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Female genital mutilation: multiple practices, multiple wrongs
  1. Michael Dunn
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Dunn, The Ethox Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK; michael.dunn{at}

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Sitting down to write this editorial on 6 February, the Global ‘Day of Zero Tolerance’ for female genital mutilation (FGM), it feels somewhat disconcerting to be introducing a feature article arguing for a ‘compromise position’ towards a practice that is widely accepted as abhorrent. Indeed, I'm sure many of the journal's readers will share my intuitive response that there is little scope for ethical disagreement on this issue, particularly in light of recent evidence that suggests that at least 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to this practice.1 Here, I introduce the collection of papers on FGM in this issue, expanding briefly upon the main arguments and counter-arguments put forward. The main argument is controversial, but its airing on the pages of the journal has a clear purpose: by subjecting FGM in its many forms to ethical analysis, we will be in a stronger position to develop and tailor interventions that function to prevent indefensible practices of this kind.

Arora and Jacobs's paper has a number of complementary aims. They begin by seeking to re-characterise FGMi practices by introducing a typology based on the functional impact of the procedure. They go on to argue against prohibiting procedures that have no lasting effect on morphology or function if performed …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i Arora and Jacobs prefer to use the concept of ‘female genital alteration’ (FGA) on the grounds that it conflates all procedures that alter a female's external genitalia. However, given that ‘FGM’ is the most commonly adopted and accepted expression in the public sphere, I use this term in this editorial.

  • ii Note, for the avoidance of doubt, that this categorisation differs from the Type I, II, III and IV classification system endorsed by the WHO.

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