Monday 22 August 2016

My talk on 'Genital Alteration: Towards More Empirical, Ethical and Effective Policies' at Keele University, 14 September

I am looking forward to sharing my research on policies towards female and male genital alteration at the 14th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy at Keele University on 14 September 2016.

As I explain in my abstract, global and Western states’ policies toward genital alteration tend to focus on eliminating female genital mutilation, or FGM, while tolerating or even encouraging male circumcision. On the surface, this seems unproblematic: Within global health and human rights circles, FGM is almost universally regarded as bad and barbaric – as a savage and severely harmful manifestation of the patriarchal drive to control female sexuality – whereas male circumcision is seen as benign or even beneficial. Yet mounting empirical evidence and ethical critique calls into question these contrasting perceptions, and, in turn, the divergent policies they underpin. In this paper, I argue that maintaining policies premised on sex-based distinctions seems unsustainable, as well as incompatible with gender equality. Instead, I suggest that meaningful age-based distinctions between those unable (children) and able (adults) to give informed consent could constitute more empirical, ethical and effective policies. I evaluate the merits and demerits of both permissive and restrictive approaches to female and male genital alteration, and assess the advantages and disadvantages of some specific alternative policies.

My talk stems from a wonderful collaborative partnership with my brilliant bioethicist friend and colleague, Brian Earp. Together, we have spent the summer conducting research at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva on a project entitled "The Science, Politics, and Ethics of Male Circumcision: An Interdisciplinary Take on an Emerging Global Controversy."

For more information about my talk, see here

For more information about the symposium and its programme, see here.

For more information about Brian Earp's and my research together, see here