Sunday, January 14, 2007

Male Genital Mutilation on the NHS

In an article released earlier this week Edinburgh University's Professor Aziz Sheikh called, amongst other things, for male circumsision to be provided free on the NHS. Quite disturbingly he noted that a number of trusts ALREADY provide such a service.

This is something that i find atrocious on a number of levels. Most obviously as a secularist i think the NHS should be there to provide healthcare - to look after people's physical and mental well being - not to carry out religious ceremonies. Perhaps more significantly i think that the NHS trusts that are carrying out circumsisions are implicated in a gross violation of childrens rights. Although there may be some potential medical benefits from circumsision,(I believe similar arguments have been put forward about female genital mutilation),it is not, for most people, a medical operation. That is to say that for most people the potential medical risks of remaining uncircumsized do not justify the pain, the risk, and the loss of tissue/function involved in circumsision.

This is significant. If a child is at risk of physical harm then it might be reasonable for doctors to interfere with their body regardless of their lack of/inability to consent. This does not apply to Jewish/Muslim circumsision.There is no justification for deciding on behalf a child that he should experience pain and risk, and - for the duration of his life - sacrifice potential for sexual pleasure - simply because his parents believe that god said he should. An interesting comparison might be made here with Tattoos. Nobody is allowed to get a tattoo until they are 18 - regardless of parental consent. Tattoos may look silly and may be hard to remove but they do not involve removing a piece of the human body.They do not alter fundamental physical experiences. If people must wait until they're 18 to get inked then surely circumsision should be a matter for consenting adults.

Right now circumsisions are being carried out, with public money, on people who are not consenting adults . Unless we actively take a stand, we are all implicated in this gross violation of children's rights.



Louisefeminista said...


Have you a link for this press release?

marcuse said...

It is indeed worrying.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the problem is with circumcision, and most people I have met who have been circumcised (where we have discussed it!) have not expressed any problem about it. Also, I get the impression that generally it is preferrable to be circumcised as a very young infant than as an adult!

Also, if Muslims and Jews are getting their sons circumsised anyway, why not have it done professionally?

To be honest, I have no problem with it

AN said...

I read an intesting thing about this, apparently around 1950 the circumsission rates in the USA and Europe were about the same - sorta 40%, it being an scientifically unsuvstantiated fad.

But then the NHS decided it would not be availabl for free as standard for all children, and the US insurance coimpnaies decidd they woukd offer it for free as part of standard birth cover.
The result, nerly all white american males are concimsiced, and it is uncommon in Engalnd.

Indeed in some other European countries (Germany for example) it is almost unheard of except for the religious.

Reuben_the_communist said...

To respond to anonymous, it is not preferable that circumsision be done to an adult rather than a very young infant. In the case of Jewish circumsision - carried out on an 8 day old baby - the victim has not developed mechanisms for dampening down pain which adults have and so the pain is especially intense. Perhaps, more to the point, if you have a vague interest in human rights, it might concern you that while an adult can meaningfully consent a child cannot.

You state that jews and muslims are going to get it done anyway so the state should assist them in getting it done professionall. The fact is that they should not be getting it done at all - however professionally it is done, it is a gross violation of a childs rights. Any law establishing that circumsision was a matter for consenting adults would of cours be hard to enforce, but this a matter of principle - what is at stake here is a childs right not to have a part of their body chopped off - this, most people would agree, is something fundamental to their humanity.

I am very interested in what andy said about how circumsision rates in the US eruope diverged. It suggests that financing the chop on the NHS would simply help jews and muslims get it done safely but would actually increase its prevelance - something supporters of human rights should not be happy about.

AN said...

it is also worth saying, that I have discussed this with many Moslem friends of mine. The Islamic faith is actually quite pragmatic, and if juvenlile circumcission was made illegal (ad to be informed consent by an adult), then most british Moslems would probably simply abandon the practice.

AN said...

and surgically circumcisng a n aduly is ,much more likely to go wrong - in some rare occssioons boys do have the end of their knob chopped off.

AN said...

sorry i just wrote exactly the oppositw of what i intended to write.

I meant: "surgically circumcisng a a CHILD is ,much more likely to go wrong - in some rare occssioons boys do have the end of their knob chopped off.

Anonymous said...

Surely another argument to have it done by professionals AN?

My other worry is that getting too hysterical over this issue could maybe make you seem like a Daily Mail headline? . . . !

AN said...

well no - because professional surgeins also make mistakes, and as a rule only necessary surgical procedures shuold be undertaken for that very reason.

Reuben_the_communist said...

'getting too hysterical over this issue could maybe make you seem like a Daily Mail headline?'

What the fuck is this supposed to mean. The notion that i am getting hysterical over this issue implies that the issue is not in fact as serious enough to merit the manner in which i am talking about it. I have put forward a logical case that both refers to some of the physical implications of circumsision and the serious political iumplications - mainly that exposing children to having parts of their body ceremonially chopped off, regardless of their consent, dehumanises them. If you want to argue against this then do so - simply declaring that myeself/an are being hysterical is pointless.


Salman Shaheen said...

Reuben, I'm not sure Anonymous was accusing you of getting too hysterical. He/she may have been, but that wasn't my reading of it. Rather I saw Anonymous as urging caution on this issue. I agree with you, circumcision should be made illegal, but it's a fine line we tread and these arguments could equally be taken up by more dispicable camps, such as the Daily Mail and the BNP, as yet more ammunition with which to attack Jews and Muslims. One only needs to think about how the Kosher and Halal meats debate has been handled to see how a perfectly laudible cause (preventing cruelty to animals) can be turned into racist propaganda.

Matt Sellwood said...

I agree to an extent - religious operations should not be available for free on the NHS. Circumcision for medical reasons (and these do happen) should be free.


Anonymous said...

Salman Shaheen is correct in his interpretation of my comments, in the current climate this issue has to be approached cautiously - though like animal rights it is something personally I can't get very worked up about and not sure if I agree with Reuben - but I don't think he is being hysterical, just seemed (to me) a strange axe to grind with

On the subject of Halal - less cruel than British industrial production of meat, abbatoirs and slaughterhouses?