Male and female circumcision are equally wrong

Listen to this excellent interview with philosopher and ethicist Brian Earp on a podcast from the organisation Philosophy 24/7. Click the image to hear the podcast.

Female circumcision is regarded as a violation of a human right. The World Health Organization says “It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.” But male circumcision, practiced in various cultures and prevalent in various religions, barely generates any controversy. Brian Earp argues that the parallels between the two are much closer than people are usually willing to acknowledge.

Three arrests in Nottingham “illegal” circumcision case

Three people have been arrested by police investigating the circumcision of a three-month-old boy.

A 61-year-old man, believed to be the doctor who carried out the procedure, has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.

BBC News
Three arrested over boy’s circumcision in Nottingham

News of the arrests has brought a lot of traffic to the MDC website, and resulted in us receiving some specific reports of three past tragedies.


The first story concerned the suicide of a young man. At inquests, circumcision is usually ruled out as anything more than a possible contributory factor; other problems and issues are deemed more significant. The tragedy reported to MDC yesterday came from a mother who had had extensive conversations with her son concerning his resentment and anger about his circumcision before he took his own life. She was in no doubt that non-therapeutic circumcision in childhood was the reason her son took his own life. The mother’s regret at going along with poor medical advice is a continuing legacy of a needless act.

Forced retraction

Poor medical practice used to involve the forced retraction of a tight foreskin. Today, that practice has been largely abandoned because of the trauma involved. MDC has been told about a child who was diagnosed with phimosis (tight foreskin) and referred for circumcision. After a while the boy was returned to the mother while lashing out at the medical staff around him and screaming. The mother was told “we didn’t have to do a circumcision we just did some stretching”. The mother had to sit with the boy on the hospital steps for twenty minutes before she felt her son was calm enough to be in the car with her for the drive home. It is now recommended that the only person to try to retract a boy’s foreskin is the boy himself, as he will stop before any pain and damage occurs. The foreskin will usually separate of its own accord from the glans (head of the penis), to which it is naturally attached in infancy. This separation can sometimes occur even after puberty. As a result of his experience, the child in this incident has grown up suspicious of the medical profession.

Spite circumcision

MDC was also told of another example, similar to the Nottingham case, of one parent unilaterally circumcising a boy against the wishes of the other parent. Sadly this is a lot more common than you might think, though in recent years, family courts have tended to take the position that, if the circumcision hasn’t yet happened and the parents are conflicted, the matter should be left until the child is able to give informed consent.

Click here to view the BBC article about the arrests in Nottingham.

BBC interview MDC

The interview, with Richard, was recorded for the religious affairs slot on BBC local radio stations to be broadcast on Sunday the 14th of May. If we get more details about timings we will post them. After Sunday you may be able to find the programmes via the BBC iPlayer. Richard will also be interviewed live on BBC Radio London between 08:00 and 09:00 on Sunday the 14th.

Sex education

Sex education for boys is woefully inadequate in the United Kingdom. This statement was clearly demonstrated on the Graham Norton Show (BBC) when it came to light that Sir Patrick Stewart did not know until late in life whether he was circumcised or intact. Please see this report of the program in the Telegraph.

There is a lot of anatomical detail passed down to girls in sex education but virtually none passed down to boys. The problem with anatomical detail and boys is that any discussion of the foreskin and what it is for (it is not just spare skin), will swiftly lead to the undermining of all the usual excuses and justifications given to boys for the removal of their foreskins.  Are sex educators prepared to perpetuate the current myths and poor science that allows society to continue the practice of removing healthy functional tissue from boys’ genitals? Or will sex educators try to move society towards a world where all children are free to grow up with the genitals they were born with?