independent choice is overgeneralised on purpose. Countries' laws or customs may of course go against moral universalism, but that's really their problem. If we consider that it's OK to have different standards for different people, then the whole quesiton doesn't make sense. Apr 6, 2020 at 9:34
  • Comments deleted. I would like to inform all new users that Politics Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. For information on how comments should be used on this website, please review the help article on the commenting privilege.
    – Philipp
    Apr 7, 2020 at 14:10

In addition to Ted's excellent answer as to why female circumcision is significantly different, you'd have a problem with multiple religious groups that practice it as a rite. Orthodox Jews are directly commanded to perform it

According to the Torah (Genesis 17: 9-14), Abraham was commanded by God to circumcise himself, all male members of his household, his descendants and slaves in an everlasting covenant.

The Torah (Genesis 16:14) also says: "Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreksin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

Christians are not required to be circumcised, but many American Christians adhere to it anyways. Some parts of Islam practice it as well.

Since there is no apparent (to those practicing it) long lasting harm to boys who are circumcised, this is one area where they would be a strong push back from the US religious community at large if someone were to suggest laws to make it illegal. Iceland faced a similar backlash

One in three men globally is thought to be circumcised, the vast majority for religious or cultural reasons. Many Jews and Muslims fear the issue of circumcision could become a proxy for antisemitism and Islamophobia, pointing to similar tensions over religious dress and the ritual slaughter of animals for meat.

Muslim and Jewish leaders attacked the proposal, while Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Catholic Church in the European Union, said the bill was a “dangerous attack” on religious freedom. “The criminalisation of circumcision is a very grave measure that raises deep concern.”

There are no corresponding mainstream religious beliefs that mandate female genital modification of any kind.

  • Comments deleted. The question was asking about political reasons, and this answer provided one. Whether or not you agree with those political reasons is a question of personal opinions, and opinon-based debates do not belong on this website.
    – Philipp
    Apr 6, 2020 at 15:30
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    "Since there is no long lasting harm" - Perhaps it would be better to say "relative little harm". Critics surely believe the practice is harmful, and generally any surgery (or most other things) has at least some potential harm. "There are no corresponding religious beliefs" - I don't know the exact nature of the relevant cultural practices, but it's hard to imagine the idea has no relation to religious practices. Even if it's less common. Apr 6, 2020 at 17:24
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    I think this answer is affected by a degree of cultural bias. Many cultures would consider male circumcision to be harmful (Iceland, the Netherlands, N Europe in general), whilst in America, where circumcision is common, the foreskin is considered to be "redundant". Of course, if zero value is ascribed to the tissue removed, then MC can be described as harmless . Also - many cultures which practice FGC practice a form of FGC which is less invasive than male circumcision, and yet this is still described as FGC and condemned as immoral - notably the 1st FGM case in the US was this type Apr 8, 2020 at 9:34
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    Why should a religious group be allowed to practice genital cutting/mutilation in any form?
    – spring
    Apr 9, 2020 at 0:13
  • 1
    This answer ignores that across SE Asia relatively minor forms of FGC are practiced explicitly for religious reasons. This is not a small number of girls/women - around 60-70 million across SE Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore). It also grossly conflates Sunni/Asia, all the different schools of thought into one homogeneous "Islam" which is not representative. Just because some cherry picked scholars from particular schools of thought do not believe FGC is religious requirement, does not mean that other schools of thought reach the same conclusion. Thanks for referencing. Aug 12, 2020 at 11:41


The perception of MC (male circumcision) and FGC (female genital cutting) in the West are skewed by familiarity with MC (particularly in the US), and unfamiliarity with FGC which is viewed as a barbaric "mutilating" practice practised by "outsiders" and "savages" in Africa. The common conception of FGC as a mutilating procedure done to restrict female sexuality drives the separation of these two practices in public discourse. Because MC is a familiar practice in the US it is seen as benign and even beneficial to health. The US takes a similar view on both female genital cosmetic surgeries (FGCS) and intersex normalisation surgeries, which are both viewed as enhancements and beneficial, despite distinct anatomical parallels to forms of FGC [1,9,10]. The key feature seems to be how familiar or foreign such a bodily modification is - throughout history people have viewed their own bodily modifications as benign and beneficial and those of outsiders as barbaric and mutilating. See - Chinese foot binding, MC, FGC, corsetting, ritual scarification etc.

An additive effect to this was that FGC become linked to patriarchy in the 1970s due to the influence of the Hosken report. This report has since been largely repudiated. Despite significant criticism from experts in the field, the UN/WHO have entrenched this division, and the mainstream opinion remains that MC and FGC are incomparable. On this basis US law (unsurprisingly) treats the familiar MC as a "benign" and "harmless" practice, whilst treating any and all forms of FGC (including forms less invasive than MC) as utterly impermissible.

Western perceptions of female genital cutting (FGC) and male circumcision (MC) are not rooted in well-established empirical evidence as surveyed by a team of leading researchers in FGC [1]. The common view relies on poorly substantiated tropes. The perception of FGC as sexually crippling and leading to poor health outcomes is not well substantiated by the best evidence [1]. Similarly the motivations for FGC are varied, and with a few exceptions, FGC is not well explained by patriarchy.

Put bluntly - there is a double standard in how FGC practices in Africa are treated versus FGCS, MC and intersex surgeries. A wide ranging body of scholars has stated this clearly- see [7]. This hypocritical attitude is not based on a solid empirical understanding of the effects and motivations of FGC practices in Africa, and neither does it critically examine the evidence and motivations for MC within the US. Attitudes towards FGC are based on an "orientalizing" approach [8] towards outsider cultures and the global enforcement of FGM band reflects the far greater power of the global North vs the global South.

On the case of more minor forms of FGC, there are signs that the "firewall" between FGC and MC is breaking down. The trial of Dr Jumala Nagarwala in 2017 was over a religiously mandated form of FGC, the "ritual nick", which on any account was less invasive than MC. This particular trial was ended on a technicality, but the issue remains open - forms of FGC less invasive than MC are deemed impermissible. This seems untenable. In the US it seems likely that some more "minor" forms of FGC will become permissible. In countries with a much lower prevalence of MC (particular Scandinavian countries), it seems likely that the censure applied to even "minor" forms of FGC will be applied to MC . This may not take the form of outright prohibition - the laws in Sweden on MC permit it, but regulate it tightly.

Academic opinion is solidifying into two camps - one which considers any modification of children's genitalia (barring medical necessity) to be impermissible (see [7]), and one which has already advocated for minor forms of FGC to be permitted (see Arora & Jacobs; the Seattle Compromise; 2016 Economist article - "FGM: An agonising choice"). It seems likely that this debate will become mainstream within the next decade or two, as awareness increases of the prevalence of minor forms of FGC, and cases analogous to Dr Nagarwala appear again.

Main body:

In my answer I will refer to “female genital cutting” (FGC), instead of FGM. For reasons why, refer to [2]. Suffice to say – Many women who have had their genitalia cut largely do not feel “mutilated”, and feel this is a value-laden term which they would rather not have applied to their bodies, and it leads to stigma and shame. I choose to respect these women’s wishes, given their voice is not often heard. Furthermore, this term does actual, active harm to women who have been cut (again refer to [2]).

A source I will repeatedly refer to throughout this answer is a Hastings Centre report entitled "Seven things to know about female genital surgeries in Africa". I provide a non-paywalled link to this report below. This report was authored by 15 international experts in FGC, including a number of gynaecologists who run clinics for women with FGC, alongside a number of anthropologists, legal experts and feminists. It includes both advocates for liberalisation of laws around FGC, and also a large number of gynaecologists who run clinics for women with FGC who are concerned about the effect that sensationalism has on the sexual health of women in their clinic. It also has anthropologists who are well qualified to speak on the motivations for FGC. It is worth noting that a number of these authors are also authors of [7] and can hardly be described as "FGM apologists" - however, they call for greater balance in the debate, as they believe the current debate is likely to be un-productive in abolishing FGC in the long-run. I'll start my answer by quoting the abstract of the report:

"Western media coverage of female genital modifications in Africa has been hyperbolic and onesided, presenting them uniformly as mutilation and ignoring the cultural complexities that underlie these practices. Even if we ultimately decide that female genital modifications should be abandoned, the debate around them should be grounded in a better account of the facts."

The common Western perception of FGC was shaped predominantly in the 1970s when awareness of FGC was just becoming mainstream. At that time the data available was of poor quality and restricted to Sudan & Somalia, where the most extreme form of FGC (infibulation) is performed with the intention of oppressing female sexuality, routed in a (highly problematic) Islamic Purdah ideology. At the same time in 1970s feminism there was a desire to create a "global sisterhood". Fran Hosken believed that FGC/M was irrevocable proof of a global patriarchy intent on oppressing female sexuality and suggested that this was rock solid evidence for the need for a "global sisterhood". To this end the highly influential Hosken report was authored. At the time anthropologists pointed out that gender roles are known to vary substantially across cultures and that a "global sisterhood" based on a common female experience was likely to be flawed.

This paradigm has stuck, despite the past 3 decades of critical scholarship in anthropology and medicine largely refuting the Hosken reports findings. FGC has been found to be a far more widespread practice than initially thought, with many cultural groupings in Africa, the Middle East, and SE Asia practising some form of FGC.

The Western view of FGC as a mutilating practice which removes any capacity for sexual pleasure and causes drastic health outcomes is unfounded.

The Hastings Report finds that:

"Research by gynecologists and others has demonstrated that a high percentage of women who have had genital surgery have rich sexual lives, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction, and their frequency of sexual activity is not reduced"

This may be a surprising claim. This claim was based on research by Lucrezia Catania and Jasmine Abdulcadir (both authors of the Hastings report). In their original paper they conclude: (emphasis mine)

“embryology, anatomy, and physiology of female erectile organs are neglected in specialist textbooks. In infibulated women, some erectile structures fundamental for orgasm have not been excised. Cultural influence can change the perception of pleasure, as well as social acceptance. Every woman has the right to have sexual health and to feel sexual pleasure for full psychophysical well-being of the person. In accordance with other research, the present study reports that FGM/C women can also have the possibility of reaching an orgasm. Therefore, FGM/C women with sexual dysfunctions can and must be cured; they have the right to have an appropriate sexual therapy.”

The aim of these gynaecologists is to treat women with FGC and sexual dysfunction. These women will have had their sexual dysfunctions dimissed on the basis of their FGC - I have the greatest respect of Catania and Abdulcadir who advocate for the rights of their patients to receive proper treatment. All too often women with FGC are not seen as humans, but instead as their genitals - a point remarked upon by Fuambai Sia Ahmadu elsewhere.

This is indeed a surprising result, given that the external clitoris is heavily innervated, and many women enjoy and reach orgasm from stimulation of the external clitoris. Human sexuality is a highly complicated field, and direct "one-to-one" mappings of nerve endings to sexual satisfaction do not have much value. The anthropologist Sara Johnsdotter addresses this in [3], in reply to discussion of how circumcision (which removes the highly innervated foreskin) affects sexual functioning and satisfaction. Sara Johnsdotter sums up the situation [3]:

"Most women who have been circumcised seem to have gratifying sexual lives. Some women testify that circumcision had negative effects on their sexual well-being, and some opt for reconstructive genital surgery. Most men who have been circumcised seem to have gratifying sexual lives. Some men testify that circumcision had negative effects on their sexual well-being, and some opt for reconstructive genital surgery."

Despite the complexities of how genital cutting affects sexual satisfaction, it is a logical necessity that sexual sensation is changed/reduced - both the removal of the highly innervated clitoral glans (female) and the foreskin (male) clearly oblate any sensation which is experienced in the removed tissues. Given that non-consenting children cannot choose whether they would have this tissue removed, a body of bioethicists, clinicians, anthropologists, and legal experts suggest that both MC and FGC should be seen as impermissible [7].

Johnsdotter gives some explanation as to why the attenuation of sexual sensation apparently has (in many/most cases) a relatively marginal effect on sexual satisfaction:

"[...] Social and cultural dimensions are integral to lived sexuality. Findings from the emergent research field of the ‘anthropology of sensations’ demonstrate how sensations are culturally learned – to grow up in a certain society entails learning to ‘read’ one’s body in specific ways: ‘Sensory meaning is never a question of physiology; it is always mediated by culture, in the sense of the ways of life, language, ritual practices, beliefs and aesthetics of a group, community, or society’ (Hinton et al. 2008). Sensation schemas will impact how we perceive bodily signals, whether we notice them at all, and what kind of meanings we ascribe to them. This is also true for sexual activities: we need to ‘decode’ bodily sensations and relate them to culturally and socially created erotic meanings in order to experience sexual pleasure (Cameron and Kulick 2003; Tiefer 2004). [...] the current academic focus on the role of genitalia in understanding sexual pleasure is a dead end. While genitalia usually are central to sexual activity, and can be seen as a prerequisite for sexual intercourse, it is a misapprehension to see the state of them (cut or uncut) as determinative of the individual’s experience of the sexual encounter. "

It is broadly not the case, as it commonly is assumed, that women with FGC are physiologically incapable of orgasm due to the removed of sensitive tissues, and indeed in most cultures which practice FGC this is not the intention either (see above comments from [1]). These assumptions prove harmful to women with FGC who live in the West (see [1] and [2]). Nevertheless, in both cases sensitive tissues are removed, and to many (including the author) this is ethically problematic [7]. Nevertheless - before we reach the conclusion that FGC is impermissible, we must base our arguments on what the evidence actually says, not what we might wish it to say. The best quality evidence does not support the "hyperbolic and onesided" claims of the sexual/health effects of FGC. This does not necessarily obviate the impermissiblity of FGC, if it is recognised that children have a right to bodily integrity/autonomy, and it simply is a wrong to cut any part of a child's body (let alone their genitalia) without medical necessity.

And on the topic of health outcomes:

"The widely publicized and sensationalized reproductive health and medical complications associated with female genital surgeries in Africa are infrequent events and represent the exception rather than the rule."

Claims about the motivations of FGC being the patriarchal oppression of women are unfounded:

“The empirical association between patriarchy and genital surgeries is not well established. The vast majority of the world’s societies can be described as patriarchal, and most either do not modify the genitals of either sex or modify the genitals of males only. There are almost no patriarchal societies with customary genital surgeries for females only. Across human societies there is a broad range of cultural attitudes concerning female sexuality—from societies that press for temperance, restraint, and the control of sexuality to those that are more permissive and encouraging of sexual adventures and experimentation—but these differences do not correlate strongly with the presence or absence of female genital surgeries.”

Bear in mind that:

"In almost all societies where there are customary female genital surgeries, there are also customary male genital surgeries, at similar ages and for parallel reasons. In other words, there are few societies in the world, if any, in which female but not male genital surgeries are customary. As a broad generalization, it seems fair to say that societies for whom genital surgeries are normal and routine are not singling out females as targets of punishment,sexual deprivation, or humiliation. The frequency with which overheated, rhetorically loaded, and inappropriate analogies are invoked in the antimutilation literature (“female castration,” “sexual blinding of women,” and so on) is both a measure of the need for more balanced critical thinking and open debate about this topic and one of the reasons we are publishing this public policy advisory statement."

Whilst clearly in Sudan/Somalia/Djibouti the intention is to oppress women's sexuality, this is not a good explanation for all FGC, but is instead a facet of those particular cultures:

"In some societies where genital surgeries are customary for females and males ... chastity and virginity are highly valued, and ... infibulation may be expressive of these values, but those chastity and virginity concerns are neither distinctive nor characteristic of all societies for whom genital surgeries are customary. Indeed, female genital surgeries are not customary in the vast majority of the world’s most sexually restrictive societies."

Of particular note is that "female genital surgery should not be blamed on men or on patriarchy":

"Demographic and health survey data reveal that when compared with men, an equal or higher proportion of women favor the continuation of female genital surgeries. "

FGC is performed for many reasons. In the Kono tribe in Sierra Leone FGC is part of the female initiation ceremony, Bondo. In Sierra Leone [8]:

"there is no cultural obsession with feminine chastity, virginity, or women’s sexual fidelity, perhaps because the role of the biological father is considered marginal and peripheral to the central ‘matricentric unit.’ … Kono culture promulgates a dual-sex ideology … [The] power of Bundu, the women’s secret sodality [i.e., initiation society that manages FGC ceremonies], suggest positive links between excision, women’s religious ideology, their power in domestic relations, and their high profile in the ‘public arena."

FGC is performed generally in a parallel initiation rite to a male cutting ritual. A common reason given is that the fleshy foreskin is a female element in a male and must be cut away to attain full manhood, and the external part of the clitoris is a phallic and male element and must be cut away to attain full womanhood. From the Hastings Report:

"From the perspective of those who value these surgeries, they are associated with a positive aesthetic ideal aimed at making the genitals more attractive—“smooth and clean.” The surgeries also serve to enhance gender identity from the point of view of many insiders. "

Despite substantial criticism of the UN/WHO position on FGC there has been little engagement with dissenting expert opinions. Many of these experts believe that the current discourse around FGC is harmful to women with FGC and is likely to be unproductive in reducing the prevalence of FGC. The UN/WHO position on FGC is largely determined by activists and mainstream rhetoric, and not by experts in the field (see [1], [2]). This should be contrasted with the usual expert-led approach of the WHO in other areas. There exist clear parallels and similarities with MC (at least MC performed under similar conditions to the FGC), despite the mainstream opinion in the West being that these are two separate discussions. In the words of Zachary Androus:

“The fact of the matter is that what’s done to some girls [in some cultures] is worse than what’s done to some boys, and what’s done to some boys [in some cultures] is worse than what’s done to some girls. By collapsing all of the many different types of procedures performed into a single set for each sex, categories are created that do not accurately describe any situation that actually occurs anywhere in the world.”

The paradigm that MC and FGC are two incomparable practices is also due to the fact that MC has been common in many Western nations, being introduced as a mainstream practice in the 1900s in the anglosphere - UK, USA, NZ, AUS. In the US (the main driver of the WHO FGM policy) MC is still routine. Hence this familiar practice is seen as relatively benign, "something which has always been done", whereas the foreign practice of FGC (in any form, even comparably minor forms) is seen as "backward", "barbaric" and "savage". This was remarked upon by the renowned anti-FGM activist Hanny Lightfoot-Klein:

“… the mainstream anti-FGC position is premised upon an orientalizing construction of FGC societies as primitive, patriarchal, and barbaric, and of female circumcision as a harmful, unnecessary cultural practice based on patriarchal gender norms and ritualistic beliefs. … Lambasting African societies and practices (while failing to critique similar practices in the United States) … essentially implies that North American understandings of the body are “scientific” (i.e., rational, civilized, and based on universally acknowledged expertise), while African understandings are “cultural” (i.e., superstitious, un-civilized, and based on false, socially constructed beliefs). [Yet] neither of these depictions is accurate. North American medicine is not free of cultural influence, and FGC practices are not bound by culture—at least not in the uniform way imagined by opponents.”

The WHO/UN adopts a "zero-tolerance" stance towards FGC in any form (the author believes this to be the correct path to take, but would suggest the key moral argument - bodily integrity/autonomy - should be applied to all children, see [7]). This includes even the "ritual nick" or similar minor forms as practised widely across SE Asia, in the Muslim populations within Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. In total it is estimated that around 60-70 million women have had one of these "minor" forms of FGC performed on them. This point has particular relevance to the US, which I will address next.

In 2017 Dr Jumala Nagarwala was put on trial in Detroit, Michigan under the FGM law. Dr Nagarwala is part of an Islamic sect, the Dawoodi Bohra. In the Dawoodi Bohra both boys and girls are "circumcised" to mark their presence in the Abrahamic covenenant. The cutting for girls consists of a ritual nick with no removal of flesh, whereas for boys it entails removal of the foreskin. The defence emphasized the "low risk" nature of the practice and drew parallels to MC. In this case MC would be on any account a considerably more invasive procedure. The judge ruled that the Federal FGM law was dismissed as being unconstitutional, as there are restrictions on what laws can be at the Federal vs the State level, this has in effect just displaced the problem to the State courts. If a repeat of this trial were to come, the defence would make (a very good) case that if MC is allowed for religious reasons, then so too should this "minor" form of FGC. The likely outcome of this in the US is that this kind of "minor" FGC would be allowed, under the idea of "non-discrimination" - the law cannot be one thing for males, and another for females, there has to be some sort of logical consistency. Above answers have failed to take into account that this is the only instance where US law has been brought to bear on FGM. I am not sure why this has be omitted from consideration, and perhaps other answerers would like to take this into account in their answers.

To address some points made in other answers on health effects: In response to the promotion of male circumcision in America, a number of health professionals across Northern Europe published a response, stating they believe the American view is seriously biased [9]:

"Seen from the outside, cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious,[…] the report’s conclusions are different from those reached[ …] in other parts of the Western world, including Europe, Canada, and Australia. […], only 1 of the arguments put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics has some theoretical […]; namely, the possible protection against urinary tract infections in infant boys, which can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss. The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves[...] The most important criteria for the justification of medical procedures are necessity, cost-effectiveness, subsidiarity, proportionality, and consent. For preventive medical procedures, this means that the procedure must effectively lead to the prevention of a serious medical problem, that there is no less intrusive means of reaching the same goal, and that the risks of the procedure are proportional to the intended benefit. In addition, when performed in childhood, it needs to be clearly demonstrated that it is essential to perform the procedure before an age at which the individual can make a decision about the procedure for him or herself.”

Some comments to clear up any possible misconceptions about my stance on the acceptability of non-therapeutic genital alterations of children - I am against any cutting of a child's genitals, barring medical necessity. For further detail on this view see [7]. Briefly - the ethical arguments proposed for why FGC is wrong, also apply to male circumcision and intersex normalisation surgeries. If we are to declare bodily autonomy and integrity as human rights, they apply to all humans - male, female and intersex. And if we wish to judge other cultures, we should check that our culture is consistent with the measure we use.

However - the current discourse around FGC is stigmatising and harmful to women with FGC in the West who grow up with the expectation that their sex lives will be painful and unsatisfactory, potentially encouraging a "catastrophising" response [2]. Moreover it is not clear whether the overly sensationalised rhetoric used is effective in combating FGC - the cultures which practice FGC are fully aware of the effects of it on sexuality/health outcomes and "scare stories" are unlikely to be effective, as they can be readily dismissed. The best approaches to tackling FGC are local solutions - activists/dissenters within the practising communities being supported and encouraging non-cutting initiation rites. It is also important to note that the actual needs of these women may well be different to what we assume. For many of these women access to clean drinking water, education for themselves and their children, economic freedom and a peaceful (non civil-warring) country are priorities above FGC. Sara Johnsdotter has explored the various social tensions underpinning FGC and finds that it is usually abandoned on migration to the West, on which social dynamics change dramatically. It seems likely that increasing access to education & economic freedom will lead to abandonment of FGC almost as a "side-effect".

The main citation for the (likely controversial claims on FGC) can be found here: (this is citation 1 - “Seven Things to Know about Female Genital Surgeries in Africa.” Hastings Center Report)


Finally I should thank a number of contributors who have made helpful comments on how to improve this answer - Russel McMahon, Ted Wrigley and Andrew Grimm. I think the general feeling was that my answer was too long and made use of "intimidation by citation" instead of quoting relevant parts of my sources.


[1] “Seven Things to Know about Female Genital Surgeries in Africa.” Hastings Center Report. Can be found at: https://www.sfog.se/media/295486/omskarelse_rapport.pdf

[2] Earp, Brian D. “Protecting Children from Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting Without Stigmatizing Women’s Bodies: Implications for Sexual Pleasure and Pain.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2020, doi:10.1007/s10508-020-01633-x.

[3] Johnsdotter, Sara. “Discourses on Sexual Pleasure after Genital Modifications: the Fallacy of Genital Determinism (a Response to J. Steven Svoboda).” Circumcision, Public Health, Genital Autonomy and Cultural Rights, May 2017, pp. 46–55., doi:10.4324/9781315095684-6.

[4] Rashid, Abdul, and Yufu Iguchi. “Female Genital Cutting in Malaysia: a Mixed-Methods Study.” BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 4, 2019, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025078.

[5] Obermeyer CM, Reynolds RF. Female genital surgeries, reproductive health and sexuality: a review of the evidence. Reproductive Health Matters1999;7:112–20.

[6]Catania L, Abdulcadir O, Puppo V, Verde JB, Abdulcadir J, Abdulcadir D. Pleasure and orgasm in women with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2007;4(6):1666–1678.

[7] “Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting and the Rights of the Child: Moving Toward Consensus.” The American Journal of Bioethics, vol. 19, no. 10, 2019, pp. 17–28., doi:10.1080/15265161.2019.1643945.

[8] Lightfoot-Klein, Hanny. “Similarities in Attitudes and Misconceptions about Male and Female Sexual Mutilations.” Sexual Mutilations, 1997, pp. 131–135., doi:10.1007/978-1-4757-2679-4_12.

[9] http://artemide.bioeng.washington.edu/InformationIsPower/Pediatrics-2013-Frisch-peds.2012-2896.pdf

[10] The Law and Ethics of Female Genital Cutting Arianne Shahvisi, Brian D Earp.

[11] Current critiques of the WHO policy on female genital mutilation

  • 2
    I've read your short version. I'll get back to read your longer version and selected references when I can manage. I appreciate the effort you have put into your response - but do not "like" the general drift of your argument. If you look at the cited major references in my answer Compared to the argued medical benefits vs disadvantages from Mayo, Hopkins, ...which can be summarised as - seen to be net beneficial health wise overall - leave to invividual parets' discretion, your references seem to major on cultural & religious aspects with a minimisation of coverage of health aspects. Apr 8, 2020 at 1:06
  • 3
    @SwedishArchitect: Constructive criticism... I think you could improve this answer if you did a couple of things. First, you could remove the first three bullet points, and similar 'backpedaling' commentary. Your points are reasonable and intelligent; starting out on that kind of defensive footing makes your answer weaker, not stronger. Just go straight at what you want to say, and don't worry if people take it the wrong way. You can clarify that at the end, or in comments. Apr 8, 2020 at 1:06
  • 4
    I can see that I am going to have to at least skim through some of your references. It would be of great assistance to serious readers if people could include live links and not just citations. Also, open access material makes such references useful - paywalled ones tend to act as a means of persuasion by citation volume without any easy way for Joe-average to see what is actually said. Apr 8, 2020 at 1:08
  • Your analogy with female genital cosmetic surgeries and intersex normalization surgeries falls apart when you consider that both of those are considered serious human-rights violations on par with FGM, unless performed in adulthood or late adolescence with the full informed consent of the surguree.
    – Vikki
    Feb 23, 2022 at 17:32

Let's step back from the legal, religious, cultural and medical details for a second and let's consider both as cosmetic surgeries. Which are controversial when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their children.

Are circumcised males likely to express distress and regret that they have been circumcised, as either children or adults?

If a sizable minority expressed that they, had they been given the choice, would have preferred not to be circumcised and felt strongly distressed about it, then society at large should consider curtailing the practice.

As far as I know, that is not the case. I've never heard any of my peers as I was living in the US (some of which had to have been circumcised). That's anecdotal so here's a study. Or another one.

This is not to provide cover for cases where circumcision resulted in accidental mutilation because the person carrying it out wasn't qualified to carry it out. I strongly support prosecuting the parents and the circumciser in that case. I am also not religious, so while I respect people's religions, whether mainstream or not, I don't automatically accept that something's ethical just because a religion says it is.

I realize that, if you dig around, you can find some concerns about circumsion:

The study of the psychology of circumcision can be divided into several interrelated areas:

The effects of pain and perinatal trauma on the child;
Grieving the loss of a body part;
Effects of early trauma and loss in the adult;
The effects on the parent (parental-infant bonding);
The effects on society;
Factors influencing parents and doctors to request or perform circumcisions.

While those can certainly be seen as downsides, if they affect enough people strongly, how does it compare to taking out the specific sites of the sexual pleasure nerves, which is, as I understand it, the precise aim of female clitoridectomy?

At the end of the day, how do people who have undergone those surgeries feel it affected them?

Unless it can be shown that a) a significant proportion of men, speaking freely, object strongly to having been circumcised and b) a very large proportion of women, speaking freely, do not feel distressed at their clitoridectomies, then they are NOT ethically equivalent.

Why the emphasis on significant proportions? Because I am sure you can find some men who object and some women who don't mind and societies can't always make accommodations for the preferences of everyone.

I don't see anything wrong with someone opposing circumcision and making a legal case or trying to shift public opinion against it.

But providing cover for clitoridectomies by claiming equivalence to the tolerance of circumcisions is a contemptible act of moral relativism (which I am not accusing the OP of doing - this is an excellent question). Dressing that up in the guise of tolerance for a religion that doesn't actually have any guidance to it in its holy books makes that even more craven. And in fact, disrespectful of that religion, by blaming the regrettable practices of some communities on it.

BTW, totally, totally, agree with Machavity's answer, but it starts out from the viewpoint of examining the procedures, while I want to emphasize the expressed preferences of individuals.

  • On the topic of removing sites of sexual pleasure - the Hastings report above is a good place to start. A lot of anthropologists would disagree with the usual argument about FGC and patriarchal suppression of sexuality. The medical evidence is (surprisingly) less clear cut on the question of sexual dysfunction than usually assumed. Many women with FGC do report gratifying sex lives. But some fond that their FGC has significant adverse effects of their sexuality. But they tend to be in a minority in their culture and dismissed. The whole topic is poorly represented in the mainstream. Aug 8, 2020 at 5:53
  • Downvoted. "FGM" as used in US law covers a very broad range of surgeries. Look at trial of Dr Jumana Nagarwala of Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect - ritual nick, no flesh removed. Classified as FGM. Focusing only on more extreme forms of FGM ignores both 1) First & only court case of FGM in US (one would think this might have some relevance...) 2) Widespread practices in e.g. SE Asia condemned as FGM, but less invasive than MC. You also fail to engage with reasons given for FGM by practicing communities. Many have no intention to remove sexual pleasure. See Hasting's report in my answer. Apr 17, 2021 at 12:04
  • FYI, most victims of foot binding were in favor of the practice. In that society, it made their lives better: those who hadn't been subjected to the practice had a hard time finding a husband. Nevertheless, I call them victims, and I'd hope you agree with me.
    – benrg
    May 18, 2023 at 20:24

To cite PoloHoleSet (lightly edited):

This answer isn't claiming that male circumcision is net beneficial overall, and isn't comparing benefits vs drawbacks. The answer is pointing out, that there are no supposed medical benefits to FGM that could even be claimed, while there are some that can be claimed for male circumcision.

Male circumcision has medical benefits which have been and are debated ongoingly.
There are modern well qualified experts who recommend it on solely medical grounds. While there are undoubtedly pros and cons and the practice is not without some risks. The general consensus of the medical establishment is that it is of net benefit but not so greatly so that it should be a universal practice. It is considered to be best left to the discretion of parents as to whether the overall net benefits merit its implementation on a person by person basis.

I am not aware of any competent medical expert who recommends FGM on solely medical grounds (excluding reasons related to perceived medical necessity (eg tumour, severe trauma, ... ) which would not constitute "FGM" by any usual understanding of the term).
Any who do so should be stoned* at the soonest opportunity.
{{*There's a pun in there. Try not to destroy it with clumsy editing.}}


Documented health benefits of female circumcision:



Documented health benefits of male circumcision:

I'd hoped that the first few of these sources would be recognised as constituting bodies liable to be very competent at commenting on such matters. Appearently this is not obvious to some.

Few medical authorities would recommend male circumcision in all cases. There is however a substantial body of informed opinion re its potential benefits, which should be considered on a case by case basis:

Mayo Clinic say:

" ... The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. However, the AAP doesn't recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns. The AAP leaves the circumcision decision up to parents — and supports use of anesthetics for infants who have the procedure. ... ", and ...

"Circumcision might have various health benefits, including:

  • Easier hygiene. Circumcision makes it simpler to wash the penis. However, boys with uncircumcised penises can be taught to wash regularly beneath the foreskin.

  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections. The risk of urinary tract infections in males is low, but these infections are more common in uncircumcised males. Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems later.

  • Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections. Circumcised men might have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Still, safe sexual practices remain essential.

  • Prevention of penile problems. Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can lead to inflammation of the foreskin or head of the penis.

  • Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it's less common in circumcised men.

  • Cervical cancer is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men."

US NCBI "The Medical Benefits of Male Circumcision"

  • " ... of male circumcision, particularly in light of recent medical evidence.

Three randomized trials in Africa demonstrated that adult male circumcision decreases human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition in men by 51% to 60%,1 and the long-term follow-up of these study participants has shown that the protective efficacy of male circumcision increases with time from surgery. ..."

  • " ... In addition to HIV, male circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of other heterosexually acquired sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Two trials demonstrated that male circumcision reduces

  • the risk of acquiring genital herpes by 28% to 34%, and

  • the risk of developing genital ulceration by 47%.1

  • Additionally, the trials found that male circumcision reduces the risk of oncogenic high-risk human papillomavirus (HR-HPV) by 32% to 35%.1

  • one trial also reported derivative benefits for female partners of circumcised men;

  • the risk of HR-HPV for female partners was reduced by 28%,

  • the risk of bacterial vaginosis was reduced by 40%, and

  • the risk of trichomoniasis was reduced by 48%.1,2

Johns Hopkins
Greater Benefits of Infant Circumcision:
Benefits extend into adulthood, says Johns Hopkins adolescent medicine specialist

  • A recent Johns Hopkins study (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, online, Aug. 20) goes further. Declining rates of U.S. infant male circumcision will lead to dramatically higher rates of sexually transmitted disease and related cancers in men and their female partners, researchers warn, and add up to more than $4.4 billion in avoidable costs if circumcision rates in the U.S., now averaging 55 percent (down from 76 percent in the 1970s and 1980s), drop to levels now seen in Europe (around 10 percent on average) over the next decade.

  • " ... . I’ve seen many uncircumcised male patients during routine physical examinations who have asymptomatic discharge from the urethra due to either gonorrhea or Chlamydia that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed. This is a threat to the health of the male as well as his partners since STDs can cause ascending infections into the reproductive tract. We’re still accumulating evidence about the role of bacteria that accumulates under the foreskin that may be shared between sexual partners. Bacterial vaginosis may be an example of this. Another concern includes addressing issues about foreskin hygiene and among males in the first year of life higher risk of urinary tract infections. ..."

American Academy of Paediatrics

  • " ... After a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The AAP policy statement published Monday, August 27, says the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs...."

  • Technical Report


Live Science

National Centre for Health Research

Better health - Victoria State Government

UCLA Health

More "related" fwiw:

CIRCUMCISION OF INFANT MALES - The Royal Australasian College of Physicians September 2010

Prevalence of Adult Male Circumcision in the General Population and a Population at Increased Risk for HIV/AIDS in New York City - Journal of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association 2008.

Estimation of country-specific and global prevalence of male circumcision 2016

WHO 41 pages 2007
Male circumcision Global trends and determinants of prevalence, safety and acceptability

  • 14
    You’ve missed all the documented negative effects of make circumcision, which makes this a very biased answer.
    – Tim
    Apr 7, 2020 at 12:43
  • 8
    This answer consists merely of a list of health benefits (which are indeed debated, and with good reason - many of the health benefits are more readily obtained with non-surgical means - condoms and safe-sex are far better at preventing STDs/HIV than circumcision). This does not explain why neonatal circumcision is permissible - given many of the health benefits apply exclusively to sexually active adults, and are therefore not applicable to neonatal circumcision. Also - if we imagine this as a table of "advantages" and "disadvantages" - the foreskin, the tissue removed, is not counted. Apr 7, 2020 at 12:45
  • 3
    @Tim - except this answer isn't claiming that male circumcision is beneficial, and isn't comparing benefits vs drawbacks. The answer is pointing out, and documenting, that there are no supposed medical benefits to FGM that could even be claimed, while there are some that can be claimed for the circumcision. That is a difference. It's not a biased answer, at all, unless you make the false assumption that this answer is trying to claim it is a beneficial practice, overall. Apr 7, 2020 at 20:13
  • 3
    @PoloHoleSet it would be helpful if the answer explained that then. Right now, that’s entirely unclear.
    – Tim
    Apr 7, 2020 at 21:02
  • 6
    @PoloHoleSet again, I understand your point. I think the answer is very unclear in expressing what you’ve said in your comments. There’s a very strong implication made by listing (only) the benefits of something, that said thing is beneficial. An edit could clear things up.
    – Tim
    Apr 7, 2020 at 21:13

Short trivial definition-based answer.


severe damage to somebody's body, especially when part of it is cut or torn off; the act of causing such damage
Thousands suffered death or mutilation in the bomb blast.
see also FGM, self-mutilation

severe damage to something; the act of causing severe damage to something
a deliberate mutilation of the truth

-- Oxford Learner's Dictionary

The operative word being severe. Opponents of FGM argue that the functional removal of a sensory organ, (an eye, the tongue, etc.), or what amounts to a sensory organ is clearly severe damage. Removal of skin that's less functional, is not, in the same sense, severe, and is therefore not legally regarded as mutilation.

  • 7
    This answer is empirically wrong. FGM is defined by UN/WHO as any non-medically necessary cutting of a girls genitalia. This encompasses even pricking which removes no flesh, to the most severe and gruesome of genital cutting. For example the 2016 trial of Jumala Nagarwala for FGM (1st trial in US) was a less invasive form of cutting than male circumcision, as the defense emphasized. Apr 10, 2020 at 8:13
  • 1
    @SwedishArchitect, Since this Q. is about laws in the U.S., the definitions of the U.N. would not necessarily apply. (It's not like the U.S. and the U.N. have never disagreed before...)
    – agc
    Apr 10, 2020 at 8:31
  • 1
    I should have been more specific - the UN/WHO definition has been incorporated into the laws of most developed nations on FGM. In the US it is the case that "minor" invasive forms of FGC(M) (AKA less invasive than male circumcision) are deemed illegal (such as the 1st trial for FGM in the USA, Dr Jumana Nagarwala). What is frequently not appreciated by popular opinion is that FGC(M) encompasses a wide spectrum of procedures, some more/less severe. All are (in my view correctly, others disagree), condemned as human rights abuses. See zero-tolerance approach of UN/WHO, vs harm-minimisation Apr 10, 2020 at 8:36
  • 1
    @SwedishArchitect, Interesting, but however desirable, (or not), a complete and intrinsic logical consistency is not a property of U.S. law so far. To the contrary, laws and interpretations that flatly contradict each other can remain in place for decades or centuries, unnoticed, neglected, or cherished. IOW, U.S. law can sometimes resemble a hydra-headed monster that fights itself like rivalrous siblings...
    – agc
    Apr 10, 2020 at 8:49

The naïve hypothesis has been explained in other answers already, that male circumcision and female circumcision are not analogous, that male circumcision is harmless while female circumcision is harmful. Here I will explore an alternative hypothesis, that both practices are similar, but there are no major religious groups practicing female circumcision in the US, unlike with male circumcision. I will contend that the reason the naïve explanation for the circumcision asymmetry emerges so often in the US, is because of cultural biases. I will not condone nor condemn either circumcision, I will not argue whether they are the same, I will merely explain why fundamental anatomical differences between the practices or genitalia is not the reason that US legislature differentiates between female and male circumcision, but rather the religions practiced by the US society.

A little bit of background on circumcision first. Male circumcision either has its origins or has been documented as early as on the sacred texts of Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the relevant passages of the Torah, God speaks to Abraham:

"This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised."

The central texts of Islam, the Quran, don't mention circumcision at all. Which left circumcision practices to be interpreted from spoken tradition and secondary texts. Lacking a canonical gender-specific origin many branches of Islam practice circumcision on both genders and may even use the same word for it Khitan (خِتان‎), while others have a special word for female circumcision Khafd (خفض‎) and might thus be associated with greater gender dimorphism.

On to the question, why is FGM illegal and circumcision not? The answer would be in the question, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) would be a pejorative western name for the Islamic practice of Khafd, the alternative Female Genital Cutting(FGC) is used by neutral sources. The United States has an almost negligible Islamic population, so first there is no institutional or democratic support for the practice, second cases of female circumcision were less likely to be traditional cultural rites and more likely to be improvised acts with no cultural iterative improvements. Early references from 1993 legal journals describe cases of Female Genital Mutilation with no mention of Islam, and mentions stitching, which is the most extreme version, widely practised in african countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia Somalia, Sudan, sometimes referred to as infibulation or type 3 FGM.

Legislature prohibiting female circumcision was first introduced in 1996, in the same breath it first denied funding to countries that practice it, and only then prohibited the practice locally, the inference of foreign relationships in the origin of this law is palpable. The timing is also condemning, one month before Bin Laden had emmitted a fatwa, a death warrant, on Americans participating in a conflict relating to Abrahamic holy sites, this would ultimately culminate on the 9/11 attacks. at which point interest in FGM would decline for a more direct, less veiled form of negative islam public perception. I am not sure whether there was a direct connection between the events, but it reflects the tensions between the cultures at the time.

The counterpart, why is male circumcision legal? The rites are fairly well defined and time tested and have evolved towards being fairly harmless. The attempts to outlaw the practice were fairly defended in trial thanks to the large Jewish community, albeit suffering some concessions regarding oral-genital contact between the mohel and the baby.

It is still possible that female circumcision is practised (much) more harmfully, but the religious difference is the source of assymetry between circumcision in males and females, not anatomical reasons. Especially when speaking about it in the context of the USA.

  • 4
    Sorry but I have to downvote because you're confusing circumcision with removal of a sexual organ (excision). As pointed by the (now accepted) answer, they're totally different in nature, one is controversial while the other is an atrocity.
    – Bregalad
    Apr 7, 2020 at 12:50
  • 2
    The prepuce is an organ too. The acts may be different but, but they are also similar, the religious removal of part of the genitals, the practices share the same roots, so I sometimes use the same word. To be fair I use various words to denote various phenomenon: circumcision, FGM, FGC, Khitan, Khafd, infibulation. The fact that circumcision typically refers to penises is a limitation of our language and its jewish influence. Language is politics.
    – TZubiri
    Apr 7, 2020 at 18:57
  • 3
    .... and skin is an organ. If I have a skin tag or a mole removed, it's not the equivalent to having a clitoridectomies. Finding a distant similarity and claiming things are the same is false equivalence, and does nothing to lend credibility to your arguments. Apr 7, 2020 at 20:09
  • 1
    This is rather silly. In many Western countries male circumcision is quite widely practiced. If it was the equivalent of clitoral removal, there would be big outcries, first of all by the men denied full sexual pleasure. There aren't, because it's not the same thing. This is not to defend the practice, or find utility in it, but it is an entirely less destructive procedure. The worst outcomes are the very occasional botched circumcisions, which can result in major sexual mutilation. Claiming that's it's hypocritical to attack FGM because circumcision is tolerated is specious. Apr 8, 2020 at 3:31
  • 4
    The comments here are riddled with misconceptions about FGC(M) - In no form of FGC(M) is the clitoris removed in it's entirety, as the clitoris is a largely internal organ and this is anatomically impossible. Clitoridectomy is one type of FGC(M), out of a wide variety of practices, practiced for many different reasons. The majority lf women who have undergone FGC(M) do enjoy sexual pleasure and orgasm. My answer addresses these points at length and evidences all these claims. No anthropologist or bioethicist would agree with the claims here. Apr 8, 2020 at 11:07

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