The rights and wrongs of circumcision come under scrutiny in the July issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. With a series of specially written essays ... Read more
Today the vast majority of Australian boys are not circumcised, and grow up happily with the bodies that nature gave them. Although circumcision was common from the 1920s to the 1960s, medical authorities have discouraged the practice since the 1970s, and it is now pretty much a thing of the past. Most parents want their boys to be as happy and healthy as possible, and they know that leaving their penis to develop naturally is the best way to secure these outcomes. The most recent statement (October 2010) from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians states clearly that routine circumcision of infants is not warranted in Australia or New Zealand.
Despite this, a few die-hard enthusiasts for circumcision keep popping up in the media, full of alarmist claims about the terrible risks of retaining the foreskin. This propaganda is contrary to the advice issued by responsible medical bodies and the warnings of bioethics and human rights advocates and is intended to confuse and mislead parents, and scare them into demanding circumcision for their boys. Most doctors are opposed to medically unnecessary circumcision of minors and will not perform the operation without genuine medical need (a rare situation). The fanatics have given up trying to influence responsible medical and scientific bodies; instead, they aim to use the popular media to frighten parents into putting pressure on doctors to agree to their demands.
Significant news items about circumcision from Australia and around the world
All medical authorities that have issued statements and policies on routine circumcision of children are opposed to the practice.
A simple guide for parents and expectant parents, covering frequently asked questions and advice of non-surgical treatment of minor foreskin problems.
Circumcision is not a simple snip without risk. Like all surgery it carries risks, and even when performed competently can cause injury and life-long harm.
Circumcision is more than a medical or health issue. Bodily integrity is recognized as a fundamental human right, basic to the autonomy of the individual.
A run-down on the diseases that have been supposed to make circumcision desirable or necessary.
Most societies that practise circumcision of boys as a religious or customary rite also practice circumcision of girls or women, also known as female genital mutilation.
Circumcision has always been a minority practice and the focus of intense debate and controversy. Here we consider some of the contentious issues.
Accurate facts and figures about the prevalence and incidence of circumcision in Australia - past, present, and future trends - and an explanation of what these terms mean.
Routine or preventive circumcision was a Victorian medical fad which should have gone out with neck-to-knee bathing costumes, blood-letting, frontal lobotomies, and the idea that children should be seen and not heard. The practice survived because it became deeply entrenched in the medical culture of English-speaking countries, and widely viewed as normal, or at least acceptable. Few people came to regard it with the same revulsion as they would look upon surgical alterations to the genitals of girls. As the original justifications for early circumcision were discredited, the fanatics kept coming up with new reasons for doing it: if it wasn’t to stop masturbation, it was to provide immunity against syphilis; if it wasn’t syphilis, it was cancer; if it wasn’t cancer, it was UTIs; if not UTIs, then surely the spectre of AIDS would be enough to frighten people into accepting the necessity for a lot of cutting.
Australia largely abandoned medically unnecessary circumcision in the 1980s, and did so with very little fuss, but in the late 1990s the issue suddenly became controversial. The main reason for this are the efforts of a few fanatical circumcision enthusiasts influenced by propaganda from the USA and other cultures where routine male circumcision is still common. They make strident, aggressive and implausible claims for the necessity of circumcision as a tactic against a number of diseases which have defied normal control strategies, particularly HIV-AIDS, and as a means of preventing trivial penis problems in infancy. Circumcision advocates attempt to exploit public fears of AIDS and cancer by demanding universal circumcision of male infants as a public health measure. They offer the feeble and misleading analogy that amputation is just like immunisation, and thus a harmless and effective medical intervention which should be made compulsory.
The main objective of this propaganda is to halt the decline of routine or medically unnecessary circumcision in the USA and revive the practice in Australia and Britain. A few opportunistic GPs and other practitioners also exploit these fears as a business strategy.
The aim of this website is to provide the public with information about circumcision in Australia and to keep it up to date with both local and international developments in research and understanding. It also aims to support Australian medical authorities, especially the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Association of Paediatric Surgeons, in their commendable efforts to protect boys from unnecessary interference with their genitals.
This site will bring facts, historical perspective, reason, ethics and human rights into the debate over the routine circumcision of normal male infants and boys.
Our logo is an engraving by the English poet William Blake – an illustration from his verse “The Gates of Paradise” (1793), with the title “Aged Ignorance”. The accompanying verse reads:
We believe that these words have a profound relevance to the attempts by medical reactionaries to keep the practice of routine circumcision of male infants and boys alive in Australia and other English speaking countries. They do embody aged ignorance; their manner is both holy and cold; the distress of boys who have been circumcised against their will is similar to the despair of those shut up in a dungeon; and the handing down of this cruel practice from wounded father to wounded son is a reminder that thoughtless habit or misguided “science” has the power to curb personal freedom and shut out the light of knowledge.Disclaimer
This site does not purport to provide medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice you should consult a properly qualified physician.
Material and information from this website may be reproduced elsewhere, provided that acknowledgement of the source is given and a link back to the original page provided. This condition applies to media reports.
This site last updated 26 November 2013
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