A Rose by any other Name: Rethinking the Similarities and Differences between Male and Female Genital Cutting

I am pleased to announce that an article written by Robert Darby, Ph.D. and myself has been published in September, 2007, by Medical Anthropology Quarterly, one of the world's premier medical anthropology journals. The citation for the article is:

"A Rose by any other Name: Rethinking the Similarities and Differences between Male and Female Genital Cutting," with Robert Darby, Ph.D., Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Volume 21, Number 3 (September 2007), pp. 301-323.

Following are the abstract and keywords as published:

This paper offers a critical examination of the tendency to segregate discussion of surgical alterations to the male and female genitals into separate compartments — the first known as circumcision, the second as genital mutilation. It is argued that this fundamental problem of definition underlies the considerable controversy surrounding these procedures when carried out on minors, and that it hinders objective discussion of the alleged benefits, harms and risks. The variable effects of male and female genital surgeries are explored, and a scale of damage for male circumcision to complement the World Health Organization's categorisation of female genital mutilation is proposed. The origins of the double standard identified are placed in historical perspective, and a brief conclusion makes a plea for greater gender neutrality in the approach to this contentious issue.

Keywords: circumcision, female genital mutilation, genital surgeries, medical ethics, human rights, gender equality, cultural relativism.

The MAQ was our first choice journal. While the MAQ has published several articles relating to genital cutting in the past, this is the first published article by a team of intactivist authors, and so far as we are aware, the first article ever to propose a comprehensive taxonomy of all forms of male genital cutting, which we hope will gain acceptance parallel to that accorded the World Health Organization's taxonomy of forms of female genital cutting.

My thanks go most of all to Rob Darby, an awesome researcher and writer and the lead author of this article.

Steven Svoboda
Executive Director
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child

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