Male Circumcision, Informed Consent, Medicalization, Citizenship, Social Movements


Male circumcision is known to be one of the oldest and perhaps one of the most controversial body modification procedures in the history of humanity (Darby 2005; Gollaher 1994, 2000; Grimes 1980). Such scholars and activists, especially those who self-identify as being against the routinized procedure of male neonatal circumcision, discuss circumcision as a human rights violation. However, what is notable about the anti-circumcision movement more broadly is how they implement a Western notion of human rights in which there are contradictions between the rights of children versus the concept of cultural rights, which are both religious and secular in nature. In this article, I provide a very brief literature review of the relevant topics regarding male circumcision from a Western perspective. Second, I demonstrate how newer social movements such as the anti-circumcision/intactivist movements have attempted to reframe the procedure as a human rights violation when they compare circumcision to other body modification procedures such as female genital cutting (FGC) and surgery done on children born intersexed. However, those who feel that circumcision is a religious act believe that to deny any group of people the ability to practice their own religion freely is, in itself, a human rights violation. I conclude with a discussion of the ways in which such Western notions of human rights are not only inherently contradictory but also fail to include other conceptualizations of what human rights as a global term broadly incorporates.