Reconciling female genital circumcision with universal human rights

Developing World Bioethics 18 (3):222-232 (2018)

Abstract
One of the most challenging issues in cross-cultural bioethics concerns the long-standing socio-cultural practice of female genital circumcision, which is prevalent in many African countries and the Middle East as well as in some Asian and Western countries. It is commonly assumed that FGC, in all its versions, constitutes a gross violation of the universal human rights of health, physical integrity, and individual autonomy and hence should be abolished. This article, however, suggests a mediating approach according to which one form of FGC, the removal of the clitoris foreskin, can be made compatible with the high demands of universal human rights. The argument presupposes the idea that human rights are not absolutist by nature but can be framed in a meaningful, culturally sensitive way. It proposes important limiting conditions that must be met for the practice of FGC to be considered in accordance with the human rights agenda.
Keywords cross‐cultural bioethics  cultural sensitivity  female genital circumcision  human rights  moral relativism
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DOI 10.1111/dewb.12173
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