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!
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.
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….