Blood loss

One of the favourite myths of those who forcibly circumcise children is that it is safer to circumcise a baby rather than waiting till the child grows up (and can give or withhold his consent). The evidence points to the opposite being the case. It is riskier to circumcise a baby than it is to operate on an adult. Just one such risk to a child’s safety is loss of blood.

If a surgical procedure goes wrong, the amount of blood that can be lost from a newborn baby without endangering its life or causing it to enter shock is remarkably small. Approximately 71ml, or just a little over four tablespoons is all it takes (left). Considering this, the period shortly after birth is far from the safest time to perform a circumcision: an infant’s penis is small and not fully developed, the circumciser cannot accurately estimate the amount or type of tissue that they are removing, the severed blood vessels are tiny (and therefore difficult to close) and consequently the potential for unsafe levels of blood loss is considerably higher than in an adult. Furthermore, anaesthetising newborn babies is risky in itselfand studies have shown that the alternative (unanaesthestised circumcision) causes the stress hormone levels in baby boys to increase by a factor of three or four during circumcision [1] [2], making infant circumcision a dangerous and stressful event for a baby even before something goes ‘wrong’ and blood loss becomes an issue.

In contrast, if a surgical procedure goes wrong on an adult, the amount of blood that can be lost before they go into shock is about two pints. Two pints of blood is very visible, it demands attention and remedy in the way that only four tablespoons simply does not. Should an adult need, or choose, to be circumcised the blood vessels are clearly visible and much easier for the surgeon to manage. The adult is also properly anaesthetised and so not suffering the levels of stress that an infant would. Further, there is a greatly reduced risk of psychological damage, an adult will have given his informed  consent for the surgery to be carried out. To force circumcision on a non-consenting child exposes him to great risk of psychological damage. The mental health charity Mind is one organisation that recognises this risk.

It is unfortunate for anyone whose surgery does not go entirely according to plan. It is a tragedy if the patient is left worse off than before the operation. It is a shameful aspect of our society that we allow non-consenting children to undergo non-therapeutic genital cutting that is by definition only harmful.

U.N. demands the end of female genital mutilation

February the sixth is the day the United Nations has chosen to promote its campaign to protect females from genital mutilation. There is only one thing wrong with this excellent campaign and that is the word female. To discriminate on the grounds of gender in any other area of life would not be tolerated, so why are males discriminated against when it comes  to genital mutilation? The answer is that the myths surrounding the cutting of boys’ genitals are still not seen for the myths that they are.

End FGM Day graphic

The current excuse for circumcising children is that the circumcision of males will slow the spread of HIV. Circumcision may be partially effective (the science is not universally accepted) but there is still no reason to circumcise healthy non-consenting children as they are not sexually active and therefore need no protection from sexually transmitted diseases; circumcision can wait until the child in question can give his proper informed consent to this irreversible surgery.

UN BuildingThere is a myth that cutting the genitals of healthy boys is somehow acceptable and the cutting of girl’s genitals is unacceptable. There may be differences between the sexes but the violation starts the moment someone takes hold of a shard of glass, razor blade or scalpel and uses it to cut a healthy child’s genitals. This is not an issue of competitive suffering. Some girls lose less than some boys and vice versa, that is the not the point. Just like the crime of rape the violation is the lack of consent. It makes little difference whether it is a man or a woman who is raped it is that the person in question has not consented. The U.N. should promote equal treatment and protection for males and females, the U.N. should not discriminate against anyone in any area of life on the grounds of their gender.

People do complain

Some enlightened people have been pointing out for a long time that circumcising children is a tragic mistake. The current wave of protest goes back several decades. More and more men are coming forward and protesting at what was done to them as children, when they could not make an informed choice about circumcision. The stigma attached to complaining about having been circumcised is diminishing thanks to some brave individuals, their courage and intelligence has ensured that men who do complain are now being taken seriously.

On the 15th of March 1986 Marilyn Milos founded the National Organization of Circumcision Information and Resource Centers. NOCIRC rapidly became a respected source of information on the subject of circumcision.

When Marilyn, working as a nurse, first saw and heard a circumcision she was horrified and asked the doctor if it was really necessary; she was told it wasn’t. Marilyn then started informing parents considering having their sons circumcised, of what she had seen and that the operation was not medically necessary. The hospital authorities reacted swiftly and Marilyn lost her job. Twenty five years on and Marilyn is still very active in the fight to end all medically unnecessary cutting of children’s genitals.

There are a great many people that have stood up for the rights of children in the matter of circumcision but one person has just had an anniversary that should be marked.

On December the 17th 1970 Van Lewis protested outside the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in the U.S. that circumcision was a sex crime.

Van and his brother, who was taking pictures, were of course arrested. The police fogged the film in the camera so this photocopy from a newspaper is all that documents the events of December 1970.

Van Lewis may well be this movement’s Rosa Parks. In December 1955 Rosa Parks was the African American woman who when challenged by a bus driver to give up her seat for a white passenger, refused to move and became a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.

Some men say they don’t mind having been circumcised when they were children and other men do mind very much. What the advocates of circumcision have consistently failed to prove is that circumcision does no harm. The advocates of circumcision have also failed to prove that the circumcision of healthy babies does any good.

In the rush to promote circumcision as a preventative measure to control the AIDS epidemic it should not be forgotten that children are not sexually active and can therefore derive no immediate benefit from being circumcised. Circumcision can wait until the individual concerned can make an informed choice based on the evidence. So get active and stand up for the rights of children.

Van Lewis tells the story of his arrest and describes his own personal journey in this excellent fifteen minute interview.

Connections

Can you spot the connection between these items?

Odd One Out

They have all been used in the cutting of boy’s genitals in the U.K.

In a previous post I stated that I did not like to use the word circumcision because it gives the impression of something normal, I hope this post will show you that in the U.K. today the word circumcision is used to conceal some gruesome acts done to little boys.

The Scalpel.

Obvious — probably what you would expect to be used, along with other surgical instruments some of which look like the equipment of a skilful torturer.

MouthThe Mouth.

The mouth is sometimes used in a ritual that surrounds circumcision. The circumciser sucks the blood from the baby’s wounded penis. Not surprisingly this has lead to complications of infection, herpes, and the circumciser now often uses a glass tube and gauze to prevent the transfer of germs. Intriguingly this shows that a ritual, supposedly rigid, is variable and capable of change, perhaps another change should be the raising of the age of the circumcision so that the child can give or withhold his consent.

RazorThe Razor Blade.

A widely available circumcision implement, all you need is a couple of adults to restrain the victim and the blade. The number of backstreet circumcisions performed annually in the U.K. is unknown, but complications are regularly seen in the A&E departments of the NHS. Sometimes the incident is referred to the police but a prosecution “would not be in the public interest”.

The Thumbnail.

In infancy the foreskin is fused to the glans (head) of the penis by a layer of special, epithelial, cells; the thumbnail, specially grown, is sometimes used to rip the foreskin from the head of the penis. This process is of course extremely painful.

The Soldering Iron.

The soldering iron has been used on at least one occasion to cauterize, that means sealing with a burn, the circumcision wound on a baby’s penis. The mechanic who did this on a kitchen table was not charged or arrested because he had not impersonated a doctor.

That we should permit all this to be carried out on non-consenting children in the twenty first century seems extraordinary. We rightly consider the exploitation of children to gratify adult wishes as abuse and society treats such abuse very seriously. Turning a blind eye to the abuse I have outlined above is un-justifiable. The existing law and child protection agencies should act to protect boys from what can only be called genital mutilation.

Spending on cuts

In the current round of spending cuts it seems that our elected representatives are still spending at least six million pounds of our money every year on surgery that children do not need or want.

Houses of Parliament

It is a very poor argument for the health service to say that if they do not offer a circumcision service to parents children will be exposed to greater harm by being circumcised in the community. Firstly this argument could be used to justify all sorts of other non-therapeutic procedures; scarification of children’s faces springs to mind. Secondly the N.H.S. was set up to care for patients with therapeutic needs it was not set up to gratify the wishes of parents however strong those wishes might be.

So write to your M.P. and complain. Click here to locate your M.P.