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The Limits of the Law

Comparative Analysis of Legal and Extralegal Methods to Control Child Body Mutilation Practices
  • J. Steven Svoboda
Chapter

Abstract

Throughout history and throughout the world, a wide range of body mutilation practices have been carried out by adults on children. Many such practices involve sexual mutilation, including female genital mutilation in present-day Africa, male circumcision in the present-day United States, penile skin stripping in nineteenth-century Arabia, female genital mutilation in the twentieth-century United States, subincision among Australian aborigines, and others. Practices involving non-sexual body mutilation include footbinding in China, infant cranial deformation in ancient Central Asia, infant swaddling in ancient Central Asia, forced bone deformation in Malaysia, and others. Arguably includable here is the drastic practice of infanticide, for which (obviously) no benefit to the individual is claimed but which has taken root in a wide variety of cultures and periods. I will examine infanticide as practiced in nineteenth-century India. These practices are allegedly performed for the benefit of the child but result in overall harm to the child while producing actual or imagined benefits only for others, i.e., parents, surgeons/midwives, and/or society. The practice adopted by a particular culture receives social, cultural and/or legal endorsement within that culture’s set of mores and values. Analytical tools provided by a range of disciplines including law, sociology, human rights, anthropology, and psychology are applied to explore how a broad variety of bizarre and extremely harmful practices on children are justified and rationalized into consistency with a culture’s asserted values.

Keywords

Male Circumcision Female Labor Female Genital Mutilation Legal Norm Childhood Marriage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Steven Svoboda
    • 1
  1. 1.Attorneys for the Rights of the ChildUSA

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