Non-medical circumcision is outlawed in Germany

Finally, some reason is breaking out in the world!!!

Germany has outlawed childhood circumcision for religious reasons!!!

(Well,  one part of Germany, anyway…but it will affect the country as a whole.)

From The Sun:

‘On Tuesday, the district court ruled circumcision would “irreparably and permanently” harm a boy and performing one for religious purposes “contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”‘

After all, a child is too young to give informed consent to such an invasive surgery.  Male or female, removing bits of their bodies to reduce sexual pleasure later on (and, yes – that is the purpose of religious circumcision:  reducing sexual pleasure to keep the mind on God, not sex) is inexcusable and abusive.

AFP reports:

‘The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.’

I’ve been using almost exactly these same words to express these same sentiments – for years.  Circumcision, even for boys, is not a trivial matter.

And when it comes to competing rights, it seems reasonable to me to go with the ‘permanent’ versus ‘changeable’ test:  once removed, a body part cannot re-grow.  It can be reconstructed, but once those nerve endings are cut off, they are gone – permanently.  So, that is something a person cannot change.

Other things I consider ‘permanent’ are, among other things, race, physical disability/disfigurement, and to a lesser extent, gender.

Religion – that is changeable.

People change their religions all the time!

This, in my never-humble-opinion, means that when the right to bodily integrity – a ‘permanent’ outweighs the right to religion, which is  variable.  But, that is just my opinion.  It is nice to read that courts in at least some jurisdictions agree with me!

And, even though the ruling was sparked by a case of a botched circumcision on a young Muslim boy, the Jewish community is already crying anti-Semitism….  which just goes to show that all you need to unite the ‘official religionists’ in Jewish and Muslim communities, to get them to work together, is to dangle a secular humanist in front of them!

And yes, I do stress the ‘official’ in the religionists’ description:  because it is the busybodies within their communities who hold power over their fellow co-religionists by interfering in their lives in the name of whatever faith it is they are ‘official religionists’ of!

I suspect that most moderate people, of all faiths, will be relieved by this ruling.  It will be a tool for them to keep their children safe from the imposition of traumatic religious practices which could potentially leave them with serious sexual dysfunction.

From the National Post:

‘The decision caused outrage in Germany’s Jewish community.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”’

What self-determination!?!?!

Individual humans have the freedom to practice their religion, so long as they do not break the laws of whatever land they are in.

You know, like sacrificing virgins, or chopping body parts off of babies and/or children!

In any country, the same set of laws must apply equally, to each and every individual – or rule of law, which has improved our living conditions and, according to some experts, reduced the amount of violence we experience in our everyday lives to unprecedented low levels, will indeed break down.

A ‘community’ – religious or not – only has self-determination when it is recognized as a nation-state.

And that is how it must remain!

It is individuals – not communities, religious or otherwise – who have rights!

As Asma Jahangir has said (and I am paraphrasing), we must not give special privileges to ‘minority communities’ because the leaders of these ‘minority communities’ will use these privileges to assert their power and to oppress the other members of these communities.  She was speaking of religious minorities in particular…

So, yes – it is about time the practice of childhood non-medical circumcision became not just outlawed, but socially unacceptable.

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….

The trouble with ‘circumcision’…

This is one of those ‘charged issues’:  moral and religious issues get muddled up with cultural prejudices and pseudo-scientific propaganda.  So, I’m really not sure where and how to begin…

The easy one first…

‘Female Circumcision’

So much has been written about this, I will not go into details of the various ‘levels’ of female genital mutilation (recently re-named ‘female genital cutting’ in order to escape the deservedly bad PR).   I’ll just note that it is a horrible thing which I condemn.

Rather, I would like to concentrate on the 3 reasons ‘why’ ‘female circumcision’ is practiced.

1.  Religious

Many Muslims believe that Islam mandates both female and male circumcision because in the Islamic texts, the sex act is, at times, referred to as ‘when the circumcised parts meet’.  This makes many Muslims believe that in order to emulate the prophet Muhammad, as their religion commands, both men and women ought to be circumcised – despite the fact that Muhmmad himself urged that ‘cutting less is better than cutting more’ because this ‘increases pleasure for both the man and the woman’ (I am paraphrasing).

2.  Cultural

Some cultures have such contempt for women that they believe that without removing the clitoris, a woman would not be able to control her sexual urges and would copulate with anyone, anytime.  Therefore, removing a source of sexual pleasure will help protect her honour and the honour of her family.

But contempt for women is not the only cultural reason for this practice.

In some  places, like Ethiopia, female circumcision is a cultural custom, practiced both  by Muslims and Christians.  It is part of the cultural fabric:  the mom was ‘circumcised’, the grandma was ‘circumcised’, so the possibility that the daughter might not be ‘circumcised’ does not even occur to anyone.  It’s just what is done!

I have commented on this phenomenon before:  people cannot possibly stop a harmful practice if it never actually occurs to them that there is something they could – and should – question….  It is only after people figure out that that something could be questioned that the actual battle for change can begin.

3.  Medical

As bizarre as it seems to us, there are people (women) who honestly believe that complete clitorectemy is medically necessary.  I saw a video (long ago) of an old woman who was renown as an expert practitioner of clitorectemy explaining (through an interpreter) that unless the clitoris is removed before puberty, it will grow and suffocate the child during childbirth.  She even cited ‘real evidence’, where women had ‘bad, partial’ ones and the baby suffocated in the womb…

Of course, most of us would recognize this as a symptom of the ‘operation’ itself:  the severe scaring which results in less flexible tissues which do not stretch properly, which causes the child to suffocate in the birth canal.  But, they ‘have their observations’ and truly and honestly believe that full clitorectemies are a medical necessity.

To recap:

‘Female circumcision’ is practiced for religious and cultural reasons as well as because trusted members of their society who preform the clitorectomies honestly believe that it is medically beneficial to do so and are believed by the members of their society.

Here, in The West, this vile and inhumane and – well, horrible, sadistic torture – is not tolerated.

YET!!!

Unfortunately, recent voices – from among the people who would be the ones who wish to perform (and benefit financially from doing so) this procedure – have began a propaganda to normalize this practice ‘for the good of the little girls’!  Their argument goes something like this:

The choice we are facing (they convincingly explain) is between horrible, painful, ‘back-shack-clitorectomies’ with no anaesthesia or even clean surgical instruments on one hand, and permitting a ‘ritual nick’ or ‘ritual pin-prick’ here, in the safety of a sanitary medical facility.

It’s the only safe option!

Don’t you care about these girls safety?

Please, consider, really consider, why is it that our political and cultural leaders are having such a hard time rejecting this flimsy excuse and ripping it to shreds for the ‘soft-racism’ and financial self-interest it so thinly veils?

I think that most of us would arrive at ‘the other circumcision’….

We tolerate it.

Many of us practice it.

If we permit bits of male infants’ genetalia to be chopped off (without anaesthetics to boot), how can we effectively combat a similar practice on female infants?  Equality of the sexes and all….

Which brings me to:

Male Circumcision

Again, most of us are familiar with the ‘mechanics’ of what the term refers to.  And, many of us, in The West, accept it as unquestioningly as that Ethiopian clitorectemist accepts ‘female circumcision’!

Some of us have, however, began to question this extremely painful practice which can lead to permanent re-wiring of a newborn’s brain.  Many studies demonstrate that male infants who underwent circumcision display symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) months or even years later and that the neurological damage the infant suffers may cause life-long damage.  And, most doctors now know that perfectly well.

And, there is always the issue of where do the rights of the parent end and the rights of the child begin….

Let me quote from the policy manual on non-therapeutic male circumcision by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia:

“Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an infant has rights that include security of person, life, freedom and bodily integrity. Routine infant male circumcision is an unnecessary and irreversible procedure. Therefore, many consider it to be “unwarranted mutilating surgery”.

So, why are we still tolerating this practice?

There are 3 reasons:

1.  Religious

The first thing most of us (at least, those of us born in Europe) think of when we hear ‘male circumcision’ is the practice of Judaism.  So, for those of the Jewish faith, this has sort of been ‘grandfathered in’ and is never really questioned.  Even though it goes on and on about how Jews must also circumcise their slaves…

If nothing else, that ought to give us a moment of pause:  Jews are mandated by God to circumcise all their slaves?!?!?

Well, the Bible says so.

So, how did this practice enter the North American society?

Victorian ‘religious puritans’ (for lack of a better term) brought in the practice in order to decrease young men’s sexual pleasure so they would stop masturbating and spent more time thinking about God.

Really.

By removing the skin that protects the glans of the penis, the very sensitive nerve endings are constantly rubbed by ‘stuff’ – from undies on.  This ‘constant stimulation’ is too much – so the brain decreases the sensitivity of these nerves.  (Sort of like once you’ve been in cold water for a while, the nerve impulses screaming the  message ‘this water is cold’ become weakened and you are ‘used to the temperature’.)

That is the reasoning behind removing the foreskin.  By constant mild stimulation, the strength of the pleasure signals decreases and the mutilated man can better keep his mind on God!

To  sum it up:  just like ‘female circumcision’, the religious goal of ‘male circumcision’ is the reduction of sexual pleasure.

2.  Cultural

In North America, this practice became so deeply culturally entrenched that, for generations, nobody questioned the practice.  It was ‘simply done’.  Promoted on the grounds of hygiene, the religious origins of this practice became forgotten by much of the population and became ‘the norm’.

Now, some parents circumcise their male infants ‘so they would not feel different from dad and/or other boys’…  I know – I have seen it.

3.  Medical

Many medical practitioners who perform infant circumcisions claim all kinds of wonderful medical benefits as a result of the procedure.  Sort of like that Ethiopian clitorectomist does….

And there are tons of claims that circumcision reduces AIDS and other infections….  Yet, for each one of these studies, there are others that prove this is not so.  And if one reads these ‘circumcision reduces AIDS’ studies, you will find that ‘circumcision’ in these studies is accompanied by a comprehensive education on AIDS and other STDs….  Yet, the studies do not make any difference between reduction in AIDS through education or circumcision.  That is kind of like saying that learning the alphabet will make you good at math without mentioning that to learn the alphabet, you go to school where you are taught both the alphabet and the math….

So, what do the ‘Western’ MDs say about the medical benefits of male circumcision? Let’s see what the CPSCB has to say about the ‘Medical Perspecives’ (my emphasis):

Circumcision removes the prepuce that covers and protects the head or the glans of the penis. The prepuce is composed of an outer skin and an inner mucosa that is rich in specialized sensory nerve endings and erogenous tissue. Circumcision is painful, and puts the patient at risk for complications ranging from minor, as in mild local infections, to more serious such as injury to the penis, meatal stenosis, urinary retention, urinary tract infection and, rarely, even haemorrhage leading to death. The benefits of infant male circumcision that have been promoted over time include the prevention of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases, and the reduction in risk of penile and cervical cancer. Current consensus of medical opinion, including that of the Canadian and American Paediatric Societies and the American Urological Society, is that there is insufficient evidence that these benefits outweigh the potential risks. That is, routine infant male circumcision, i.e. routine removal of normal tissue in a healthy infant, is not recommended.

In other words, any claims of medical benefits of male circumcision are about as well grounded in fact as the Ethopian woman’s belief that not cutting out the clitoris will cause it to grow so bit, it will suffocate the infant during childbirth!

Yet – we tolerate it….

Why?

Both male and female circumcision is done for the same reasons:  religious and cultural pressures to decrease the ability of the individual to experience sexual pleasure, medical misinformation and cultural momentum.

Until we recognize the parallels between the two and criminalize the practice of parents imposing this choice onto their children, we cannot pretend we are a civilized people who respect basic human rights!