American female circumcision boo-boo ignites calls for equal treatment

Midwives, Greens, media columnists, mothers ...

More voices call for boys to be protected from circumcision

In May 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics astonished the world by announcing a policy on female circumcision that accepted the right of parents to impose mild forms of genital cutting on girls, such as a “ritual nick” to the clitoris. The suggestion was dropped after massive protests, and reminders that even this would be illegal under United States law. But the first groups to raise objections were the American and British anti-circumcision organisations (Nocirc, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, Intact America, Norm-UK, etc). These bodies are critical of any genital mutilation of children, both male and female, but are generally regarded as being more concerned with male circumcision. It was only after they had taken the lead that the mainstream organisations concerned specifically with female genital mutilation (FGM) and the obstetrical colleges spoke up.

The unfolding of the affair can be followed at Circumstitions and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.

The policy has since been dumped, but its principal advocate, Dena Davis, a professor of law at Cleveland State University, argues that it is very difficult to maintain a blanket ban on all forms of FGM when the law in nearly all countries is completely silent on circumcision of boys - a far more damaging surgical intervention than a nick - and the practice remains common. As reported by the Economist, Ms Davis argues that “in America at least, it is not acceptable to criminalise all female genital cutting (FGC) while adopting a relaxed stance to the male sort. She suspects that by allowing male circumcision while forbidding even a symbolic cut on girls, Western countries show respect for only those religious and cultural practices with which they are already comfortable.”

Professor Davis and the question of equal protection

That may be so, but if Professor Davis is so concerned with gender equity and the rights of children, why did she not begin to even up the scales by reducing the risk to boys, by (for example) advocating a “ritual nick” on their penis in place of radical amputation of the foreskin? Giving boys a fraction of the protection already given to girls would do much more for both children’s rights and gender equity than reducing the protection given to girls. The fault here may well not lie with Davis, however, but with other, less ethically-minded, members of the AAP’s Bioethics Sub-Committee. In previous publications Davis has shown herself quite sensitive to the sufferings of circumcised boys and has warned that the American policy of a blanket ban on all forms of female genital cutting and open slather on all forms of circumcision (male genital cutting) contravenes at least two clauses of the United States Constitution: the First Amendment, which prohibits Congress from making laws to establish a religion or to prevent the free exercise of religion; and the Fourteenth Amendment, which gives all American citizens equal protection under the law. The former is invoked by Jewish citizens as a guarantee of their right to circumcise boys, but why should it not also be invoked by African or Muslim parents whose religion prescribes circumcision of girls? The right to equal protection has been deployed to ensure that women share the rights and protections enjoyed by men, but it also implies that men should share the rights and protections enjoyed by women.

Heard in Seattle maternity hospital

Obstetrician to Pregnant Woman: "If it's a boy, do you want him

Pregnant Woman: "Yes, and also if it's a girl."

Female circumcision will never stop as long as male circumcision is going on.

How do you expect to convince an African father to leave his daughter uncircumcised as long as you let him do it to his son?

Sami Aldeeb, To mutilate in the name of Jehovah or Allah

Davis also points out, in words echoed in the AAP’s 2010 FGC policy, that US laws on FGC prohibit “procedures significantly less substantial than newborn male circumcision”, including the ritual nick or scratch that doctors in Seattle proposed as a substitute for the full circumcision demanded by Somali parents. If the American public regard even a scratch on the vulva as unacceptably harmful, they must logically regard radical amputation of the entire foreskin (a substantial part of the juvenile penis) as far more harmful. Davis is perfectly aware and highly critical of these inconsistencies, and agrees with Doriane Coleman, author of a detailed study of the “Seattle Compromise”, that the proposed symbolic scratch was far less injurious that the average male circumcision:

If we compare the Seattle proposal to the unregulated practice of berit milah (ritual Jewish circumcision of newborn males), it appears that the latter involves more skin removed, with less likelihood of adequate pain control and no systematic reporting system for complications. The Seattle proposal was [as Coleman comments] ‘less injurious to the health, welfare and safety of girls than male circumcision is to the health, welfare and safety of boys’. The primary difference between the operation proposed in Seattle … and the one performed daily on newborn males in America is that the first is associated with ‘bizarre’ practices brought to America by strange people practising strange customs, while the other is a Western practice with which we are familiar.

Davis not only defends the ritual scratch as a reasonable compromise between the demands of the parents and the rights of the children to “an open future”, but also makes proposals to give boys some protection against routine circumcision, including greater regulation by the state, centralised collection of data on outcomes (including “complications”) and certification of ritual practitioners. These timid suggestions hardly go far enough, and the very first rule that a genuine bioethicist would like to see is that medical personnel be prohibited from asking new mothers if they would like their perfect baby boy circumcised: the practice is too like touting for business, and gives the impression that the circumcision decision is no more significant than deciding whether you want chips or salad with your steak. Still, in the American context the suggestions are a start, and undermine the claim of some critics that Davis has no interest in the welfare and happiness of boys. In accordance with her own philosophical principles, they too possess a “right to an open future”, which must include the right to decide whether or not to have a foreskin.


Dena Davis, Genital alteration of female minors, in David Benatar (ed), Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006)

----, Male and female genital mutilation: A collision course with the law?, Health Matrix: Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 11, 2001

----, Genetic Dilemas: Reproductive Technology, Parental Choices and Children’s Futures (London: Routledge, 2001)

Doriane Coleman, The Seattle compromise: Multicultural sensitivity and Americanization, Duke Law Journal, Vol. 47 (4), 1998, 717-783

AAP admits that male circumcision is harmful

The most bizarre aspect of the affair were the efforts of the American Academy of Pediatrics to justify their attempted change in policy by pointing out that the "ritual nick" to which there was  nearly universal objection was far less damaging than the average male circumcision, of which there was widespread acceptance. In its aborted FGM policy it stated "The ritual nick suggested by some pediatricians is ... much less extensive than routine newborn male genital cutting" (AAP FGC Policy, April 26, 2010); yet when it was forced to abandon the policy it stated: "This minimal pinprick is forbidden under federal law and the AAP does not recommend it to its members" (Retraction of AAP FGC Policy, May 27, 2010). How then can the AAP condone its members performing "routine [non-therapeutic] newborn male genital cutting"?

Ironically, the publicity generated by the affair has led to the raising of the very question that the circumcision diehards within the AAP wished to keep suppressed: if girls have total protection, why don't boys have any? The most positive effect of the affair has been to provoke a variety of new voices to speak up for gender equity and to argue that boys should also be given at least some protection against genital mutilation. In recent weeks British midwives, Australian Greens, a British columnist and an American mother have all argued that boys are entitled to protection from circumcision, just as much as girls from FGM.

See also the Open Letter published by Intact America in the Washington Post, criticising the American Academy of Pediatrics for its double standards and sexism when dealing so inconsistently with male and female genital cutting.

Analysis finds AAP motivated by non-medical considerations and political pressure


Robert Van Howe. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Female Genital Cutting: When National Organizations are Guided by Personal Agendas. Ethics and Medicine, Vol. 27 (3), Fall 2011.


ABSTRACT The Committee on Bioethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy on female circumcision on April 26, 2010 proclaiming that some forms of genital cutting in minor females were permissible, particularly nicking the clitoris. The policy was quickly met with opposition and “retired” by the Academy on May 27, 2010. This paper explores the changes in policy from the Academy’s 1998 position and the possible implications of the changes. It is argued that these changes were driven by the personal agendas of members of the Committee and of the author of the policy. The short-lived policy failed to recognize the basic human right to bodily integrity that applies to all humans, including infants and children, placing the Academy outside the mainstream of how ethicists currently view the rights of children.

Midwives condemn male genital mutilation


Female genital mutilation is a frequently discussed topic by midwives and policy-makers alike, but British midwife Ann Higson highlights the often-ignored subject of enforced circumcision of male children.

For some time now the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision has been a hot topic of conversation within midwifery circles. It is an unnecessary abuse inflicted onto children in order to control their sexuality and promote chastity. FGM is illegal in the UK. Male genital mutilation (MGM) or male circumcision has been largely ignored. It is an unnecessary abuse inflicted onto children in order that they may conform to religious or cultural beliefs. MGM is legal in the UK.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every man, woman and child should have equal rights without discrimination (United Nations, 1948). These rights should have meaning within our everyday lives and aim to protect all people from injustice. FGM is considered a violation of human rights by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2001). Their only concern regarding MGM is that local communities should make it freely available for neonates and children as research has shown that in countries where AIDS is rife, it can reduce transmission by up to 60% (Auvert, 2005).

Tobian et al (2009) found a significant reduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) in their circumcised group. HPV transmission during sexual intercourse can cause cervical cancer (Muñoz et al, 2003). These are impressive results and they will certainly give credence and support to parents who wish their children to be circumcised. However, children are not sexually active until they become aware of their sexuality. Delaying male circumcision until the child can make an informed choice would reduce violations of his human rights.

The British Medical Association (BMA, 2006) sit on the fence with this issue and can only recommend that MGM be carried out by a competent person and that consent is gained by both parents. They believe that it is up to society to put restraints on parental choices. However, they do conclude that parents do not have the right to demand that medical professionals carry out unnecessary surgical procedures on their children.

According to Glass (1999), Jewish law requires that male neonates undergo circumcision on the eighth day following their birth. This is generally carried out without any form of analgesia, although one Jewish mother told me that her son would be given a ‘taste of wine’ before the ceremony. The Koran does not require MGM, though it is generally accepted that Islamic males should be circumcised. This is seen as a rite of passage into the Islamic faith and is usually carried out before puberty (Adamec, 2007). Analgesia is used with children, but not neonates. FGM is seen by the Islamic faith in general as a ‘barbarous cultural practice that pre-dates Islam’ (Maqsood, 2008).

It has now been accepted that neonates are capable of feeling pain (Anand et al, 1987). Performing MGM on a neonate without analgesia can therefore be assumed to be a painful experience (Wellington and Rieder, 1993). Research has also shown that circumcised males show a higher behavioural pain score several months after MGM while undergoing vaccinations (Taddio et al, 1995). This suggests that male neonates are not only suffering physically but psychologically from this early painful stimuli.

Morbidity rates are estimated to range from 0.1% to 35%, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (2007). The most common complications are infection, haemorrhage and failure to remove enough foreskin (Kaplan, 1983). Rare complications include:

The mortality risk of MGM is 1:500,000 (AAFP, 2007).

Some countries have passed laws to stop non-medical individuals from performing MGM on infants, and in Australia, a few states have stopped the practice of non-therapeutic male circumcision in public hospitals. Put together, these two sanctions would both be needed to protect neonates within the UK.

Unless the act of performing MGM becomes a child abuse issue in the UK and therefore illegal, male children will continue to be denied their human rights. It seems unfair that girls are protected against FGM by law, while boys are left to suffer. Perhaps using the word ‘mutilation’ to describe female circumcision helped society to recognise the harm done to young girls by this practice? By penning the term ‘male genital mutilation’, a similar response could be hoped for, in order to find a solution to what is at present a very sensitive issue. 


American Academy of Family Physicians. (2007) Circumcision: position paper on neonatal circumcision. See: (accessed 16 April 2010).

Adamec CW. (2007) Islam: A historical companion. Tempus Publishing: Gloucestershire.

Anand KJS, et al. (1987) Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus. New England Journal of Medicine 317(21): 1321-9.

Auvert B, et al. (2005) RCT of male circumcision for reduction of HIV infection risk. PloS Medicine 2(11): 1112-22.

British Medical Association. (2006) The law and ethics of male circumcision: guidance for doctors.

Glass JM. (1999) Religious circumcision: a Jewish view. BJU International 83(1): 17-21.

Kaplan GW. (1983) Complications of circumcision. Urol Clin North Am 10: 543-9.

Maqsood RW. (2008) Need to know? Islam. Harper Collins: London.

Muñoz N, et al. (2003) Epidemiologic classification of human papillomavirus types associated with cervical cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 348: 518-27.

Taddio A, et al. (1995) Effect of neonatal circumcision on pain responses during vaccination in boys. The Lancet 345(8945): 291-2.

Tobian A, et al. (2009) Male circumcision for the prevention of HSV-2 and HPV infections and syphilis. New England Journal of Medicine 360(13): 1298-309.

United Nations. (1948) The universal declaration of human rights. See: (accessed 16 April 2010).

Wellington N, Rieder MJ. (1993) Attitudes and practices regarding analgesia for newborn circumcision. Pediatrics 92(4): 541-3.

WHO. (2001) FGM: integrating the prevention and the management of the health complications into the curricula of nursing and midwifery. WHO: Geneva.

Midwives Magazine (UK), June/July 2010

Australian Greens defend the rights of the child

Circumcision and the rights of children

by Laura Ealing

On May 28, it was reported that the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was considering allowing a certain form of female circumcision, involving “ritual nicks”. RANZCOG later said it was a misrepresentation, and that “anyone suspected of performing such genital mutilation should be reported to authorities”, the Sydney Morning Herald said the same day.

But if we reject all forms of female circumcision, why is it that male circumcision remains so acceptable?

Circumcision of girls often entails absolutely brutal practices, such as the total removal of the labia and the clitoris, particularly in Northern Africa — although many countries are trying to stop it. It often takes place without any anaesthetic and with non-sterilised instruments. It is not uncommon for girls to die due to infection, but for those who do survive, a lifetime of pain and suffering awaits them, as well as a loss of sexual sensitivity.

Such mutilation has rightly been decried as a terrible practice. Clearly these practices also entail a greater level of violence than male circumcision does. But at the other end of the extreme, female circumcision may involve nothing more than a superficial “nick”; this could be viewed as being less significant than the total removal of the foreskin in males. According to RANZCOG president, Dr Ted Weaver, “Child protection legislation is about stopping [such ‘nicking’] happening ... all of the states have legislated in this way so it is illegal in Australia”, the SMH said .

Tasmanian Commissioner for Children Paul Mason, has questioned whether it is actually legal — let alone ethical — to conduct male circumcision, a non-therapeutic procedure. In every other circumstance, Mason says, it is legally considered assault to perform a non-therapeutic surgery without consent. According to him, it should be banned, along with female circumcision and gender assignment operations on intersex infants, until the person in question is old enough to make an informed decision about their body.

Supporters of circumcision focus on hygiene and health concerns for uncircumcised boys. There is also credible evidence suggesting circumcision reduces the likelihood of transmitting diseases such as HIV/AIDS. We shouldn’t ignore this. But in Australia, should we be focusing our energies on getting boys circumcised, or just making sure that they use condoms? Condoms are ultimately substantially more reliable than the absence of a foreskin in preventing the spread of STDs.

Moreover, if the medical evidence is so solid, then why is it against hospital policy to perform non-therapeutic male circumcision in public hospitals in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia? Most leading medical associations across the world and in Australia agree that there is not enough medical evidence to support routine circumcision. Indeed, many studies suggest that, like most parts of the body, the foreskin may serve a purpose. Though disputed, studies have shown that the foreskin appears to be highly innervated and enhances sexual pleasure.

Perhaps reflecting a growing awareness of these factors, male circumcision is decreasing in Australia. In the 1970s, close to 90% of baby boys were circumcised. Today, it is just 12%. Despite this, the federal government continues to pay a medical benefit for the procedure! Taxpayers are paying parents money so that they can have their infant boys’ foreskins chopped off.

Historically, male circumcision has been a spiritual or religious ritual. Any moves to ban it would probably be interpreted as restricting religious freedom. But in a secular society we must base laws on a consistent set of values. We must consider the rights of children above the rights of parents to their religious expression. When it would be illegal to carry out any other non-therapeutic, invasive and irreversible surgery on a child, we need to ask ourselves why male circumcision has fallen through the gaps. This is not a value judgement about circumcision, or making all circumcisions per se illegal. This is about protecting children’s rights and giving them a choice in a matter that fundamentally affects their body.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute discussion paper on the law and ethics of non-therapeutic circumcision is available here.

Green Left, Sunday 6 June 2010

British columnist calls for boys to be protected from circumcision

It’s time to protect boys as well as girls from the barbaric practice of circumcision

by Christina Odone

Let the squeamish look away now: this blog post is about male and female circumcision, a subject that’s raising controversy again. Why is female circumcision abhorrent but male circumcision kosher?

I blame our cultural hypocrisy. The practice of female genital mutilation is widely embraced by African and Middle Eastern tribes (Muslim, Christian, animist alike) while male circumcision is a Judeao-Christian tradition widely practised in the Middle East but also in America. We associate the former with deepest darkest Africa, tribal violence and misogyny; while the latter speaks to us of Abrahamic and Puritan traditions and elderly men with flowing white beards, all of which we are much more comfortable with.

The World Health Organisation warns that three million girls are at risk each year of some kind of female genital cutting. In certain African countries (Somalia and Egypt) over 95 per cent of women have undergone some kind of circumcision. “Some kind” covers incisions ranging from a superficial cut of the clitoral prepuce, done under medical supervision, to the deep cut to the clitoris that a village woman will perform with a piece of broken glass. Defenders of the practice claim it is religious in nature – though you will have noticed that no Christian cleric in Europe has ever called for this barbarity. Critics counter that female circumcision is a patriarchal means of controlling women’s sexuality, as the operation is supposed to curb female sexual appetite and pleasure. Their claim is undermined by the lucrative industry that has sprung up in Beverly Hills (and elsewhere): Western women are going in for labioplasty, the de-hooding of the clitoris to lengthen and increase sexual pleasure.

Male circumcision affects about 750 million males, according to the WHO. As in female circumcision, the range of procedures ranges from the surgeon’s careful incision to the village imam or rabbi operating on the child without anaesthetic. Our forefathers cut the foreskin invoking religious reasons; but theirs too was a puritanical obsession: they believed it would stop masturbation, curb sexual pleasure, and reduce appetite. They were right, up to a point: the circumcised penis is less sensitive than the uncircumcised one, as an article in the BMJ recently revealed. Defenders of THIS practice claim it stems the spread of HIV and some sexually transmitted diseases – though sexual relationships are many years down the line for those infants being ritually (literally) abused.

Children of both sexes should be spared these barbaric practices. But while preventing female circumcision is a global political campaign, embraced by feminists of all faiths and none, no one seriously addresses the issue of male circumcision. Dena Davis, the legal consultant for the American Academy of Paediatrics, criticises this policy as nonsense. It reflects, as she told The Economist this week, cultural prejudice rather than medical knowledge.

It would seem that although we cannot understand cutting a little girl, we can watch someone cutting an infant boy’s foreskin, and feel we are not leaving our comfort zone.

Daily Telegraph (UK), 12 June 2010

There have been numerous comments on the article, including this one:

This female vs male circumcision argument is tiresome. The fact that some forms of female circumcision are worse than male circumcision is not an argument for the procedure. Cutting of a person’s entire leg is worse than cutting off their pinky toe but that doesn’t make cutting off a pink toe right. Cutting off a toe and a leg without consent are both equally a violation of a person’s human rights. This is the point. They are both wrong. Female and male circumcision both violate the child’s human rights.

The WHO says about FGM “It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.” Does anyone here think that boys and girls should have different rights? Does male circumcision not carry the risk of complications and death? Even when performed in the west by competent doctors?

It should also be noted that a huge reason why people have this misconception of FGM=bad and male circumcision=good is because they are looking at a surgery performed in the west vs a surgery performed in sub-Saharan Africa.

A quick Google search shows two articles just published this week about the “horrors” of male circumcision as well.

“Seven youths have died of botched circumcision in the past nine days, said departmental spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo. The health department was “extremely concerned” about the deaths and the high number of casualties involved, with 24 initiates in hospital, some of them since March. Last year alone, 91 initiates died and hundreds were hospitalised in the province.”

Another article: “Another youth has died at a circumcision school in Mthatha, bringing to nine the number of initiation-related deaths in the past ten days, the Eastern Cape health department said. “It is a traumatic experience to see a young boy losing his genitals in one day. Our nurses are finding it hard to deal with,” said spokesman Sizwe Kupelo. The latest death was on Monday.”

Another article that came out this week says: “Three Transkei boys have been admitted to Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital with gangrenous penises following illegal circumcisions, says the Eastern Cape health department. Kupelo said it had emerged that a 14-year-old arrested last week for performing illegal circumcisions on his age-mates, was responsible for previous botched operations that had already resulted in nine penis amputations.”

Hmm. Nine deaths in 10 days. Countless gangreen penises that have had to be amputated. Last summer alone over 90 boys died in under two months from being circumcised. When conditions are similar, so are the outcomes. Take a step back and try to picture for a moment that western countries had never started routinely circumcising infant boys. Now try to think what our reaction would be hearing these kinds of stories. We would be JUST as opposed to this being done to males as females. Do you think men with amputated penises have an easy time having sex or urinating or reproducing? Comparing the “horrors” of female circumcision in Africa to male circumcision in sterile hospitals by surgeons is like comparing the risks of brain surgery here to a brain surgery performed in a hut.

Both are wrong, both can have horrific life ending complications, and both should be illegal to perform on infants.

For further details of circumcision death and injury in South Africa, see the Africa page of this site and

An American mother decides not to circumcise

Everything about this pregnancy was different. My previous two pregnancies happened soon after we began “trying,” with two years between, as planned. This one happened soon after we began discussing preventing more pregnancies, six years after my second child was born. Despite it being my third, this was my smallest pregnancy - most people didn’t even realize I was pregnant until my third trimester. My two previous births were induced at a convenient mid-day time and lasted about 10 hours, with me succumbing to an epidural in both cases. This time I went into labor naturally, ignorantly waiting until 3 a.m. to leave for the hospital.

Since it seemed too late to call friends, we took the kids with us. I howled intermittently as my husband sped down Duke Street, the minivan hopping with each well-known dip in the road. In between contractions, I alternated between yelling at him to slow down and pleading with him to get there in time for an epidural before this thing happened. At 3:36 a.m., I leapt out of the car and ran into the hospital. I quickly pushed my bag through the scanner, buckling under another contraction while I asked the security guard if there was an anesthesiologist in the house. A woman arrived with a wheelchair, but I refused to sit down, begging her ineffectively to show me to the delivery room ASAP. We had to check-in first, during which I tried, in the diminishing spaces between contractions, to impart the desperate need for speed.

Given my obvious distress, I couldn’t understand why everyone was smiling, until I got to the delivery room, where - within minutes - my water broke and my doctor informed that the baby was crowning. Aligned with the romantic notions of nearly every mom, I had wanted a natural, drugless birth with my first child; but now I knew better, and I WANTED AN EPIDURAL! This sentiment only brought more smiles from the doctor and nurses. When they absolutely refused to let me give birth standing up (and to give me an epidural), I finally lay down and immediately gave birth at 4:01. “I guess we ought to buy some diapers now,” my husband said as we looked at the beautiful, bruised face of our newborn son.

The next day, our doctor asked if we wanted our son circumcised.

We took for granted that our first son would be circumcised like nearly every other American, consenting to the procedure before really thinking about it. This time we had talked about it but still hadn’t decided, though we leaned toward circumcision, if for no other reason than our two sons would look the same “down there.” Fortunately, our doctor called us on this “easy way out” and engaged us in the lengthy and informed discussion we needed.

The earliest circumcision record dates to about 2200 BC in Egypt, where it was a spiritual right of passage. It was later adopted by nearby Semitic peoples (including Jews and Muslims). According to Genesis, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his household as a covenant. The Greco-Roman courts considered circumcision evidence of Judaism, prompting many Jews to hide their circumcisions and even undergo surgeries to restore the appearance of being uncircumcised.

In the 1st century Jewish circumcision was thought to benefit health, cleanliness, and fertility, while reducing pleasure. It was recommended the procedure be performed as early as possible, as it was unlikely to be done by someone’s free will. During the Renaissance, non-Jewish Europeans did not practice male circumcision, and the Catholic Church ordered against it. Although other European countries considered arguments for circumcision unfounded, by the early 1900s English-speaking countries performed the procedure primarily for medical reasons, specifically cleanliness (Encyclopedia Britannica). Regarding religious reasons, the encyclopedia points the reader to “Mutilation” and “Deformation.” Indeed, most developed countries abhor the practice of ‘female circumcision’ (also originating in Ancient Egypt, though now performed mostly in Asia and Africa), primarily due to the lack of patient consent.

Currently the major medical societies in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not recommend routine non-therapeutic infant circumcision. Nonetheless, physicians in nearly half of neonatal circumcisions (2006, American Medical Association) “did not discuss the potential medical risks and benefits of elective circumcision prior to delivery. … Deferral of discussion until after birth, [and] the fact that many parents’ decisions about circumcision are preconceived, contribute to the high rate of elective circumcision.”

In a 1987 study, most American parents chose circumcision due to “concerns about the attitudes of peers and their sons’ self concept,” rather than medical reasons. Our doctor informed that circumcision had no proven medical benefits, except perhaps for a slightly lower HIV risk in third-world countries with high HIV incidence. Furthermore, an uncircumcised boy was no more difficult to clean, if simply cleaned in the same manner as a circumcised boy.

It should come as no surprise that we chose not to circumcise our second son, or that we chose without question to circumcise our first, for that matter. We feel fortunate to have made a conscientious decision this time, and glad for the objective doctor-patient discussion regarding circumcision that our society has apparently finally begun.

Melissa Rooney, The 2nd time around, The Durham News (North Carolina, USA), 16 June 2010

See also:

A circumcised father explains circumcision to his uncircumcised 10-year old son

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