Problem

Routine sexual mutilation of males

Other Names:
Circumcision
Castration
Nature:
While circumcision may have some health benefits, the evidence does not warrant a call for routine circumcision. Circumcision carries pros and cons. It has been shown to reduce babies' urinary tract infections, and may help prevent penile cancer, a rare disease. On the other hand, many parents feel it inflicts unnecessary pain and in many countries circumcision is rarely performed.
Background:
Castrated males were recorded in Assyria 3000 years ago; causes were punishment and to produce eunuchs. The Italian practice of castrating boys to make them soprano singers was nominally ended only in 1878 by a papal order. A trade in castrated boys to be used in Muslim harems is believed to still exist.
Incidence:
The custom of castration is practised among the native peoples of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa and Australia. Skoptsy, a Russian religious sect, practice castration as a way of mortifying the flesh in order to gain salvation.

Circumcision is a common ritual practice in many traditional societies and often represents the achievement of a certain status. In North America and Israel the ablation of the foreskin is a regular procedure for all male newborns irrespective of any therapeutic indication; 400 babies are circumcised every hour in North America alone. Several Western countries have stopped routine neonatal circumcision and removed circumcision from the list of publically-funded procedures for which health benefits are available. In 1993, one such country, the UK, the circumcision rate has dropped to one half of one percent.

Claim:
Circumcision (along with any form of male sexual mutilation) is one of the insanities of religion based upon the ignorance and superstition of primitive man. Amputating the foreskin deprives the infant of a protective and sexually functional part of his body. It is also painful, and as a surgical procedure carries risks of complications, including bleeding, infection and mutilation. There is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn; the total helplessness of the newborn makes such an operation even more frightening and unbearable. When routine practice and cultural attitudes violate human rights, they must be abolished.
Counter Claim:
1. Circumcision is advisable for hygienic reasons, to make washing easier. It may also help prevent kidney- and urinary-tract infections, which can be quite dangerous. If done in infancy, it is a trivial, harmless operation.

2. In a US survey of 149 families, parents who did not have their sons circumcised were twice as likely to later reconsider their decision. Twenty-seven percent felt unsatisfied with their decision, compared with 14% of parents who opted for circumcision. Overall, 37% of parents felt they were not given enough information about circumcision, and parents who said no to the procedure were more likely to feel this way.

Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
16.02.2001 – 00:00 CET