We all know that cutting a baby girl’s genitals is mutilation, but why is it that some are now saying that cutting a baby boy’s genitals is mutilation as well? Can we use gender alone to determine what is ‘mutilation’ and what is ‘circumcision’?
The Practical Ethics blog from Oxford University explores this issue. Read the blog post here.
A meme has been circulating around the internet over the last couple of days containing a quote from celebrity Australian doctor, Dr John D’Arcy. A copy is below:
Many might think that this comment was made recently, perhaps as part of a backlash against the American Academy of Padiatrics much ridiculed revised statement on circumcision. One of these rebuttals written by multiple Pediatric groups across Europe in the scientific journal Pediatrics stated: “only 1 of the arguments put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics has some theoretical relevance” and that the other claimed health benefits “are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves.”
Dr John D’Arcy’s statement was actually made on the Channel 7 Sunrise program over three years ago. Well done to Dr D’Arcy for being one of the first personalities in Australia to publicy speak up for our baby boys who can’t speak for themselves.
We often get reports here in Australia on the abhorrent practice of female infant genital mutilation, which is carried out in some overseas countries. There are the typical “pearl clutching” reactions, and gasps of horror, followed by a small sense of relief that ‘we don’t do that is this country. Or do we? Yes, we cut our baby boys, but that’s different. Isn’t it?
Most of our society, especially the older generations like the former sex discrimination commissioner Pru Goward, will stand up indignantly and proclaim that female genital cutting is mutilation but offer no position on male genital cutting. Much of this opinion however is based on the misguided belief female genital mutilation involves amputation of the clitoris and the cutting off or sewing up of all other external parts. The fact is that this extreme practice is rare, and that there are different degrees of female genital cutting. Some or these practices are clearly worse than male circumcision. Others though, such as a symbolic pin prick, are clearly less severe than male circumcision.
The following articles and blogs explore these similarities and differences, and why our society seems to accept one, but not the other:
Circumcision is child abuse: a picture essay
Female circumcision. Male circumcision. Is there a difference?