February 3, 2011 | 116 Comments
I caught a bit of flak for using the words ‘mutilation’ and ‘amputation’ in my previous post about circumcision. Commenter Fat Arse suggested that such language wasn’t the best way to sway people. He might be correct, but, nonetheless, I stand by those words. In fact, I’m about to double down.
Routine infant circumcision is child abuse.
Whatever information parents are acting on, whatever good intentions they have, when they consent to have part of their boy’s penis cut off, they are permitting child abuse. Taking a knife and excising a necessary, functional and useful portion of skin is child abuse. If it were any other body part, we would not turn away and deny the violence being perpetrated against the child.
It is often claimed that circumcision is analogous to vaccination, in terms of parental consent. If parents are allowed to vaccinate their child against disease, why are they not allowed to have their genitals mutilated? But this is a false comparison, a category error. Circumcision serves little, if any, function in disease prevention (remember, there have been no studies based in North America). It is cosmetic surgery. It is cosmetic surgery that, by design, reduces sexual function. Now, people like Barbara Kay may think this is boon to women, but in no other scenario do we allow parents or doctors to willfully harm the sexual organs and functions of children.
And routine infant circumcision has risks, serious risks. There is an increase in urinary track infections; there can be physical damage done (beyond the intended physical damage done) to the penis; there can be excessive bleeding, stroke, amputation and death. There are also all the standard complications that are associated with surgery. Circumcision might affect brain chemistry; it does interfere with breastfeeding.
Even if there are benefits – even if every man would prefer to be circumcised – there is no reason that such a decision should be made for men when they are days or minutes out of the womb. A man can be circumcised at any point in his life. Full restoration of the foreskin and sexual function of the penis can never be done. Allowing parents to choose circumcision for infants is allowing them to permanently remove options for men. And it is done at great risk, and with no reward.
Just as there is a movement afoot to outlaw routine infant male genital mutilation in the United States, so, too, should there be one in Canada. Cosmetic amputation performed on an infant should not be a choice that we allow parents to make. Anyone who takes a knife to child for a non-necessary procedure should be found a criminal.
We do not allow the routine genital mutilation of little girls, why do we not offer the same protection to little boys?