Mutilation by modification of the genitalia may cause permanent full or partial sexual impairment to its victims (male or female) depending on the kind of disfigurement performed. In some cases, death may follow. During war and civil strife, sexual mutilation may be inflicted as an act of torture, reprisal or as a victory ritual on prisoners and their families. In peacetime and in certain societies or groups, specific mutilations (circumcision, castration, clitoridectomy, etc.) constitute institutionalized practices addressed to certain or all of its members with prophylactic, therapeutic, repressive, discriminatory, religious or statutory aims. When inflicted unlawfully, maliciously, and without consent, deprivation of a member of the body by disablement disfigurement, the rendering of it useless, is considered a criminal act (mayhem).
The best known and most widespread forms of genital mutilation are circumcision and castration. In certain western sub-cultures, individuals pierce the clitoris, penis or nipples in order to insert padlocks, rivets or wire devices for decorative or symbolic purposes.
The amputation of normal, healthy, sexually functioning tissue from an unconsenting infant or inadequately informed child raises pertinent ethical questions. Sexual mutilation is a human rights issue.