Is it Justified to Evaluate Female Genital Mutilation Categorically Different from Male Circumcision?

An Examination of Inconsistency Based on Cultural Bias and Making Distinctions Between Religious and Cultural Practices


Within the Western discourse, there is a categorical rejection of female genital mutilation (FGM). It is considered a violation of an individual’s rights and a form of unnecessary violence. At the same time, the topic of male circumcision (MC) is perceived – especially in the US – as much less problematic or even benign. While it may at first sight appear unfeasible to compare FGM with MC, I will demonstrate in this essay that there are certain similarities that are often ignored, and which point to an inconsistency in our categorically different evaluations of FGM and MC. This inconsistency becomes especially evident in philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s account of both practices and potentially points to a cultural bias. A double standard of comparable practices cannot be accepted if we want to develop accounts that are as objective, or minimally biased, as possible. Additionally, if it turns out that we are inconsistently evaluating two comparable practices, we might want to adjust policy and legislation, respectively. 

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