Equal rights?

Do men have equal rights? When it comes to protection from non-therapeutic genital cutting the answer is a definite no. The legislation that protects women and girls is discriminatory legislation.
“Circumcision is worse for girls.” This is one of the most pernicious myths around and it is just sexist nonsense. The original legislation protecting girls from genital cutting in the U.K. was called the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. In 2003 the Act was repealed and made extra territorial, in other words you risk prosecution if you take a girl anywhere in the world, have her circumcised and then brought back to the U.K. Along with this alteration the name of the Act was changed to The Female Genital Mutilation Act.

This simple act of spin has helped to make the circumcision of girls seem different to the circumcision of boys. The old Act’s title recognised the equivalence of the cutting of boys and girls. The change in the Act’s title reflects the widespread perception that the circumcision of boys is not harmful but the circumcision of girls is genital mutilation. If you think this is correct and justifiable, transpose the genders and ask yourself the question, is a law that protects only males from genital cutting an equitable law free from any sexual discrimination?

In the womb the baby develops undifferentiated genital tissue until later in the pregnancy when either testes or ovaries develop; if testes develop the hormones that result influence the genital tissue to form the typical male genitalia. If on the other hand ovaries develop then the identical tissue goes on to become the typical female genitalia. The original tissue forms the penis in the male and the clitoris in the female.
Also it is essential to remember that the process by which the genitals take their different forms is a subtle combination of genes and a complex system of hormones which can have variable results. This means that there are a significant number of children born with atypical genitals. Often such children can, and should be, be left intact until such time as they are able to give informed consent to any treatment or surgery, this should be the path that is followed rather than a rush to surgery.

Circumcision in either sex is excising analogous tissue. In girls the clitoris is excised to a greater or lesser extent and in boys the end of the foreskin containing the ridged band [6] is always removed. The anatomy of male genitals is very poorly taught and poorly appreciated by medical professionals and the public; but the science has been done and is convincing. The foreskin includes the most sensitive part of the penis [3]. This fact means that a man circumcised before he becomes sexually active will never know what sex is supposed to feel like, he simply has not got the nerve endings and slack skin [4] that would have given him the full sensations of sex. Is this any different to the female experience? It may be that there are subtle differences in the tissue that is excised but it is clear that a significant change is made to the genitals of any child by the act of circumcision. The ethics are clear; to hit a child and leave that child with a black eye is wrong. To hit a child and leave a cut lip is also wrong. In both cases the exact injury is not important, it is the wounding that is the important point.

Do you tell a young man who has painful erections and pain during sex because too much skin has been removed that it is worse for a woman to have had her skin taken away? Do you tell a young man that his partially or wholly amputated glans (head of the penis) is somehow acceptable?

What do you say to the baby boys [7] that will die in the United States of America this year as a result of an operation they did not need or consent to? What do you say to the uncounted boys who will die in the South African “Circumcision Schools” this year? Are you going to say dying is worse for girls?

Protection is essential. Law does work. The Family Courts and their system of prohibited steps orders can and does protect girls from circumcision. All children should be protected from unnecessary surgery, unnecessary gender reassignments and unnecessarily invasive treatments whatever their parent’s wishes might be.

New ideas

“The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” John Maynard Keynes.

This quote is a very apt comment on the way that the circumcision of healthy non-consensual boys is viewed by society at present.
Over the last sixty years numerous studies have demonstrated that the foreskin is composed of specialised tissue which has a purpose [4] [6] and that the removal of the foreskin has an adverse effect on the sexual health of the individual from whom it is removed, yet still the practice of circumcising healthy boys continues.
It seems that society has a great resistance to the new idea that the circumcision of a healthy boy is a harmful act.

Recorded delivery

On the 6th of August 2011 Men do complain and NORM-UK chairman Dr John Warren delivered an open letter to the British Medical Association. The letter detailed the unethical nature of the medical establishment’s position regarding the circumcision of male minors.

The action then moved along the Euston Road to the headquarters of the General Medical Council where a copy of the letter was handed in. Over two hundred “Happy anniversary” flyers were handed out and the members of the public we met were receptive and supportive.

Happy anniversary

The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is one hundred and fifty years old today, 6th of August 2011. The Act is very much alive and well, although much of the Act has been repealed it is still one of the cornerstones of our criminal laws that protect us from assault, wounding and harm.
The basis of all medical treatment is that there should be a disease or injury that needs treatment and that the patient should personally consent to such treatment.
There are of course exceptions (see the post Consent and circumcision) but informed personal consent becomes crucial when the treatment being sought is non-therapeutic. If a doctor treats a patient who has no disease or injury and cannot personally consent to such treatment then the doctor has no defence of reasonable surgery and is probably committing a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
It would appear to folow that the non-therapeutic circumcision of boys who are healthy and, being minors, cannot personally consent to a non-therapeutic procedure, is a crime. It is quite surprising that no prosecutions have been brought to date.

Cardiff demo

Men do complain is proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with members of NORM-UK and others outside the British Medical Association’s annual representatives meeting in Cardiff.
The ethical, medical and legal issues surrounding  the circumcision of male children not competent to consent are issues that will not go away. The number of enlightened doctors is growing and the numbers of doctors from the dark ages is falling.
See the BBC news web site for a report on the protest in Cardiff. In the report Dr Antony Lempert details the ethical anomalies and dangers of cutting the genitalia of non-consenting children.