The terms genital modification and genital mutilation can refer to permanent or temporary changes to human sex organs. Some forms of genital alteration are performed on adults with their informed consent at their own behest, usually for aesthetic reasons or to enhance stimulation. However, other forms are performed on people who do not give informed consent, including infants or children. Any of these procedures may be considered modifications or mutilations in different cultural contexts and by different groups of people.
The vast majority of genital cutting in the world is done for religious motives (though not all members of genital cutting religions adhere to the practice). In both cases, genital cutting is done as a:
Rite of passage. In Islam, typically from childhood to puberty, and in Judaism. Brit milah is the ritual in which boys' names are made public to the extended family and the community.
Religious identity. Both in Judaism and Islam, genital cutting is seen as a badge of membership to the community.
Repress sexual pleasure and desire. This is explicitly recognized within both Judaism and Islam.
Many types of genital modification are performed at the behest of the individual, for personal, sexual, aesthetic or cultural reasons. Penile subincision, or splitting of the underside of the penis, is widespread in the traditional cultures of Indigenous Australians. This procedure has taken root in Western body modification culture, the modern primitives. Meatotomy is a form that involves splitting of the glans penis alone, while bisection is a more extreme form that splits the penis entirely in half.
Similarly, Pearling involves surgical insertion of small, inert spheres under the skin along the shaft of the penis for the purpose of providing sexual stimulation to the walls of the vagina. Similar to tattooing, genital scarification is primarily done for aesthetic reasons by adding cosmetic scars to the skin. The genital decoration by scars is an ancient tradition in many cultures, both for men and women. The Hanabira-style (Jap. for petal) is a special form of scarification originating in Japan, it involves the decoration of the mons pubis.
Intersex children and children with ambiguous genitalia may be subjected to surgeries to "normalize" the appearance of their genitalia. These surgeries are usually performed for cosmetic benefit rather than for therapeutic reasons. Most surgeries involving children with ambiguous genitalia are sexually damaging and may render them infertile. For example, in cases involving male children with micropenis, doctors may recommend the child be reassigned as female. The Intersex Society of North America objects to elective surgeries performed on people without their informed consent on grounds that such surgeries subject patients to unnecessary harm and risk.
In Andhra Pradesh, India, a 75 year old surgeon working at the Kurnool Government Hospital in Kadappa named as Naganna was arrested by the CB-CID for conducting forced sex change surgeries on kidnapped victims for nearly a decade by using a nationwide network of hijras (transgenders).
If the genitals become diseased, as in the case of cancer, sometimes the diseased areas are surgically removed. Females may undergo vaginectomy or vulvectomy (to the vagina and vulva, respectively), while males may undergo penectomy or orchiectomy (removal of the penis and testicles, respectively). Reconstructive surgery may be performed to restore what was lost, often with techniques similar to those used in sex reassignment surgery.
During childbirth, an episiotomy (cutting part of the tissue between the vagina and the anus) is sometimes performed to increase the amount of space through which the baby may emerge. Advocates of natural childbirth and unassisted birth state that this intervention is often performed without medical necessity, with significant damage to the person giving birth.