Friday, June 10, 2011

Circumcision, Female genital mutilation and Abortion

This is getting weirder.  The progressive San Francisco residents are to vote on a measure to make it a misdemeanor to perform circumcision on a male under the age of 18 within the city. Anyone who ignored the ban would face a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

CBS News reported that:
Circumcision should be outlawed because "it's excruciatingly painful and permanently damaging surgery that's forced on men when they're at their weakest and most vulnerable," a leading proponent of the ban, 59-year-old Lloyd Schofeld, told Reuters.

Since circumcision is a ritual practice for Jews and Muslims, some legal experts say such a ban might prove an unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom, Time reported. But others say religions don't get a "free pass."
People argue against male circumcision like to link it to the female genital mutilation which is more universally condemned in the US.

However, I cannot see male circumcision as on the same level as female genital mutilation, because there are some benefits, however small, of male circumcision in preventing STD and HIV infection, while female genital mutilation does not offer any such benefits and the purpose of female genital mutilation was male control, rather than a covenants between men and creators.

According to World Health Organization (WHO),

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. Increasingly, however, FGM is being performed by health care providers.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. 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.

CBS continued that
The American Academy of Pediatricians says the procedure cuts both ways. In its official policy statement on circumcision - issued in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005 - the academy said the procedure has potential health benefits, including reduced risk bladder infections and transmission of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases.

But the academy said there were potential downsides to the procedure, pointing to anecdotal reports that circumcision can reduce men's sexual sensation and clear evidence that it can be painful and lead to complications like bleeding and infections - and in rare instances, to partial or complete amputation of the penis.

Given the pros and cons, the academy says "the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being" and that "parents should determine what is in the best interest of the child." reported that "Jewish groups are objecting to the fact that ritual circumcision of men under the age of 18 would be made illegal, despite the fact that it is, in the words of these San Francisco-area Jewish organizations, "of fundamental importance in the Jewish tradition." Male circumcision is also an important practice in Islam, although it is not compulsory."

Because of the inconclusiveness regarding the benefits of male circumcision and because of the cultural and religious tradition which doesn't involve the repression of a group people, it is hard to argue that government needs to step in the decide for caring parents.

In fact, the arguments the proponents of the male circumcision ban employed were very similar to those abortion opponents.

It is hard to believe that the very progressive San Franciscans would approve government to tell women that they should not have abortion, yet, many of them are poised to enforce a similar ban in the very spirit.

CBS News Image

1 comment:

  1. The Parellels of Female and Male Genital Mutilation

    Female and male circumcision are more comparable than some people think. Firstly, both female and male genital mutilation began as a practice to harm the sexuality of children, for sexual morality or purity reasons. Circumcision in the US as we know it today started in the Victorian sex-hating time period, and was done with the intentio of causing so much pain to the adolescent (in both males and females) that it would deter them from masturbating. In the late 1800s it was known as fact that male circumcision caused sexual harm, but today that fact is often refuted.
    “1860: .001% of the North Eastern urban American male population circumcised
    In cases of masturbation we must, I believe, break the habit by inducing such a condition of the parts as will cause too much local suffering to allow of the practice being continued. For this purpose, if the prepuce is long, we may circumcise the male patient with present and probably with future advantage; the operation, too, should not be performed under chloroform, so that the pain experienced may be associated with the habit we wish to eradicate.
    [Athol A.W. Johnson. On An Injurious Habit Occasionally Met with in Infancy and Early Childhood. Lancet 1860;1:344-345.]”

    “1888: 15% of the North Eastern urban American male population circumcised
    A remedy [for masturbation] which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision...The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anaesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment...
    [John Harvey Kellogg. Plain Facts for Old and Young. Burlington, Iowa: F. Segner & Co. 1888:295.]
    In consequence of circumcision the epithelial covering of the glans becomes dry, hard, less liable to excoriation and inflammation, and less pervious to venereal viruses. The sensibility of the glans is diminished, but not sufficiently to interfere with the copulative function of the organ or to constitute an objection...It is well authenticated that the a fruitful cause of the habit of masturbation in children... I conclude that the foreskin is detrimental to health, and that circumcision is a wise measure of hygiene.
    [Jefferson C. Crossland. The Hygiene of Circumcision. New York Medical Journal 1891;53:484-485]”

    In addition, countries where female circumcision is done under unhygienic conditions, male circumcision is too (broken glass, no anaesthesia, etc). Many boys die each year in Africa from tribal circumcisions – twenty young men died this year in just one province of South Africa. In some countries though female circumcision only involves the removal of the clitoral hood – the anatomical equivalent of the foreskin – and is done to babies in sterile conditions, even with pain relief. Check out how it’s done in Egypt, Malysia or Brunei, for example. Circumcised women choose to have their daughters circumcised, citing how it’s cleaner, good sexually, reduces secretions and smegma and is generally hygienic, and also mentioning studies showing circumcised women have lower infection rates. Basically the same reasons that people use to defend male circumcision. It’s just a cultural difference. Yet, here in America, all forms of female genital mutilaiton of minors done for cosmetic, hygeine, cultural/religious reasons, even if done in a doctors office under anesthetic, is illegal and labeled "mutilation" but when done to boys, even with no valid medical reason and purely for cosmetic or cultural or religious reasons, it is "circumcision."