Intersex and Female Genital Cutting

Classification: Recent Publications

The Winter 2005 issue of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review features an article about intersex. The article, entitled Intersex Surgery, Female Genital Cutting, and the Selective Condemnation of ‘Cultural Practices’, discusses the similarities between female genital cutting (FGC) in African and Asian countries and the cosmetic genital surgeries performed on intersex infants in the West. Written by Nancy Ehrenreich with Mark Barr, the article suggests that although people in the West often medicalize the cosmetic genital surgeries currently performed that these procedures, much like FGC, have cultural roots.

The article provides a rich analysis of the ways Western beliefs about “third world countries,” the power and objectivity of Western medicine, and even identity politics have enabled activists—and specfically Western feminists—to ardently work to end FGC in African and Asian countries while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the similar treatment of intersex infants in the West. Ehrenreich and Barr suggest that there is far more to be gained from working to understand these two practices as interrelated.

To see the article online, click here

The full citation for the article follows:
Ehrenreich, N. and M. Barr. “Intersex Surgery, Female Genital Cutting, and the Selective Condemnation of ‘Cultural Practices’.” 40 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 71 (Winter 2005).