Permanent or semipermanent modification of the human body may be undergone by removal of superficial features (such as hair, teeth) or breaking of the skin and by introducing a change of its shape. Such processes may be accidental or unintended. But frequently, they are undergone voluntarily or without strong social censure, as a result of custom, occupation, magical or medical rites, aesthetic considerations, religion (ascetic mortification), tribal initiation, or to increase the income from begging. When used as a form of punishment (including amputation of limbs, drug induced mutilation and torture) or when dictated, mutilation and deformation constitute a violation of the human rights and in any case can represent a health hazard for the person.
Intentional and unintentional mutilations and deformations occur in all societies: tribes over-fatten their women for aesthetic reasons; skin marking in the form of tattooing or cicatrization is frequently practised, particularly in tribal societies; depilation is practised by the less-hairy Eastern races and by Western women. Deformation of the head, neck, trunk, limbs or feet by special bindings has been practised in tribal societies on all continents; the nose is frequently pierced for the admission of various forms of decoration or modified under plastic surgery for aesthetic reasons; the lips may also be pierced and stretched, some teeth are removed, filed, encrusted or blackened in various societies. Removal of the epicanthic fold over the eyes is common in some Eastern societies to mimic the Caucasoid appearance. Perforation of the earlobe is common, and various techniques are used to increase the size or modify the shape of the breast. The genitalia are mutilated in a variety of ways, including circumcision, unilateral castration, castration, female circumcision, infibulation and artificial defloration, and blinding is used as an alternative to incarceration in some countries.
In many cultures various modifications of the human body are symbolic expressions of inclusion in the community or group. They marks of a change in status within the community. They are necessary to participate in adult roles. Individuals are clearly distinguished and confusion about the individual's roles on the part of the individual and the society in reduced.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.