Female Genital Mutilation vs Labia Correction Surgery: where are the boundaries?

Ortrun Merkle, Tatenda Zinyemba, Lorenzo de Min (among others), UNU-MERIT

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Within the human rights discourse, especially in Western countries, there is general consensus that FGM is a violation of women’s human rights. States criminalize FGM which predominantly exists among migrant groups from Africa, and they develop policies to prevent parents from taking their daughters to countries where FGM is practiced for fear that they will subject them to the surgery there. FGM is regarded as a cultural practice that is harmful for girls and women, and that affects the victims’ health and well-being. Moreover, FGM is considered to be a manifestation of the inequality between men and women and existing stereotypes.

Interestingly, at the same time, plastic surgery without any medical necessity is a phenomenon that has spread across Europe and North America at an alarming rate. Girls and women make use of various types of surgery, including vaginoplasty and labiaplasty, to live up to current beauty ideals without general rejection or opposition in society or by the legislator, and without questioning gender norms. This situation begs several questions about socio-cultural drivers and justifications of intervention that can only be answered if regarded from the viewpoint of different disciplines, in particular law (human rights law and criminal law), health and medicine, sociology, cultural studies, and ethics.

08.30-09.00 Registration & welcome

09.00-09.15 Opening by Prof. Hildegard Schneider (Maastricht University, Faculty of Law)

09.15-10.15 Key-note by Phyllis Livaha (Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Dr Refaat Karim (Treant Zorggroep Emmen)


Aesthetics by Lorenzo De Min (UNU-MERIT)   
Ethics by Sanne van der Hout (Maastricht University - Health, Ethics & Society) 


11.30-11.45 Coffee Break


Health law by Dr Jennifer Sellin (Maastricht University, Faculty of Law)
Health promotion by Inez Roosen (Maastricht University, Health, Ethics & Society)

13.00-14.15 Lunch


Anthropology by Prof. Anja Krumeich (Maastricht University - Health, Ethics & Society)
Human Rights by Dr Ingrid Westendorp (Maastricht University, Faculty of Law)

15.30-15.45 Coffee Break


Panel session with:
Tatenda Zinyemba (UNU-MERIT), Dr Refaat Karim (plastic surgeon at Treant Zorggroep Emmen), Dr Ortrun Merkle (UNU-MERIT) and Dr Annemarie Middelburg (Middelburg Human Rights Law Consultancy, Maarssen)

17.15-17.30 Closing

Venue: Stayokay Maastricht Maasboulevard 101 6211 JW Maastricht

Date: 20 September 2019

Time: 08:30 - 17:30  CET