HT22 St Cross Seminar: Dr Brian D. Earp

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Updated 5 January 2022

Against Legalizing Female 'Circumcision' of Minors

This event is open to the public and all are welcome to join online on Zoom.  Register in advance at link below.

Date and time

Thursday 24 February, 12.30 - 2.00pm 


Defenders of male circumcision increasingly argue that female ‘circumcision’ (ritual cutting of the clitoral hood or labia) should be legally allowed in Western liberal democracies even when non-consensual. In a recent article, Richard Shweder (2021) gives perhaps the most persuasive articulation of this argument to have so far appeared in the literature. In my own work, I argue that no person should be subjected to medically unnecessary genital cutting of any kind without their own informed consent, regardless of the sex characteristics with which they were born or the religious or cultural background of their parents. Professor Shweder and I agree that Western law and policy on child genital cutting is currently beset with cultural, religious, and sex-based double-standards. We disagree about what should be done about this. In this talk, I argue that ‘legalizing’ childhood female genital cutting so as to bring it into line with current treatment of childhood male genital cutting is not an acceptable solution to these problems. Instead, all medically unnecessary genital cutting of non-consenting persons should be opposed equally on moral and legal grounds and discouraged by all appropriate means.


Dr Brian D. Earp (Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics)

Brian is a Senior Research Fellow in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and The Hastings Center, and Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics. Brian’s work is cross-disciplinary, following training in philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, history and sociology of science and medicine, and ethics [read more here].




To follow

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Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities

About the Seminar Series

The New St Cross Special Ethics Seminars are jointly arranged by the Oxford Uehiro Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities.