Fact Sheet

The WHO fact sheet on FGM is excellent, for what it does. I’ve modified and condensed it below into a universal, concise fact sheet on genital mutilation that respects equal human rights for all (male, female, and intersex) individuals.

Genital Mutilation

Key facts

  • Genital mutilation (GM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the genital organs of a non-consenting individual for non-medical (i.e. non-therapeutic) reasons.
  • GM is a violation of human rights.

Genital mutilation (GM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external genitalia of a non-consenting individual, or other injury to the genital organs of a non-consenting individual for non-medical (i.e. non-therapeutic) reasons.

GM is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights. It reflects deep-rooted inequality, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against children. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.


Genital mutilation is classified as:

  • Any surgical interventions or harmful procedures to the healthy genitalia of a non-consenting individual for non-medical (i.e. non-therapeutic) purposes

No therapeutic benefits, only harm

GM has no objective, immediate therapeutic health benefits, and it harms individuals in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of the individual’s body.

Truth and Loaded Words

There’s currently an image floating around that states “Circumcision without informed consent is surgical rape at any age.” The visual is intriguing, but this is a bad message to push. The only people to whom it will appeal are those who already understand that non-therapeutic child circumcision is wrong. Those who advocate for circumcision will not change their minds based on this, so those who have some qualms about circumcision are the only target audience. Will they think advocats for individual choice are rational, based on this message?

Taken literally, by definition, circumcision is a form of rape and the action is surgical. But most people will not associate “rape” as “to take”, but rather will think it’s wrapped up in assault and sexual gratification. Being literal is not useful on this point, which is about marketing. This image is meant to sell genital integrity and human rights. While there must be truth in advertising, the target audience matters. We have to work with the framework of their thinking, as well. If a slogan requires a disclaimer or clarification, it’s a bad slogan.

“Circumcision is surgical rape” suggests that parents intend to rape their children. That implication is that their intent is about power, control, and sexual gratification. There is power and control inherent in non-therapeutic child circumcision, but it’s not intended as harm. And there is no sexual gratification from circumcision in the general population of advocates. Accidentally implying it of anyone who circumcises their healthy son compounds the image’s damage.

Consider this, from the judge who sentenced an Oregon mother to probation for unsuccessfully circumcising her son at home with instructions from a video on YouTube:

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom told Peterson on Monday that “the reality is you love your children and had absolutely no intent to harm your child.”

Our default assumption should be that parents love their sons, that they do not intend to harm their sons. Too many circumcision advocates think that, because of this intent, circumcision does no harm. This is wrong. Despite these parental intentions, circumcision causes harm. That’s our message. Anything that distracts from that, or suggests evil intentions, diminishes our ability to convince. Reason and facts are on our side. Let’s use them.

The Ideological Turing Test: Circumcision Edition

I seek to avoid political discussions here because wrapping politics into the circumcision debate makes the situation worse. The purpose of this post is not political, despite the topic’s origin as an approach to political philosophy.

Bryan Caplan is an economist at George Mason University. He is a libertarian. In response to a statement by economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Professor Caplan proposed an ideological Turing test. A Turing test is when “a computer tries to pass for human”:

A human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each emulating human responses. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.

Professor Caplan challenged Krugman’s assertion with this:

… Mill states it well: “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” If someone can correctly explain a position but continue to disagree with it, that position is less likely to be correct. And if ability to correctly explain a position leads almost automatically to agreement with it, that position is more likely to be correct. (See free trade). It’s not a perfect criterion, of course, especially for highly idiosyncratic views. But the ability to pass ideological Turing tests – to state opposing views as clearly and persuasively as their proponents – is a genuine symptom of objectivity and wisdom.

I think this is fantastic and relevant to the circumcision debate. A large problem we have in trying to convince others that non-therapeutic child circumcision is wrong rests with the inability of our opponents to correctly state our position. The recent (justified) uproar over “Foreskin Man” issue 2 is an example, since it then gets applied universally to all activists. Those who support non-therapeutic child circumcision should be able to correctly state or summarize our position. They rarely do.

We have no power to make someone debate fairly beyond the power of our words. I don’t present this concept to demand that our opponents attempt it. I wish they would, but I expect nothing. I present this because it’s important for us to pass the test. We must be able to accurately restate the position of those who advocate for circumcision. When we promote conspiracy theories about doctors, we fail the test. When we promote conspiracy theories about religious individuals, we fail the test. When we deny the possibility of benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision, we fail the test. We must be able to accurately explain why people advocate for circumcision, including when the facts are superficially against us. When we don’t, we give those people an excuse to dismiss everything we say, even if one misstatement of their position is our only misstatement.

For example, I can counter the potential benefits from circumcision as separate to the application of circumcision to a healthy child. But when activists state that there are no benefits, that they’re all lies, people stop listening to everything we say. They assume circumcision opponents don’t care about facts, not the subtle way in which we might disagree on interpretation or the application of facts. We need to care about accuracy so we may convince others of the legitimate ways to apply the facts involved. Once we can recite their position, then we can demand they be able to recite ours.

Why Choose Intact?

If you’ve arrived here, you’re probably looking for information on male infant circumcision. Choose Intact is designed to offer facts, advice, and support for protecting the genital integrity of infants. We recognize that all infants are born with the same basic human rights. Those rights should be protected. Non-therapeutic circumcision violates those rights. Where medical necessity does not exist, a child’s genitalia should be left intact.

You won’t find unbiased opinion at Choose Intact, because the facts require our conclusion, but you will find only truth used to support it. The bulk of our focus will consider male infant circumcision as it’s practiced in the United States, but that will not be our sole focus. We consider any issue involving the non-consensual removal or alteration of healthy genital tissue a violation, and will discuss them when necessary.

We will be honest in explaining circumcision. You will find explanations of normal human genitalia, including the male prepuce (foreskin) and its many biological and sexual purposes. Citations and links will be provided to document claims where appropriate. Choose Intact will demonstrate the strength of our medical and ethical stance.

You will not find condescension at Choose Intact. We understand that male infant circumcision is a legal (albeit unethical) option for parents in the United States, as well as most other nations. As long as that remains the situation, non-therapeutic child circumcision will occur. We vehemently disagree, so there may be exasperation at times. Like you, we’re human. But we understand why parents make that decision. In the context of our society, the decision to reject conventional ideas is not easy. To change minds and protect children, we’re interested in challenging mistaken ideas and beliefs, not people. We will maintain courtesy and respect at Choose Intact, regardless of disagreements.

Choose Intact will be a community effort. Here you will find individuals working together to protect infants from needless circumcision. Our belief in children’s rights is more important than egos and who gets credit. It’s cliché to say this site is “for the children,” but when questioning routine infant circumcision, that is the most accurate explanation. We want to help. When confronted with the decision of whether or not to circumcise a healthy child, we want the decision to be obvious: choose intact.