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Bodily Integrity

Bodily integrity is a human right

It means having and being able to enjoy one’s own natural body in all its fullness, without fear of interference or damage to it from others. Our bodies are one of the few things in the world that truly belong to each of us. Indeed, they not only “belong to” us – in a certain sense, they are us. Our body makes up a fundamental element of our personality, identity, and ability to interact with the outside world. Bodily integrity, the right to make one’s own choices about one’s body for oneself, is therefore at the very core of personal freedom. After the right to life, it is the deepest right possessed by any human being. Our right to bodily integrity is recognized by legal systems world-wide. In the United Kingdom, for example, Lord Justice Robert Walker described bodily integrity as follows:

Every human being’s right to life carries with it, as an intrinsic part of it, rights of bodily integrity and autonomy – the right to have one’s own body whole and intact and (upon reaching an age of understanding) to take decisions about one’s body [1].

Regaining genital integrity brings about restored sexual function and sensitivity, a natural bodily appearance, and most importantly the simple but deeply important contentment of having one’s full body back again.

foregen is about respecting, valuing and restoring bodily integrity. We are committed to helping all men and women so affected to get their full bodies back. All of our projects revolve around this as our ultimate aim.

Abuse of bodily integrity

Unfortunately, not everyone has had that right respected. One serious violation of a person’s right to bodily integrity still practiced in the world is the forcible circumcision of healthy infants. Much has rightly been done to stop the forcible genital mutilation of girls (though the practice unfortunately still exists). What we sometimes forget is that millions of baby boys, too, suffer painful, forcible mutilation to their bodies to which they never consented, and which has the same irreversible effects: damaged genitals, reduced sexual sensation, permanent scarring, and the psychological damage of having been forcefully violated. In other words, the same features that revolt us most in female genital mutilation are there in forced male circumcision too. Many prominent campaigners against female genital mutilation (FGM) – such as Soraya Mire, the Somali filmmaker and world campaigner against FGM – have recorded their horror at male genital mutilation as well.

© Soraya Mire 2010

“The same universal human right to an intact body that I have fought for on behalf of women and girls must apply to boys as well, especially those too young to make an informed decision about the integrity of their bodies.

How can it be wrong to surgically alter the genitals of a baby girl without her consent but okay to surgically alter the genitals of a baby boy?”

Soraya Mire
Somali filmmaker and FGM campaigner, 2009

Forced circumcision has damaged many women’s – and men’s – normal sexual function and bodily appearance, has inhibited them from feeling proud and happy with their bodies, has caused self-esteem loss and relationship difficulties, and has engendered serious psychological harm arising from a strong sense of bodily violation.

circumcision

For a long time, forced (or “routine”) circumcision was accepted as “normal” because of its popularity. In the last twenty years, however, human rights law has focused more and more strongly on the unethical nature of forced genital cutting of all infants, regardless of their gender – and reaffirms that both boys and girls deserve a body that is intact, and have a right to make their own choices about their own bodies.

Happily, more and more boys and girls each year are being respected and reaching adulthood with a functioning, healthy and complete body. (In Australia, for example, where circumcision rates were as high as 95% in the mid-20th century, the rate has now slowed to just over 10%). However, while the tide is now rightly turning against routine circumcision, there are millions of boys and men already unnecessarily circumcised – for whom such a change comes, sadly, far too late. Their options are currently limited, and involve recourse to slow-acting, and only partly successful, skin-stretching regimes which, at their best, will never bring back the unique tissue cut off them at the moment of circumcision.

That is about to change. With the world of biomedicine now able to produce real dermal regeneration of original native tissue, the possibility of foreskin regeneration is now close at hand. This brings about a whole new dimension for those who are circumcised and want their bodies back. For those people, regaining their natural genitals will bring about a restored sexual function and sensitivity, a natural bodily appearance, and the psychological healing linked with having their full body back again. foregen’s purpose is to make that dream a reality by funding the clinical trials that will make “de-circumcision” possible, and give millions the chance they once thought gone for good – that of having their body back.

[1]Robert Walker LJ, in Re A (Minors) (Conjoined Twins: Separation) [2000] Lloyd’s Rep Med 425 at 494.