Even more on male and female circumcision: balancing conflicting human rights

A few days ago, I posted my thought on ‘The trouble with ‘circumcision’.  A friend replied – in a private email, so as to save me the embarrasement of lambasting me in public – pointing out to me the medical benefits of male circumcision.  His heart is definitely in the right place!

He even supplied me with a couple of links:  here and here.  I had thought that I had successfully debunked both of these types of claims.  Obviously, I had not.

Still, this is a very important debate – which is why I thought I ought to post my reply to him.  It was a bit long – I do go on a lot – so I split it up into two parts:  the ‘physical issues’, and the ‘rights issues’, below.

What makes all the medical arguments for or against male circumcision irrelevant is that this is a question of rights.

Human rights.

Because removing a healthy body part – no matter how beneficial one may think this to be – is not something one person has the right to decide on behalf of another person.

Parents must do their best to look after their children. They must make decisions on their behalf regarding medical treatment when their children are ill or injured. But nobody – not even a parent – has the right to subject a healthy child to non-reversible medical procedures, amputations of healthy tissue or any other violation of that child’s bodily integrity.

Yes, parents have the right to raise their child as they believe best.

No, that does not give parents the right to subject a healthy child to invasive medical procedures or random amputations!

I am aware that many parents have ‘snipped’ their sons, truly believing they were doing the best thing for their children. Families that perform circumcision on their female children also truly believe that they are acting in the best interest of their child.

That is something we must acknowledge: these parents are not monsters who want to punish their daughters for being female! Or to hurt or damage them. But, their beliefs lead them to actions which DO harm and damage their children.

THAT is what we must address!

And it is not easy to admit that one was duped into harming one’s own child!

But it is important that we face the truth and stop tolerating this violation of children’s bodies and rights. Each and every individual can choose to become circumcised as an adult – and nobody else has the right to interfere with this choice.

Bodily integrity is one of the core human rights.

We must not tolerate its violations.

Even by well meaning parents!

I am sorry to have hit another point of disagreement with you – please, do not take this as an attack upon you, personally. Just that this is one of those instances where I think many of us, in ‘The West’, have ‘blinders’ on: we see the horror and just how wrong this is when we see a variation of this practice by a different culture – but we seem unable to recognize that we are guilty of exactly the same thing, in a slightly different form.

Perhaps I did not express my central thought as explicitly in my original post as I should have: until we recognize just how wrong male circumcision is, until we begin to respect the human right to bodily integrity of ALL our children, we cannot possibly criticize (much less stop) the practice of female circumcision.

I agree with your sentiment: until popular tide turns, boys will suffer and get ill – and, in some cases, loose their lives: but I lament this same outcome as the result of an unnecessary, traumatic amputation of a healthy body part!

We are both going to the same place: we just differ about which route is medically better.

Still, there is no counterargument for the human right to bodily integrity…. because there is no valid argument for ‘male-only’ circumcision on the basis of whose rights are supreme: the right of an infant to bodily integrity or the right of a parent to amputate healthy body parts on the grounds of their ‘beliefs’ – sorry, getting long winded here…

What I mean is that there is no argument that, on the basis of ‘balancing rights’, would permit ‘male circumcision’ while forbidding ‘female circumcision’.

If the parents’ right to amputate a child’s healthy body part on the grounds of their beliefs (religious, cultural, scientific or otherwise) are supreme – all forms of genital mutilation will be ‘in’.

If the child’s right to bodily integrity is tops, then NO form of circumcision can be permitted!

We must face up to that in our fight against female circumcision….

Thoughts?

More on male and female circumcision…

A few days ago, I posted my thought on ‘The trouble with ‘circumcision’.  A friend replied – in a private email, so as to save me the embarrasement of lambasting me in public – pointing out to me the medical benefits of male circumcision.  His heart is definitely in the right place!

He even supplied me with a couple of links:  here and here.  I had thought that I had successfully debunked both of these types of claims.  Obviously, I had not.

Still, this is a very important debate – which is why I thought I ought to post my reply to him.  It was a bit long – I do go on a lot – so I split it up into two parts:  the ‘physical issues’, below, and the ‘rights issues’.

Thanks for the sensitivity of a private reply.

Still, I do stand behind what I wrote.

The studies, so often touted and cited to justify male circumcision have long been debunked. As a matter of fact, when it comes to urinary tract infections – circumcised males have a higher incidence of them than uncircumcised men.

Plus – I didn’t put this in the post because I thought it would bring a wrong focus to any ensuing debate – circumcised men have a much, much higher incidence of impotence than uncircumcised men. This is the direct result of cutting off all them pleasure-sensing nerve endings AND of desensitizing the glans by exposing it.

One has to balance the benefits and dangers of circumcising versus the benefits and dangers of not circumcising!

If you live in the middle of a desert, where you often substitute sand for water when cleansing, one could make a case for circumcision being beneficial. It is true that it requires a person to maintain a certain level of hygiene to clean an uncircumcised penis, which is not possible in a desert. Under those circumstances, the long-term damage from circumcision is less harmful that the damage from lack of hygiene to an uncircumcised penis. That, I agree with.

That is why circumcision arose among desert cultures in the first place.

But, we do not live in a desert. Our kids have the ability to maintain basic hygiene. As such, the danger of damage from poor hygiene and not circumcising our sons is very, very low – while the dangers of circumcising are in no way diminished.

While cleaning an uncircumcised penis, boys will learn that it is pleasurable to touch their penis. This naturally leads to healthy masturbation: something many religions forbid. It was precisely in order to prevent young men from masturbating that circumcision was popularized in our society!

As for the STDs….. let me just note that masturbation is a much safer sexual release for young single men than using condoms and a much more realistic option than trying to get them to abstain from all sexual activity altogether!

Which brings us to the claims that circumcised men are in less of a danger of an STD. The danger of infection because of a ‘tear in the foreskin’ only comes into play if people engage in high-risk, rough sex (rape, anal sex, multiple partners etc.) and do not use a condom.

If a man decides that he wants to engage in this form of ‘entertainment, he can choose to get circumcised as an adult. It will give him all the ‘protection’ he seeks (though, as I explained in the post, there is not a convincing case that this reduction in infection rates is the result of the circumcision itself rather than the safer-sex education that accompanied the circumcision in the adult male populations on which these studies were carried out).

Not circumcising him as an infant does not prevent a man from seeking this ‘protection from STDs’ as an adult – should he CHOOSE it!!!

Let me recap: Several decades ago, doctors claimed circumcision was ‘cleaner and healthier’ than leaving the penis intact.

You know, like about the same time these ‘same’ doctors prescribed thalidamide for morning sickness…

About the same time as menopausal women were pressured into routine hysterectomies – no longer need for the womb, so take it out, just to make sure. Right? Except we now know just how very important a role the uterus plays in the immune systems of post-menopausal women….

Let’s face it: many things that doctors in the past never even considered have since turned out to play an important role in our body. Randomly removing bits that are not diseased may have effects we have not even considered, much less measured their impact.

Current medical body of evidence – even considering the old studies – falls squarely on the side of ‘circumcision has no measurable health benefits – but it does have measurable harm to one’s health’. The push to continue circumcision is political, cultural and religious – and financial…. Remember, those who claim circumcision prevents AIDS get tons of international aid money to perform these circumcisions, so they are hardly an impartial source of information.

Let me put it a different way: have you ever examined what is under our fingernails?

TONS of germs!

Even the cleanest-looking nails harbor germs under them…. And kids’ nails? A hotbed of infections!

And – infants often scratch their faces with their little nails: you can see the danger there!

And – many kids stick their hands, fingernails and all, in their mouth! Or even – do I dare say it – pick their noses!  Then they rub their eyes…

The potential for spreading these germs under their nails are, well, big!

And then there is the danger of blood poisoning from an infected hang-nail….

Just how much ‘cleaner’ would it be, how much more protected from infection would our children be, if we just removed their nail-beds while they were in their infancy?

After all – when they are little, the nail-beds are tiny. The scarring will be minimal. And if you do it early enough in infancy, they won’t really understand the pain, or remember it.

So, all parents who want their kids to be clean and healthy should have their infants’ nail-beds surgically removed!

Let’s face it – it is the same argument….