Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

Patricia Tener

ITT Technical Institute

GE265, Ethics in Society – Test Out

Female Genital Mutilation - 25 November 2011


Genital mutilation, particularly female, is thought to be an atrocity against young children and adult women.   What are the ethical theories that abound in relation to the circumstance of female circumcision? What is the background of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)?   In order for an ethical theory to be useful, the theory must be directed towards a common set of goals. Ethical principles are the common goals that each theory tries to achieve in order to be successful. These goals include beneficence, least harm, non-maleficience, respect for autonomy and justice.   There are several ethical theories that can be applied to FGM/C; however, none are without fault.   The theories do bring significant characteristics to the decision-making process, however, how does one decide which ethical theory is the correct one to utilize in any given situation. The best way to do this is to combine a variety of theories in order to get the most ethically correct answer.   FGM/C is unethical in any sense and none of the ethical theories presented here make it ethical in any sense of the word.

Female circumcision has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as follows:   Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of female external genitalia and/or injury to the female genital organs for cultural or any other non-therapeutic reason. (Female Genital Mutilation, 1996)
This description or more specifically use of the word “mutilation” in itself has caused problems because this description may be ethically inappropriate.   Descriptively, the word “mutilation” may be exaggerated, because it fails to distinguish between the four types of genital cutting recognized by the WHO.   Evaluatively, the name is not a neutral description but a severely...