Judging the other. Responding to traditional female genital surgeries

Hastings Cent Rep. 1996 May-Jun;26(3):31-40.


PIP: Traditional female genital circumcision, or female genital mutilation, performed upon women in some non-Western cultures has provoked considerable international controversy since the late 1970s. Western feminists, physicians, and ethicists condemn such practice. Having made moral judgement against female genital mutilation, however, what is the next step? There is clearly an impasse between cultural relativism on the one hand and universalism on the other. Those at the forefront of the debate on female genital mutilation must learn to work respectfully with, instead of independently of, local resources for cultural self-examination and change. The authors discuss cultural relativism and moral universalism; female circumcision in sections on epidemiology, health effects, and culture, religion, and social change; the debate historically; the response of Arab and African women; and moving beyond the impasse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Circumcision, Female / adverse effects
  • Circumcision, Female / ethnology*
  • Circumcision, Female / statistics & numerical data
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Ethical Relativism*
  • Ethics*
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Judgment*
  • Paternalism
  • Religion
  • Social Change
  • Women's Health
  • Women's Rights