Male and Female Genital Mutilation: A Collision Course with the Law?

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Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine


genital mutilation, circumcision, female genital alteration, FGA


In Part II, I give a brief description of the medical facts and geographical sweep of female genital alteration, a topic that has been covered in great detail by many other articles in the legal literature and elsewhere. Part II also discusses the legal and educational initiatives against female genital alteration in developing countries, in the West, and specifically in the United States. Part II concludes with a description of the experience of Seattle physicians who attempted to provide a compromise acceptable to their Somali immigrant consumers by offering a small “genital nick” in place of traditional genital alteration. Part III looks at the medical facts and statistical instances of male genital alteration, with an analysis of medical arguments for and against the practice. Part IV explores the meanings of male and female genital alteration, including religious, cultural, social and economic motivations. Part V discusses the “free exercise” issues, concluding that it is not constitutionally acceptable to criminalize all female genital alteration while retaining a laissez-faire legal attitude to male genital alteration. Finally, Part VI offers recommendations for changes in the law that would offer increasing protection to all children and treat different religious traditions with equal respect.


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