Thanks to all those who attended, talked to us, took photos, hooted support, took videos, kept us in order, fed and watered us.
Thanks to all those who attended, talked to us, took photos, hooted support, took videos, kept us in order, fed and watered us.
Join Men Do Complain for a vigil outside the German Embassy to mark the anniversary of the Cologne Ruling concerning the circumcision of a small boy. The Court in Cologne decided that;
“There was no consent by the child, who was four years old at the time, and since the child was not old enough to understand the situation, there was no question of such consent being given. There was consent by the parents, but this was not capable of justifying the commission of the elements of bodily harm.”
Sadly the cutting of children’s genitals continues despite this enlightened ruling.
We will be standing from 10:00 to 16:00. The address is 23 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PZ.
The message is “Children’s rights not parents’ rites”. T-shirts and placards will be available on the day. There will also be an opportunity to engage the public and encourage them to sign our petition for the law that protects females from genital cutting to be made gender neutral.
The BBC’s “Casualty” (13/04/2013) tackled the subject of female circumcision. The motives of the programme makers were laudable. Men Do Complain is in favour of the cessation of forced or coerced genital cutting of children or any other vulnerable group. The encouraging thing about this programme is that the silence is broken about a subject that has been in the past largely ignored.
The question is when will the BBC and other organisations pluck up the courage to recognise that boys are also admitted to casualty departments after circumcision? The writers of “Casualty” should have no difficulty in finding research material on which to base such a story. Birmingham hospitals have revealed, following a freedom of information request, that two boys a week are being admitted as casualties and one boy a month comes close to death after male circumcision.
Society through the media should be helped to understand that non-therapeutic genital modification harms all children subjected to such treatment. All mutilated children have to live with the frustration of knowing that their sexual health has been compromised and all face similar risks following any unnecessary cut through the full thickness of the skin. All children should be afforded equal protection from what is essentially an assault.
Dear Mr Dobson,
I am writing to you today to remind you that on Human Rights Day 21st of March an unknown number of British baby boys and male children will have their normal healthy genitals cut without their informed consent, forever altering and potentially diminishing their lives.
The anachronistic practice of male circumcision breaches the human rights of males in several respects.
Article 2 – Right to Life
Recently baby Goodluck Caubergs bled to death after a negligently performed circumcision. The nurse who circumcised him was not tried on human rights grounds but was found guilty of Goodluck’s manslaughter following a wholly unnecessary operation.
Article 3 – Prohibition of Torture
There is good evidence that stress hormone levels in children being circumcised reach levels equal to the levels seen in victims of torture.
Article 8 – Right to Respect for Private and Family Life
It is difficult to see how a practice that casually discards a section of a boy’s private parts without his consent and without a medical imperative can be respectful of that boy’s private life.
Article 9 – Freedom of Thought Conscience and Religion
This right is a qualified right in that one person’s right cannot be used to override another person’s right to freedom of religion; an adult may not override a child’s right, no matter that they are that child’s parent. What if the child being circumcised chooses, when they are capable, a religion such as Sikhism? A central tenet of Sikhs is the perfection of the body that God made.
Please take note of Human Rights Day and let us try to make the world and this country in particular a safer place for children to grow up in. As the Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras I expect that you consider it your obligation to represent the rights of all constituents including those not yet able to vote nor indeed able to give their consent to genital modification.
Good news from Australia. A group of diseases often cited by proponents of circumcision as justification for that procedure can be prevented by the vaccine that protects from human papillomavirus. It is therefore logical, and of course, less invasive, for both sexes to be vaccinated against HPV to prevent such diseases.
A recent edition of The British Medical Journal contains a report that Australia is to routinely vaccinate boys and girls with benefits for both sexes.
“The move sees Australia become the first country in the world to publicly fund HPV vaccination for boys in a bid to protect against genital warts and anal, penile and throat cancers.
Starting this month, boys and girls alike in Australia will receive three doses of the quadrivalent vaccine Gardasil at ages 12-13, as part of a national, federally funded school based programme. A catch-up scheme will also run for 14-15 year old boys until the end of the school year in 2014.”
We can only hope that the British Government will allow the National Health Service to follow this enlightened policy instead of wasting taxpayers’ money on unnecessary circumcisions.
The photograph above was taken as part of a project for Intact America, the brief was to “find a photo of yourself as a baby and photograph yourself with the picture next to your face so that both can be seen”.
I asked my Mum if there were any pictures of me as a baby that had survived; to my surprise she said that there were pictures of me taken approximately eight days after my birth on the 6th of November 1949. My mother’s interview, below, indicates that I was circumcised the day before the picture was taken which would have been Sunday 13th November 1949.
1949 was also the year in which a landmark paper was published in the British Medical Journal on the 24th of December. The first paragraph of “The fate of the foreskin” by Douglas Gairdner contains this statement.
“It is a curious fact that one of the operations most commonly performed in this country is also accorded the least critical consideration. In order to decide whether a child’s foreskin should be ablated the normal anatomy and function of the structure at different ages should be understood; the danger of conserving the foreskin must then be weighed against the hazards of the operation, the mortality and after-effects of which must be known. Though tens of thousands of infants are circumcised each year in this country, nowhere are these essential data assembled. The intention of this paper is to marshal the facts required by those concerned with deciding the fate of the child’s foreskin.”
That is laudable aim. Sadly as the years have passed any evidence that brings the ancient practice of male circumcision into disrepute has been sidelined and ignored by the media, medical establishment, community leaders and politicians. A look at what Gairdner hoped would be studied and evaluated reveals a sorry picture.
Anatomy and function.
The anatomy of the foreskin is taught in medical schools in the U.K. however the function of the foreskin and it’s role in the sex act is almost completely ignored. Sex educators in U.K. secondary schools ignore the anatomy of the foreskin completely and never mention the foreskin’s role in the sex act; it would take a brave teacher to raise the subject.
Danger of conserving the foreskin.
The British Medical Association in their guidelines on male circumcision says:
“In the past, circumcision of boys has been considered to be either medically or socially beneficial or, at least, neutral. The general perception has been that no significant harm was caused to the child and therefore with appropriate consent it could be carried out. The medical benefits previously claimed, however, have not been convincingly proven, and it is now widely accepted, including by the B.M.A, that this surgical procedure has medical and psychological risks.”
This quote indicates that the B.M.A. believes there are no benefits. The section also fails to point to a single danger of conserving the foreskin, there is no cohort of men suffering from an intact foreskin.
There are deaths as the recent case in Manchester illustrates. Death is one end of a spectrum of harm that is glossed over by the authorities. The moment that a doctor, or anyone else for that matter, takes a scalpel and cuts a child who has no disease there is harm being done. The basic principle of medical ethics “do no harm” is ignored every time a doctor performs a non-therapeutic circumcision on a person who cannot consent.
After effects – psychological risks.
I have no conscious memory of my circumcision, though I feel there is a legacy left in my brain. I am not subject to fears or phobias yet I have an absolutely visceral dislike or dread of buttons and it’s most intense manifestation is white buttons on a bright white background. Is this a lingering image of the buttons on the nurse’s uniform as she restrained me during the procedure?
Far fetched? Perhaps not; observations of premature infants in neonatal units who are subjected to several heel pricks for the purpose of obtaining blood samples are seen to be more susceptible to experiencing subsequent pain. If so, that would imply the functioning of memory at a very early age.
Work with babies by Dr Bruce Perry has shown that babies can recognise their mother’s face within a day of a full term birth. This could mean that I might have been able to form an image at the distance between my face and a uniform.
Taddio et al in their paper “Effect Of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Response
During Subsequent Routine Vaccination”  report that:
“This study showed that neonatal circumcision in male infants is associated with increased pain response in vaccination 4-6 months after surgery. The results support our previous finding of a higher pain response in circumcised than uncircumcised male infants during routine vaccination.”
The researchers then went on to say,
“It is, therefore, possible that the greater vaccination response in the infants circumcised without anaesthesia may represent an infant analogue of a post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by a traumatic and painful event and re-experienced under similar circumstances of pain during vaccination.”
This could point to post traumatic stress disorder as the source of my morbid fear. In the
” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” the factors that would indicate a diagnosis of PTSD make interesting reading;
1. Exposure to a traumatic event.
As circumcision is used as a model for the study of pain in infants it is fair to say circumcision is a traumatic event.
2. Persistent re-experiencing.
Dreams, flash backs or “intense negative psychological or physiological response to any objective or subjective reminder of the traumatic event.”
3. Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing.
Many circumcised men avoid talking about the subject of circumcision. No one knows how many men feel about their circumcision status though there is some evidence that at least 15% of men circumcised without their consent are unhappy with their status .
4. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before.
These might be sleep difficulties, anger, inability to concentrate, hyper vigilance and an increased startle response.
5. Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month.
6. Significant impairment.
The degree to which men’s abilities to function emotionally are affected by circumcision without their consent is unknown. Anecdotally this site and others report a significant number of men whose emotional lives have been adversely affected by circumcision.
I can fit aspects of my behaviour and experience into the categories outlined above. Whether or not I am affected by an “infant analogue of post traumatic stress disorder” is open to question, however there is clearly an area of the “after-effects” that Gairdner said should be known before ablating the child’s foreskin that needs further study.
After effects – physical and functional.
With the work that has been done in neurology, physiology and anatomy it is quite easy to justify the statement that, a man circumcised before puberty will never know what the sex act should feel like. Sadly someone such as myself does not have the necessary nerves, blood vessels and skin for the complete experience.
At a population level there is work that has been done that shows there are physical and functional after effects from circumcision.
Tim Hammond’s (pictured right) survey of circumcision harm is an excellent starting point for anyone who thinks circumcision is just a little snip with a minimal downside. I warn you that the images on Tim’s site are likely to shock and educate.
The study “Male circumcision in Denmark – implications for sexual function in men and women” Morten Frisch (a reference to this will follow) shows a marked increase in orgasm difficulties in both partners where the man is circumcised.
It is important to bear in mind that if a man grows up with a foreskin that does not develop normally and is uncomfortable or painful during sex or masturbation then he may well be better off with a circumcision but it should be his informed choice having been offered all the options for conservative treatment.
Human rights was in it’s infancy when Gairdner’s paper was published, though, were he writing today, I feel he would have not been blind to the issues that the non-therapeutic circumcision of children raises. Medical ethics have been around for a long time and should be adhered to, “do no harm”.
The victims of circumcision without consent are ignored and ridiculed for wanting to see an end to the practice. I have been told to move on, get over it, pull my socks up and a variety of other such phrases. So here I am sixty three years later a victim turned activist; the path to activism is my way of getting something positive out of a very complex emotional situation. I think that the baby I am looking at in the picture has already forgotten the physical pain, and apart from urinating onto an open wound which must be distressing looks relatively happy. It is the man that the baby has become who will never forget, or be able to ignore the events surrounding his birth. Men should demand that future generations are protected from what is evidently a harmful practice.
Clitoraid an organisation against the circumcision of girls has denounced the widespread practice of male circumcision. Men Do Complain is delighted to reprodcuce their web page below.
“Bodily harm is against the fundamental rights of all children, and we can’t understand when a so-called civilized country such as Germany would allow its male babies to be so readily mutilated legally!” said Nadine Gary, spokesperson for Clitoraid. She was referring to male circumcision, typically performed on male infants who have no say in the matter.
Clitoraid (clitoraid.org) is the international, non-profit organization founded by Rael, spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement (rael.org), to end Female Genital Mutilation by offering free clitoral repair surgery to victims of this barbaric act. Now the organization is urging a worldwide end to genital mutilation of male children as well.
“On Nov. 28, the United Nations passed a resolution that condemns all cultural and religious arguments in favor of FGM because the act constitutes a gross violates of children rights,” Gary said. “But how can the U.N. ban Female Genital Mutilation and not denounce Male Genital Mutilation as well? Is it exempting certain religions from respecting the fundamental right of baby boys?”
Gary said that according to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of males worldwide are circumcised.
“This means billions of people have been mutilated without their consent,” Gary said.
Brigitte Boisselier, Ph.D., head of Clitoraid, affirmed that mutilation of any baby or child in the name of a god is unacceptable.
“It’s been done for centuries under the pretense that a god requested it, but no religion should be allowed to harm infants or children who can’t give informed consent,” she said. “We’re setting up a hospital in Africa that’s due to open next year, where female victims can go to have genital repair surgery for free. “And, thanks to Clitoraid, thousands more can find relief at several clinics in North America. But we’ve also been getting e-mail from hundreds of circumcised men who want to have their own mutilation undone. They need help too! So, as Rael has repeatedly stated, it’s urgent to have all the old scriptures reviewed by an independent committee on human rights so that all religious group practices are in agreement with the Declaration of Human Rights.”
Men Do Complain is supported by women and we are grateful to all who see that children’s rights to autonomy and freedom of religion should be equal for all regardless of gender, race or parental beliefs.
Iris Fudge one of MDC’s female supporters has attended many of our demonstrations; in the picture on the left she is at our “Happy anniversary” protest in August 2011.
Iris is consistently polite, forceful and informative in her interactions with the public.
Iris is interviewed by James Loewen. Click on the photo to watch the interview.
No one has ever been prosecuted under the FGM legislation.
Almost all cultures that practice the genital cutting of children cut both sexes. Female circumcision will continue as long as society tolerates male circumcision.
Female circumcision and male circumcision are always compared selectively. The very worst form of female circumcision is selected and contrasted with “normal” male circumcision. Females are protected by law from even a ritual pinprick that removes no tissue and quite right too. Men Do Complain believes it is right to protect females and all children from any unnecessary interference. Sadly the argument that all children should be treated equally works both ways, those in favour of cutting females say, with some justification, that if you tolerate the cutting of boys then you should tolerate the cutting of girls.
There are of course differences between male and female circumcision, although the tissues most commonly excised are similar in structure and function. The fixation on the differences between male and female circumcision loses sight of the greatest similarity, which is that all non-therapeutic genital cutting is an assault if there is no valid consent to the procedure. No one would argue that a black eye and a cut lip are the same; yet all would agree that if an adult hit a child in the face and left an injury then it was the blow that defined the offence not the nature of the resulting injury.
In an age where children’s rights are increasingly recognised, equal opportunities promoted, and human rights incorporated into our legislation it is difficult to see the non-therapeutic cutting of children’s genitals as anything other than a crime. All children should be protected from the inappropriate activities of adults.
MDC supporters took the message that no children should be discriminated against to the Department of Health. Whitehall was also the venue for another demonstration which provided a stream of people on a very cold afternoon. Ninety seven leaflets were handed out and some new friends were found among the passers by. The young man in the picture below certainly noticed our presence and asked if he could be photographed with Richard in the bloody overalls. The general public seems to get our message it is the politicians and institutions that are so very resistant to a change that is long overdue.
MDC is proud to support all organisations that are working to promote the rights of children and 28 Too Many works to protect girls in 28 countries from female circumcision.
Whatever the differences or similarities between male and female circumcision the same right to genital autonomy is breached by the genital modification of any child without medical necessity or the person’s consent, see the recent Helsinki Declaration of the Right to Genital Autonomy.