Saturday, June 2, 2012

Parents choosing to circumcise

A normal argument from parents choosing to circumcise is: "It's my decision, it's my right as a parent".

Legally it is your right. Is it ethically?

  • Let's say your baby dies. 1 baby in approximately 25,000 dies after circumcision. Will you be able to live with it? It was your decision.
  • Let's say that your baby loses his penis or his glans after circumcision. It's again a small risk, but it happens. Will you be able to explain to him that it was your decision?
  • Let's say that your baby's penis ends up being disfigured by the procedure. Botched circumcisions are more common, some say 1 in 10. He might not notice it until he's an adult. Will you be able to explain that this was the consequence of your decision?
  •  Let's say your baby's circumcision was successful, and as an adult he discovers that erections are painful. Are you willing to discover that it's a consequence of your decision?
  • Even if everything goes right and he doesn't suffer any noticeable consequence, your son may one day tell you that he wishes his body was intact. What will you answer to that?

Circumcision has been culturally considered something that the parents have the right to choose. And sometimes are pressured into doing. Sometimes understanding a cultural bias is difficult from within the culture, so let's look at practices from other cultures:

Today, right now, in Egypt and other African countries, parents believe it is their right to have their DAUGHTERS go by a "beautification" procedure when they are minors. While the details vary from area to area, in general the procedure is as follows: the girls minor labia are removed, the clitoris and the hood are removed, and the major labia are sewn together leaving only a small opening for urine and menstruation. Some girls die; some get infections; most won't be able to enjoy sex in their lives. When they marry, their husband cuts open the stitches of the vulva in order to have sex with his wife. Women are often sewn again after giving birth so the man can cut them open again later.

The core belief is that an intact woman will run looking for males to have sex with and so she will not be worth of marrying. "Beautifying" (otherwise known as female circumcision or female genital mutilation) will save the dignity of the family.

Does this sound barbaric? Of course, because it's outside of what you have learned to do. Does it sound worse than male circumcision? If you consider the babies that die or that completely lose their penis, maybe it's not so different.

When someone criticizes these cultures for doing these procedures, the defense tends to be similar to that of American mothers who choose to circumcise their sons: "it's my right, it's my belief".

The U.S. only outlawed FGM in 1996. During the 50's it was still practiced among some Caucasian groups. There are white women alive today in the United States who were circumcised when they were little girls. Some only found out they had been circumcised when they were already in their fifties, as their parents never told them what had happened.

Some recommended resources:

Botched circumcisions:

Reasons not to circumcise:

Ask Dr. Sears:

The painful dilemma:

Loss of penis:

What is lost by circumcision:


Death from circumcision:

To see this cultural comparison: Designer Vaginas: and

And FGM in the USA today: and

Female circumcision comes to the USA:

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