Circumcision is one of the oldest and most common surgical processes, being practised, for a range of medical, social and religious reasons, on up to 30% of males worldwide. It is currently being promoted by a range of health bodies as a means of tackling HIV in developing countries. Yet, there is significant concern about sexual, physiological and psychological effects and complications and its prophylactic effectiveness. In examining a case in which a failed circumcision was performed for religious reasons, the Regional Court in Cologne decided that the practice contravened the bodily autonomy of minors and was subject to the same legislation used to classify female genital cutting as assault. This, understandably, aroused serious concerns among various religious communities who practise circumcision. At the same time as religious groups seek to protect circumcision from comparisons with female genital cutting, there is a trend, particularly in post-colonial thought in the US, to revise negative understandings of female genital cutting by making cautious, positive comparisons with circumcision.
This collection considers the apparent contradictions and complications of the contemporary status and deployment of the many forms of genital cutting, raising a serious, wide-reaching question: what scope should society have to impose physically invasive rites on people?
This book was originally published as a special issue of Global Discourse.