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.