20 November, 2007

Some notes on circumcision 1


(Some notes on circumcision 2 contains a full first prop including rebuttal of obvious op points)

NOTE: if in favour of banning FGM, use phrase Female Genital Mutilation. If pro- keeping, use phrase 'female circumcision'.


Many different levels ranging from symbolic cuts to full clitorectomy and sewing.

tribe name (Kenya) tend to be symbolic

Nuba (Sudan) full operation

Aim is to ensure purity of women. Blood on marriage night means she was a virgin, important for the inheritance of land. De-sexualisation means adultery less likely.

Whether a woman is sewn back up after childbirth depends on culture.


Female only custom, the women who perform the operation have had it done themselves

Important symbol of adulthood

If a girl is not circumcised, she cannot get married. If she doesn't marry, she starves and is ostracised.

Driving it underground has lead to the operation becoming more dangerous as less experienced people perform it. In Kenya, girls performed it on each other when adults were threatened with prosecution.

In many cultures the practice is inexorably tied up with religious beliefs (in tribes visited by Michael Palin while filming 'Sahara' FGM featured prominently in the tribes creation myth)


Painful, dangerous at time

If sewn, makes sex incredibly painful, childbirth even worse

Suppression of female sexuality

Child cannot consent, irreversible


Religious obligation for Jewish and Muslim males.

Tends to be performed on very young boys (Jewish men are circumcised at 10 days old). Male, adult circumcision is much rarer.

More than 70% of boys in the USA are circumcised. This is the highest proportion outside the Middle East. In the UK it is 16,000 boys a year.


1.Prevention of STDs (BBC)

International experts have backed the use of male circumcision in the prevention of HIV. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS said circumcision should be added to current interventions to reduce the spread of HIV. Three African trials have shown that circumcision halved the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men. The recommendations largely apply to countries where rates of heterosexual transmission is high.

Specific cells in the foreskin may be potential targets for HIV infection and also the skin under the foreskin becomes less sensitive and is less likely to bleed reducing risk of infection following circumcision.

2. Religious freedom arguments.

3. Parental choice over upbringing of their children arguments.


Child cannot consent, irreversible procedure.

Loss of sensitivity.

Note: Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. It bans the act of FGM in the UK (FGM is defined widely). It bans aiding, abetting, assisting or counseling a girl to mutilate her own genitalia. It makes it an offense to assist a non-UK person to mutilate overseas a girl's genitalia. There is an exception for where it is necessary for the mental or physical wellbeing of the girl. Examples include during labour. It explicitly rules out ritual or custom as being any excuse at all. If the offense is committed outside of the UK, the Act allows the FGM to be treated as if it happened in England or Wales or NI for the purpose of prosecution.

Note 2: in some countries, notably KSA, the muttawa are using it as a punishment for 'moral' crimes (including prostitution, lesbianism and soliciting with non-Mahram men (mahram= husbands, fathers, brothers etc). In the clinics in KSA where it is performed, it is normal to use a local anesthetic during the procedure. This is not allowed when it is for punishment. Anecdotal evidence suggests an increasing number of adult women in KSA are having the procedure performed despite it neither being a traditional KSA or Islamic custom. It is not sure how many of these are forced operations. The world is a lovely place sometimes.

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