Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Wednesday 23rd August 2017 | Manchester, UK

Castration

The practice of castration dates way back to before recorded human history, and has been used by various societies for mainly religious and social reasons ever since. Many countries are familiar with cases of castration but in particular, countries in Southern and Eastern Asia, as well as Africa. Both female and male castrations have been recorded and it appeared gender impacts the circumstances surrounding individual cases. Castration by certain civilizations has created new attitudes and perspectives with regards to its practice, but why have so many societies adopted the practice of castration and is it still being used today?

The cult of Cybele, Skoptsy and the Valesians are all religions that have adopted castration into their beliefs. Although Castration is a central theme to these particular religions, this is not to say all religions are encouraging of castration such as Judaism, which strongly opposes castration cults.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Female castration or female genital mutilation has occurred in different societies at different times for a number of reasons. During the Victorian era when there were huge gender inequalities, young girls caught masturbating or believed to be insane were often castrated. More recently, in places such as Africa and Asia, female castration is used to control a women’s sexuality regarding concepts about purity, modesty and aesthetics. As well as this, it is often used on woman in poorer regions of the world as a method of birth control.

Over time, the practice of castration has often been highly symbolic; it was commonly used to demonstrate power. When the Normans won their battles they often castrated their surviving and dead defeated opponents in order to demonstrate their power. Meanwhile, in Empires such as the Byzantine Empire, due to the high chance of death when total removal of all genitalia occurred, often castration was used as a death sentence. In this way we can see how the practice of castration served as a form of punishment by certain societies. Today in society, medical castration is widely used to save the lives of men or women who have cancer of the prostate or ovaries. This form of castration is consented and carried out legally by professionals.

The practice of castration on both men and woman, has raised difficult questions regarding human rights and morality. The illegal practice of female genital mutilation, which is still performed today in many African countries, is slowly building up a larger opposition base. Female genital mutilation is often used in countries where gender inequality still largely exists and is used as a way of sexually controlling woman. Illegal male castration is globally less common but does still exist. The restriction of castration in many countries has been a positive move towards creating equality between both genders, unfortunately though it is still an issue in many countries where law enforcement is more lax.

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