Six million pounds, how did we arrive at that amount?
In the U.K. the number of circumcisions done for medical reasons is about 6% of the male population (F.O.I. requests are pending). The number of circumcisions in other North West European countries, performed for medical reasons is very small. A fair estimate is 1% of the male population .
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2010 there were 398,500 male births in the U.K. 6% of 398,500 is 23,910 which is the probable number of boys circumcised by the N.H.S. for “medical reasons”.
If the cost of an individual procedure, including after care, is taken as £300 (the cost of a circumcision to the N.H.S may well be as high as £868) then the total cost comes to £7,173,000. Reducing the rate of circumcisions to 1% would save the N.H.S. £5,977,500 each year. This takes no account of possible damages awarded to victims of this misguided policy in the future as a result of likely legal actions.
Do boys in the U.K. really need circumcision “for medical reasons” at a rate that is six times greater than the rate seen in other N.W. European countries?
Men Do Complain held a vigil on Wednesday 22nd of February outside the B.M.A. Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP. We got there at 08:30 and stayed until the rain, cold and wind overcame us. The reason for the vigil was that the B.M.A. were discussing ethics and once again the non-therapeutic cutting of boy’s genitals was not on the agenda. The vigil went very well and the public really are on our side.
Several circumcised men approached us and quite openly said that they were glad someone was taking a stand. One surprise was the number of friendly car hoots and we didn’t even have a sign saying hoot if you agree.
A lot of doctors on their way into the meeting made us feel very welcome. One quote was “You are so right may I take a couple of leaflets for my students?” We of course obliged.
A paediatric surgeon made it clear he was angry with his colleagues for continuing to circumcise children who have no need of such treatment and cannot give informed consent.
A big thank you to all those who turned out especially to our two photographers and to those who were coming in the afternoon but were prevented by the weather.
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  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 . 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  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  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.
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.
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.