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Title: Mutilation and Beautification: Legal Responses to Genital Surgeries
Contributor(s): Kennedy, Aileen (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2009
DOI: 10.1080/08164640902852423
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Abstract: This analysis takes as its starting point an examination of the differential legal response in New South Wales (NSW) to cosmetic genital surgery and female genital mutilation (FGM). The circumcised genitals of victims of female genital mutilation are commonly perceived within practising cultures as natural and ideal. The intense fury and outrage expressed in Western discourse is reflected in the legal response that labels as mutilation and prohibits FGM in many jurisdictions, even when carried out on consenting adult women. A major stratagem of delegitimation is to depict women who practise FGM as lacking agency and autonomy, victims of oppressive patriarchal rituals that revel in inflicting pain and servitude and destroy women's natural sexual embodiment. The discourse plays up imagery of flesh, pain and blood. FGM is a blanket expression used to describe a variety of traditional procedures involving removal of part or all of the external genitals of a woman or girl. The origins of FGM are unknown, but are thought to go back over 2,000 years and certainly pre-date both Christianity and Islam. The meanings and purposes of the procedure are highly contested and variable. Generally, the procedures are categorised according to severity, from the least severe form to 'infibulation'. The prevalence of FGM is also highly contested, but estimates generally put the figure at around 85-130 million women worldwide. The spread (or return) of FGM to Western nations is attributable to global immigration trends, which partly explains the growing awareness of the practice and concern in Western nations to eradicate it domestically and internationally (see, for example, Family Law Council 1994, 13). FGM, however, is not an unknown phenomenon in Western cultures. Barker-Benfield has detailed the extensive practice of FGM in both Europe and the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1975). Bell points out that publications up to 1960 recommended the procedure as a cure for masturbation (2005, 131).
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Australian Feminist Studies, 24(60), p. 211-231
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: Adelaide, Australia
ISSN: 1465-3303
Field of Research (FOR): 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
180199 Law not elsewhere classified
180122 Legal Theory, Jurisprudence and Legal Interpretation
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
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