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The Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) recognises the inherent right of all human beings to security of person, in particular their right to physical and mental integrity and bodily autonomy. The RSA rejects all non-consensual, medically unnecessary genital cutting or modifications, and calls upon the medical community and state and federal governments to educate the public of the harms of these procedures, and to change the law to ensure all children are protected from genital mutilation.

Male circumcision (sometimes referred to as ‘male genital cutting’ or ‘male genital mutilation’) is a surgical procedure to partially or totally remove the foreskin of the penis, the sheath of skin that covers and protects the head (or glans) of the penis. In Australia, 10-20% of newborn boys are circumcised. Most of these circumcisions are done to satisfy parental preference rather than out of medical necessity.

Children with intersex variations are born with physical sex characteristics including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns that do not conform to medical norms for female or male bodies. There is great diversity amongst intersex variations, which may not always be apparent at birth, and these variations may reveal themselves at the onset of puberty or later in life. Some intersex people may have atypical external genitalia, whereas others may not. Intersex genital modification (sometimes referred to as ‘genital normalising surgery’, ‘sex reassignment’, ‘intersex genital cutting’ or ‘intersex genital mutilation’) refers to surgical and hormonal treatments to alter the physical sex characteristics of an intersex child so that the child may appear typically male or typically female. The statistics on the prevalence of intersex variations vary greatly, in part due to the lack of consensus on what constitutes an intersex variation. However, it is estimated that 1-2% of people are born with intersex variations. According to the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group, intersex variations “range from 1 in 125 boys for a mild variant, to 1 in 4,500 babies where the genitalia appear significantly ambiguous at birth such that the sex of the infant is unable to be immediately determined.”

The RSA maintains the view that non-consensual, medically unnecessary male circumcision and intersex genital modification constitute genital mutilation, and should be condemned. Australian society does not accept female genital mutilation to suit the cultural or religious preferences of parents, and likewise should not accept male circumcision or intersex genital modification for these reasons.

Publication Details
Publication place:
Melbourne