Sunday, December 18, 2011

Male genital mutilation

Female genitalmutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."

It is ironic and scary that religious and ritually motivated mutilation of genitals on young baby boys is only called circumcision. And in Norway, we are in full seriousness debating if the state is to do and pay for male genital mutilation - in the year of 2011.

Male genital mutilation removes the ridged band at the end of the foreskin on the penis. One can debate how many corpuscles (a kind of nerve ending that is concentrated in areas of greatest sensitivity) the ridged band has, or if it has sexually sensitive and plays a role in normal sexual function, etc. While these questions might always be debated even by science, it will surely also be individual differences that we can't measure. The only important points here are that we don't know what we remove, but we know there is no immediate medical reason to do it. This operation is irreversible and it also adds potential post operation complications.

No actions, especially the controversial ones, can build its support only on tradition. As a matter of fact, the longer ago it was started the more we should question if the reasons for it is well founded or rational.

The argument that ignorant or bad parents will do it illegally anyway has no merit as it then should also apply to all other bad traditions we have gotten rid of. Do some still hit or harm their children? Yes, but it is not accepted in our society now because we created that change. Children are treated better today and more abuse is being stopped because we don't accept the argument that we should allow something just because we expect someone might break the law.

One of very many perspectives here is this: Type IV of FMG includes the traditional practice of pricking the clitoral hood or clitoris of a baby girl to get a drop of blood. While it isn't close to physically cutting of foreskin on a baby boy, you hear no politicians or religious leaders publicly advocating for pricking being legalized or paid for by the state. All agree that all forms of FMG should be illegal. I claim the reason for this double standard is ignorance and/or misplaced tolerance.

Most of us agree that the very harmful and more known forms of FMG are absolutely terrible and we can't have any tolerance for it today. Still we are seriously, in this modern society, asked to tolerate genital mutilation of baby boys, for absolutely no medical reason, because it is a very old tradition.

I vote for the little baby boy. What he decides to do with himself and his body when he turns 18 is none of my business, but until he is of an age where he is capable of making adult decisions, adults have an obligation to protect him. First and foremost that is supposed to be his parents, but when they fail, it is the responsibility of society to put the human child before any human traditions.

As none of us accept any type of female genital mutilation today (irreversible or not), so do I predict none will accept male genital mutilation in the near future.  

When history one day looks back, how do you want to be judged?



Pet owner: -What would you say if I wanted to get my dog circumcised?
Vet (after a silence): -I'd have to report you to the ASPCA for cruelty.

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