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?

3 Responses to “Even more on male and female circumcision: balancing conflicting human rights”

  1. More on male and female circumcision… « Xanthippa's Chamberpot Says:

    […] 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’. […]

  2. Hugh7 Says:

    Very good! And when someone says (as someone will) “but the two operations are COMPLETELY different” get them to compare apples with apples. First, tribal with tribal, and the difference between the two practices is much less. 91 boys died in one province of South Africa last year from tribal circumcision, and 20 more in the last fortnight. Three are now in hospital with gangrene, and nine other penile amputations have come to light.

    Now compare surgical with surgical: this loving Malaysian mother’s blog – http://aandes.blogspot.com/2010/04/circumcision.html – with this American mother’s – http://cindiebass.blogspot.com/2010/05/circumcision.html . If anything the little girl seems to have got off more lightly than the little boy.

  3. Restoring Tally Says:

    I had no choice in the matter, I was circumcised shortly after I was born. My parents had no right to let them remove a healthy part of my body. It is my penis, not my parents. I am the one who uses my sex organ, not my parents. I would have preferred to keep all of my sex organ, not just what was left over after the doctor was done. I wish my parents had protected my rights and my body instead of letting me be cut as a baby.

    My body, my choice.

    Xanthippa says:

    Thank you, Tally!

    I could not agree more.

    There is a line between where the parents’ rights end and the child’s rights begin. Amputation of healthy body parts seems to me to be so far into the ‘child’s rights’ corner that I don’t understand how our society can tolerate such a horrible torture of babies!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: