Medically unnecessary genital cutting and the child’s right to bodily integrity: an international expert consensus statement

In American Journal of Bioethics (2019).

Duivenbode and Padela (2019) explored the “cultural boundaries” of Western medicine in light of a high-profile U.S. federal court case—the first to test the 1996 American law prohibiting “female genital mutilation.” Legally, this term refers to the intentional cutting or sewing of “the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years.” The sole exception to the law is medical necessity.  In support of this sole exception, and keeping our focus on the Western medicolegal context for the purposes of this statement, we argue as follows: Under most conditions, cutting a person’s genitals without their informed consent is a violation of their moral and legal right to bodily integrity. As such, it is ethically impermissible unless the person is non-autonomous (incapable of consent) and the cutting is medically necessary.

Full author list: Susan Bewley, King’s College London; Janice Boddy, University of Toronto; Clare Chambers, University of Cambridge; James Chegwidden, Old Square Chambers; Hossein Dabbagh, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies; Dena Davis, Lehigh University; Angela Dawson, University of Technology Sydney; Brian D. Earp, Yale University and University of Oxford; Nuno Ferreira, University of Sussex; Ellen Gruenbaum, Purdue University; Saffron Karlsen, University of Bristol; Antony Lempert, (UK) National Secular Society; Ranit Mishori, Georgetown University School of Medicine; Kai Möller, London School of Economics and Political Science; Steven R. Munzer, UCLA; Sarah O’Neill, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Charlotte R. Proudman, University of Cambridge; Fabienne Richard, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Elizabeth Reis, City University of New York; Eldar Sarajlic, City University of New York; Lauren Sardi, Quinnipiac University; Arianne Shahvisi, Brighton and Sussex Medical School; David Shaw, Maastricht University and University of Basel; Godfrey B.Tangwa, University of Yaounde and Cameroon Bioethics Initiative (CAMBIN); Michael Thomson, University of Leeds and University of Technology Sydney; Anna Wahlberg, Karolinska Institutet