My grandmother was a midwife who ran a thriving maternity home from 1972 to 1995. In her practice, she carried out male circumcisions only. As far as I can remember, male children born in her maternity returned a week after their birth, to be circumcised. Female children returned to get their ear lobes pierced. I remember how important male circumcision was to my grandmother; she believed that it was a delicate procedure needing expert hands to avoid future complications. On occasions, she had to “repair” botched male circumcisions that were performed elsewhere.
Although she was approached on a number of occasions to perform female circumcisions, she did not do them, and was a strong advocate against the practice.
In my high school, some boys were teased mercilessly for being uncircumcise,d and then I went to college in America and discovered that male circumcision was not widely practiced in Southern Africa. The teenage young brother of a friend of mine from Bostwana had to have a medically necessitated circumcision, and because of the pain that he endured, he was angry with his parents for not having him circumcised as a baby.
So with all these as background, when I had my son, I did not think twice about having him circumcised. I had him in a hospital in America, and I had to call several clinics before I found one that would do the procedure in America when he was a week old.
For some clinics, you had to wait for the child to reach six months and for some others, a year.
My thinking, was the earlier, the better. I cried several times the day the day he was circumcised. I felt helpless regarding his pain. But in about a week or so, the wound had healed nicely and he was okay. I used an old trick from my grandmother to speed up the healing time.
So that is my story and I had not thought much about male circumcision after that, until recently when I read an article titled “Circumcision of healthy boys- a criminal assault” I know that over the years, there has been a decline, in the number of male circumcision in parts of the west, and cases have gone to court where parents disagree over whether the male child should be circumcised or not. There is also conflicting research about the health benefits of the procedure. But nothing that I have come across paints a more gruesome picture of male circumcision than this article by “Boyle et al”.
This article is not for the squirmish, infact most of the article refer to male circumcision as “amputation”, “male genital cutting” and “male genital mutilation”.
The writers take an extreme position but the article is interesting as it lays down several issues for consideration concerning male circumcision.
The first issue of course is the criminal assault on the young male child. Ordinarily, causing bodily injury to a person without their informed consent, would be a criminal assault. The writers argued that the parents who ordinarily could give consent on behalf of their children, cannot give informed consent since they are rarely told of the risks and dangers associated with male circumcision. Informed consent is required for medical procedures that cause bodily injury in other to avoid an assault offence. In their words, doctors have a duty of care to inform parents of all risks and potential harmful effects. Failing to tell parents about the erogenous function of the foreskin is a serious act of omission.
According to the writers, circumcision makes the achievement of orgasm more difficult, decreases its intensity, and impedes sexual satisfaction among circumcised men and their female partners, thereby, reducing or constraining both male and female sexually since genital integrity is always destroyed and sexual function is always compromised, the true complication rate of circumcision, is in reality 100% and they referred to life long circumcision-related stress, men seeing themselves as deformed and suffering post traumatic stress disorder because of circumcision.
They also said that circumcised boys react with greater pain intensity to immunization six months after circumcision. For me, this is a bit of a stretch, but who knows?
The men I could ask, were circumcised as babies so they would not know the difference. There were no uncircumcised boys that I could compare my sons pain intensity to in the first six months when he was taking his immunization, but the nurse always commended him for being a strong boy. I probably cried more than he did, but have I with decision to “mutilate” him destroyed his ability to enjoy sex in the future? I would hope not!
The second issue which is gaining a lot of ground in different jurisdictions is that, involuntary male circumcision violates human right. They argue on two human right ground, the right to equality and the right to bodily integrity. As regards bodily integrity, the argument is that for non-medically necessitated circumcisions, parents consenting to, and doctors, and rabbis and other health practitioners carrying out the circumcision of young male children is a breach of their rights to bodily integrity. Presumably, even if the circumcision is for religious purposes, the child should be allowed to make that choice when they have attained the age of maturity.
On the right to equality, they argue that male circumcisin is just as destructive physically and psychologically as female genital mutilation and therefore the lack of protection of male children against circumcision while proscribing female genital mutilation is a violation of their right to equality. It means that male minors are not given the full protection that female minors get under international declaration on human right and child protection.
They call for legal action to safeguard the physical genital integrity of male children.
Like I said, this article is a bit extreme in its position. It is authored by four men who feel very strongly about this issue. But the influence of the human right position is becoming stronger.
In Isreal, parental disagreement over whether to circumcise a male child has been removed from the jurisdiction of the rabbinical court into the regular family court system. Whereas, places like Australia have low rate of male circumcision, the U.S still has a considerably high rate of 60% according to this article. In the U.K, male circumcision are no longer covered by the NHS. In Germany, after a contentious case in Cologne, where a doctor was charged with criminal assault, for performing circumcision on a year old boy, legislation was passed to allow circumcision for boys up to 6 months of age.
I know that the criminalization of male circumcision is not something we are going to be worrying about in our jurisdiction anytime soon. I just thought this was interesting and something to consider especially for pregnant women who may choose to go and have their babies in a jurisdiction where attitudes to male circumcision are changing drastically, and may therefore find that they are unable to find a doctor to carry out the procedure.
For human rights and public reasons, there is unlikely going to be an outright criminalization of male circumcision even in jurisdictions where the practice is discouraged. I may be wrong.
Gregory J. Boyle, J. Steven Svoboda, Christopher P. Price, J. Neville Turner. Circumcision of Healthy Boys: criminal Assault? 7J Law Med301 (2000)
This article was gotten from page 16 of The Sunday Punch, 31st January 2016
Quote of the day:
Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
~ Malcolm S. Forbes