Why Allow Such Cruelty?

By Rex Jory © 2011
Read more from Jory at The Advertiser (AU)

It's got to be said somewhere in this article so let's get it out of the way: I have been circumcised.

There. One of my most intimate secrets, shared with a precious few, is out.

I don't feel angry, distressed, traumatised, inconvenienced, betrayed or deprived because, as an infant, I had skin trimmed from my willy. It has never troubled me, physically or psychologically, either as a child or an adult. I'm sure my parents authorised the operation with the best of non-religious intentions. Perhaps I have benefited, perhaps I've been deprived. How can I know?

For the uncertain, the Concise Oxford Dictionary says: "Circumcise. Cut off foreskin of (as Jewish or Mohammedan rite, or surgically); purify."

If you consider male circumcision clinically and unemotionally it is hard to argue that it is not a cruel, unnecessary, unethical and painful process and a barbaric denial of basic human rights. Laws safeguard females against genital mutilation yet boys are given no parallel protection against unnecessary and possibly unwanted surgical intervention. Why the inequity? Surely the human rights of boys are as important as they are for girls. Yet there is no pressure, no call for an absolute, non-consensual ban on male circumcision. It is assent by silence.

Australian governments have an obligation under the Sex Discrimination Act and the International Convention of Human Rights to treat males and females equally and without discrimination on the basis of gender and to take action to eradicate traditional practices harmful to children. Curiously, this apparently does not fully embrace male circumcision.

John Stuart Mill wrote: "The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others." The circumcision of a defenceless infant may not, technically, be against his will, but it is clearly carried out without his consent and hardly prevents harm to others.

The Australian Human Rights Commission argues that every person has inherent dignity and value and must be able to live without fear, harassment or discrimination. Removing part of an infant's penis has to be a gross violation of personal dignity and basic human rights. If the same thing happened to a non-consenting adult male there would be a public outcry.

In a civilised society parents and other authority figures including teachers and police cannot physically punish or harm children. It is against the law. Yet parents have the power and right to allow their sons to be circumcised and doctors have the right to carry out the operation free from fear of discipline or punishment.

It is one thing for an adult to consent to self-mutilation by being tattooed or having metal rings or pins inserted in their body. It is quite another to mutilate an infant. Parental consent is apparently a legal loophole, yet any reasonable assessment would class circumcision as assault.

The reasons for circumcision embrace four categories: Religious or cultural, as in Judaism, Islam and some tribal societies; custom or social - to look like father or siblings; to correct a deformity or other medical problem; or to reduce the real or imagined risk of health problems.

The majority of circumcisions [in Australia] are performed for religious purposes - and this alone may justify the current ambiguity in law - or for reasons of appearance and social conformity. They are rarely medically or clinically necessary.

Yet governments don't appear to have the will to apply legislative protection for small boys to prevent the parents from seeking circumcision or doctors from carrying out the operation.

There is a strong argument to suggest that the medical risks and the violation of human rights and personal integrity should stir the consciences of our legislators. Instead they prefer assent by silence.

Join the G'Day! Facebook page of those raising awareness in Australia. 

Resources on the prepuce, intact care and circumcision at Are You Fully Informed?


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