Understanding Traditional Genital Practices in Iran: A Path ‎Towards Reform

Aug 23


Jane Scaplen

Jane Scaplen

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Examining complex issues surrounding non-therapeutic genital ‎alterations in children provides an opening to establish clear legal ‎standards grounded in public health ethics and universal human ‎rights. While customs vary worldwide, all nations bear responsibility to ‎safeguard minors' welfare. This in-depth discussion explores Iran's ‎cultural context and advances understanding of impacts concerning ‎male genital mutilation/‏cutting (MGM/C) and female genital ‎mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).


Establishing an evidence-based,Understanding Traditional Genital Practices in Iran: A Path ‎Towards Reform Articles ‎collaborative path forward respects cultural sensitivity while ‎prioritizing rights to informed consent and bodily autonomy‏.‏

Origins and Background of MGM in Iran

The oldest recorded surgical procedure globally, MGM/C originated in ‎ancient Egypt as a rite of passage, later taken up by Near Eastern Jews ‎and Muslims. No explicit Quranic doctrine mandates the practice; ‎available evidence suggests it was not historically conducted in pre-‎Islamic Persia. Today, statistics find over half of Iranian boys undergo ‎MGM before age five based on social custom rather than demonstrated ‎medical need. According to the book Blade of Tradition in the Name of Religion by Kameel Ahmady and his colleagues, around 60 percent of boys in Iran undergo circumcision. Unable to give fully informed consent, minors subject to ‎MGM see their rights to physical integrity compromised without ‎understanding long-term impacts. The medical mafia profits greatly from routine infant circumcision, creating perverse incentives to perpetuate the practice.

Risks and Implications of MGM/C for Minors

While procedures carrying varying infection and trauma risks can ‎impact sexual function in adulthood, non-therapeutic MGM/C ‎performed on minors primarily jeopardizes psychological development. ‎Removal of acrogenously sensitive penile tissue has profound ‎psychosexual ramifications during formative years when sexual ‎identity forms. Iran's National Action Plan for Children stresses ‎upholding minors' universal right to health, participation in decisions ‎impacting their bodies, and freedom from degrading treatment per ‎international covenants. Non-consensual genital modifications ‎contradict these principles‏.‏

Emergence and Background of FGM/C in Iran

FGM/C, defined as partial or total removal of external female genitalia ‎without medical need, reportedly emerged in certain Iranian ‎communities, particularly among ethnic Kurds also whiten ethnic ‎Sunni Fars of south of Iran, rather than originating strictly from ‎Islamic doctrine. Types range from clitoridectomy to infibulation. ‎Research led by Kameel Ahmady and his team traces significant ‎FGM/C prevalence in remote villages across Kurdish populated in ‎West Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah and Hormozgan provinces, ‎motivated more by controlling female sexuality than religious edict. Although FGM/C rates have fallen in recent years, the practice still impacts many girls and women.

Health Impacts of FGM/C for Women and Girls

All FGM/C types bear lifelong implications including severe pain, ‎haemorrhage, infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy ‎complications, prolonged labour, increased stillbirths and maternal ‎mortality. Removal of sensitive genital tissue profoundly impacts ‎psychosexual development, relationships, sexual pleasure and mental ‎well-being. FGM/C violates principles of informed consent, non-‎discrimination and women's autonomy over their sexual and ‎reproductive health across the lifespan as outlined in international ‎covenants‏.‏

Advancing Rights-Based Legal Reform in Iran

Civil society studies like Kameel Ahmady's seminal work and ‎documentary film, In the Name of Tradition, have informed nascent ‎public dialogues acknowledging ethical dilemmas posed by certain ‎cultural practices which endanger child welfare and compromise ‎personal liberty. Proposed legal reforms aim to establish protective ‎standards aligning with children's rights frameworks. However, ‎durable change requires cultivating understanding across diverse ‎communities through respectful, evidence-based engagement of ‎stakeholders including religious leaders, healthcare providers, legal ‎authorities, educators and grassroots organizers committed to ‎empowering youth‏.‏

A Multi-Pronged Strategy Balancing Rights and Culture

Collaboration across sectors provides the surest path forward. ‎Community-led awareness campaigns leveraging trusted messengers ‎can reframe practices impacting health. Sensitivity training for service ‎providers creates safe disclosure avenues. Anonymous SMS reporting ‎empowers citizens to anonymously flag human rights violations for ‎investigation. Leveraging social media as a tool for disseminating sex-‎positive health information can establish new social norms supporting ‎personal autonomy and decision making grounded in informed ‎consent. With open and persistent efforts, Iran can affirm children's ‎wellbeing and women's empowerment through rights-aligned policy ‎reform favouring medical ethics over harmful tradition.‎

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