Aesthetic Enhancement? Or Human Rights Violation?

Hastings Center Report. Article first published online: 8 NOV 2012. DOI: 10.1002/hast.91. Nov-dec 2012 42(6) 28-29.

Aesthetic Enhancement? Or Human Rights Violation?

Ruth Macklin


The view that we must respect cultural traditions is a welcome change from the past, when colonial powers ridiculed native customs and often sought to eradicate them. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to ask whether there is a limit to tolerance of a ritual that has been designated a “harmful traditional practice” by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Population Fund, and the recently created agency, UN Women. The article “Seven Things To Know About Female Genital Surgeries in Africa,” by the Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa, contends that a need exists for more balanced critical thinking and open debate about what the authors choose to call “female genital surgery.” No one can reasonably quarrel with the call for accurate information in descriptions of the methods and consequences of female genital cutting. The network’s own discussion of the facts is highly questionable, however.

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