The Construction of Gender and Sexuality in the Approach of Key International Law Actors to the Circumcision of Children

Abstract

This article analyses the approach of key international actors to the circumcision of children, seeking, first, to understand why the policy towards the circumcision or genital cutting of girls is so different from that towards boys. As part of this project, the article considers the literature on the situation in international law, concluding that the legal position is unclear and debatable. The article notes, however, that the policy difference is justified not by key actors by reference to international law but instead by reference to their theoretical understanding of how dynamics of gender and power infuse the genital cutting of girls. The article suggests that this approach is deficient because it can only compute inter-gender harm and not intra-gender harm, with the consequence that it fails to protect boy children from harms, which a better crafted theoretical model of gender and sexuality would capture.