Circumcision should be outlawed

Regarding the Aug. 31 Observer story “High hopes for victims of female genital mutilation“: This story reminded once again of the sad realization that there is no hope at all in the world for the many more victims of male genital mutilation. Male circumcision advocates might say there is no comparison since male circumcision, if done properly, neither robs adult men of sexual pleasure nor poses a significant health risk. But I say that arguing that removal of the prepuce does no significant harm is not an argument at all. Nor is the apology that it has a long and noble cultural heritage that places it above disrepute. That’s rubbish.

There are even some lunatics among us who argue that male circumcision should be universally mandated as a public health measure. What advocates of male circumcision ought to be telling us instead is how the procedure is not a mutilation to begin with, and how lack of consent by infantile subjects to a procedure carried out on an intimate body part can conscientiously be dismissed. Claims of health benefits are unconvincing and exaggerated.

The regional court in Cologne, Germany, was absolutely in the right when it ruled that “circumcising babies on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm” (“Circumcision is assault, court rules,” June 29, 2012). One might challenge the “grievousness” of it, but the accusation of assault is foolproof. Naturally, domestic and international pressure (“German circumcision ban slammed,” July 11, 2012) forced the German parliament to step in for the sake of the religious lobby (“German panel backs circumcision,” Aug. 25, 2012, “Germany OKs law on circumcision,” Dec. 14, 2012).

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is terrible and easily conjures more outrage than male genital mutilation. But the depravity of it means that people can’t see the forest for the trees. Outlawing genital mutilation means outlawing all of it, and anti-FGM workers would only gain credibility if they come out equally against male genital mutilation as well. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses, teachers, counselors, rabbis and parents involved in lining up young boys as sacrifices should themselves all be lined up for long prison sentences.

grant piper
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.