Dr Ranj Singh is angry! He believes that baby boys shouldn’t have their foreskin removed until they are of an age old enough to consent. He even goes as far as to call childhood circumcision male genital mutilation. Do you agree with Ranj? Read on and let us know!
This week is FGM (female genital mutilation) Prevention Week – a campaign aimed at ending an abhorrent, abusive practice that affects countless women and girls across the world. Let me be clear, this horrible ‘tradition’ is unacceptable and we need to do everything we can to end it, and help sufferers and those at risk.
However, as important as that issue is, I can’t help but ask myself: why then are we willing to accept that non-medical circumcision of male children is somehow OK?
It seems like the ultimate form of gender-based discrimination. That, somehow, boys’ bodies are less important than girls. I hate to think that in this day and age, we still allow it to happen. But it does, across the globe.
Most of us will (quite rightly) agree that cutting off part of a girl’s genital anatomy without her consent is abuse. In fact, it’s far more than that, but I don’t have time to go into all the issues involved – but they are important.
However, for some reason, many people think that cutting off part of a boy’s penis is perfectly acceptable. I just can’t reconcile that. It’s not like we’re piercing children’s ears here. Yes, there are sometimes medical reasons for male circumcision (one example being a condition called phimosis where the foreskin is too tight and causes problems). However, non-medical circumcision, which includes all forms of ritual, religious or cultural circumcision, is simply not necessary. More than that, some might even consider it abusive.
Non-medical circumcision is carried out for a number of reasons. It may be part of someone’s religion or faith (e.g. Islam and Judaism). It may be a cultural practice, for instance it’s more common in the USA. It may be because it’s just become the norm for that family. I know of several fathers who want their sons to be ‘just like them’.
But when a parent asks where they can get their baby boy circumcised, it makes my heart sink. Childhood circumcision is an often unnecessary, non-reversible, surgical procedure on the genitals of a child that has lifelong implications. To top it off, it is done without the consent of the individual involved.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against an individual consenting to the procedure. This would involve being of a certain age, understanding the benefits and risks, and making an informed choice. Yet the truth is that we don’t offer that choice to the majority of people who undergo it.
Why is it necessary to perform it on infants who have no say in the matter, rather than wait until an age when they can decide for themselves. I recognise that sometimes it is medically necessary, and that there is some research to suggest that it may reduce the risk of passing on certain sexually-transmitted diseases or developing certain cancers. But again, that isn’t necessarily relevant to children or the male population as a whole.
Even more worrying, is that it’s not as harmless as some people may think. I’ve seen cases where it has gone horribly wrong leading to permanent disfigurement. I’ve seen instances where babies have almost bled to death, or even worse, died because of severe infections as a result. However, some of my medical colleagues will still justify it.
And for those people who may question what the big fuss is about, ask why being ‘cut’ or ‘uncut’ is even an issue amongst certain groups. There’s a reason certain hook-up apps ask about it. It’s not just about appearance or preference. It’s part of a person’s sexual identity. It’s not just a redundant bit of skin, but part of a sexual organ. There are whole movements of men internationally who feel like they have been mutilated, and it has affected them psychologically and socially, as well as the obvious physical results. They would agree that this practice is totally uncalled for and socially unjust.
I think it’s about time we had some serious debate around this issue. Why do we refer to FGM as unacceptable, but are willing to tolerate ‘MGM’? This is not about ritual and religion now, but about the rights of the male child. It’s about the right to exercise choice over your body and your sexual identity – something that all children should have, regardless of whether they are male or female.
We want to know what YOU think.
Wow, controversial stuff, eh? What do you think? Were you been circumcised as a child? Do you think it’s an abuse? Do you think it is something that should take place when you are older so you can consent.