Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bringing Muslims and Jews Together

Please excuse me for this, because I am certainly no authority on the subject of the male sexual organ. But something interesting has happened in Germany these past few days which is worth a little further examination. 

A Cologne court has ruled that circumcision of young boys can be considered bodily injury even when parents give their absolute consent

I have no idea what was going through the head of the judge. He was hearing a case of malpractice, so to speak. A doctor had botched a circumcision of a four year old, (ooo, fathers... have you ever had THAT nightmare?), and the parents were justifiably upset. The article says that the judge decided to "issue some clarity" regarding something which has been unclear in German law. Should a child's right to self-determination come before the religious views of its parents?

Next you must understand that aside from Jews and Muslims, the percentage of circumcised men is much less in Europe than in say, America where it is around 55%. On average, only 11% of Germans are circumcised.

OK, so there are health benefits. I understand that the transmission of AIDS, for example, is considered somewhat easier when men are uncut. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence to back up the health benefits talk. 

So why are the great majority of circumcisions in western society being performed? For religious reasons. Hmm... Decided by Mom and Dad before the kid is even self aware. Maybe the adult who will grow out of that kid would not choose to have this procedure performed. Maybe he would. But shouldn't that be determined by the individual when they are of age to make an informed decision?

Yeah, yeah, I get it. This has been performed as a religious ceremony for many centuries. But just because it was done in the past, does that necessarily mean that it should continue? I mean, when was the last time you had leeches attached to your body so as to drain out the "bad blood"? But this "medical procedure" was also performed for 2,000 years.  

Female circumcision is ALSO a religious ceremony. But throughout most of our society it is considered female genital mutilation. Why is male circumcision NOT considered mutilation? It removes sensitivity, just not AS MUCH as female circumcision. For that matter, how can we tell those performing female circumcision that what they are doing is wrong while we are doing something rather similar to many of our boys. Perhaps they are just doing things the way they've been done for centuries. 

The Jewish and Muslim communities in Germany have joined together in unity, calling for this ruling to be reversed because it is an infringement on the rights of their religious communities. But my head keeps responding to that with the question, what about the rights of the child?  

Let's say for the sake of argument that my religion/tradition dictates that my daughter should have her feet bound in the style of the Chinese? Would you call the police if you found me wrapping her feet, effectively crippling her for life? But that could be my culture's tradition. I have my rights. See? These black and white decisions get a little grey.

As you can see this subject actually just raises a bunch of questions for me. I have no idea what side to land on with this topic. It all ends up in even more questions circling my head.

Care to weigh in with your feelings?

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The Honourable Husband said...


This is a very important issue, and one which I feel very strongöly about.

First, I need to pick you up on a couple of factual items—one important, one not.

The unimportant one is that foot-binding is Chinese, and not Japanese.

The other is about HIV transmission. This is important.

I'm looking at the CDC web-page ( which discusses if routine circumcision might be a public health measure to cut down the incidence of transmission in the USA.

They acknowledge that most studies on this subject come from Africa—the incidence of transmission in populations at risk in developed countries is really too low to be conducted.

The African studies send very mixed signals. The CDC says that of the 35 studies conducted, only 16 showed a protective effect for circumcision—so the studies seem split 50/50. Many studies had a high drop-out rate.

Do the samples take into account cultural factors? Are circumcised men more likely to be religious, and therefore have fewer partners? Do they take into account the African urban legend that says a foreskin actually protects you from STDs?

Did they control for social class, an important factor in both personal hygiene and sexual behaviour? And does this also appply to the other studies which show increased STDs in the uncircumcised?

It's appealing for misandrists to make the argument that a guy's sexual bits are naturally icky, in the same way misogynists do of women's. (Eeeuw, gross! All that moist skin for germs to hide in, right?)

Well, soap and water go a long way to keeping your genitals uninflamed (and thus less prone to giving or receiving infections) if you're a guy. Would a simple public-hygiene campaign be equally effective to make the same marginal improvement in STD transmission rates that mass-circumcision would?

The belief that men should suffer physical injury without complaint is a misandrist trope in our culture. And the judge was right to make an obiter dictum about it.

Snooker said...

Howdy HH.
You are absolutely right. It is Chinese. Please forgive my sleepy brain this bit of silliness. I will fix that.

As for the AIDS transmission thing, the issue obviously isn't even slightly clear, more opaque.

Jul said...

Logically, I agree with the judge. Tradition and religion are poor justifications for unnecessary medical procedures on a baby.

But you asked for feelings. The fact that this is going down in Germany leaves me with a bit of an unpleasant feeling. But unpleasant feelings aren't really a good justification for allowing unnecessary medical procedures on a baby, are they? said...

Oddly enough, this is a topic I've felt quite passionate about for years. I think men should be left naturally as they are. To me, it's so appalling that in America, specifically, circumcision for non-religious reasons is so routine. I was actually really astonished, in a good way, to see Germany pass this legislation.

Goofball said...

I was shocked to find out only a few years ago by reading some American blogs that Christians circumcised their children. I had no clue, couldn't wrap my head around the reason why they'd do it.

Snooker said...

An update on this topic.
Berlin hospitals stop ritual circumcisions.

jenifa oadud Nitu said...
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