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Circumcision is Genital Mutilation Time to Man Up.

The Crown Prosecution Service in the UK has come under fire in the last two weeks for
failing to secure any convictions for Female Genital Mutilation, despite laws implemented
over 29 years ago to deal with the crime.
Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM as it is often called, varies in type. The most severe form
of FGM involves cutting the clitoris and labia minora (the inner lips of the vagina) and
sewing together the labia majora (the outer lips), to leave a small hole for urine and menstrual
blood to pass. Some documented cases have found women with holes as small as a pinhole.
No wonder then that top medical professionals in England were infuriated by the recent
decision to prosecute just one doctor for suspected FGM (on a woman), despite there being
an estimated 144 complaints to police about the pratice in the last two to three years. That
anger only intensified further when it was revealed that the head of the CPS, Alison
Saunders, would be required to come before a committee in the House of Commons to
explain the lack of progress on this front the conviction began to look more and more like a
way of appeasing the government.
Despite the political overtones of this conviction, it is incredibly difficult to get witnesses to
testify to FGM. FGM is usually carried out on girls, often arranged by close family members
and so children are therefore unlikely to come forward (either through fear or loyalty).
Another problem arises when the child is a foreign national. Many at risk girls are from North
African families which may sometimes mean that their immigration status is unclear and
therefore potentially prevents prosecution under current law. The time period when FGM
takes place can also be hard to ascertain. What is clear though, is that FGM is a form of
control by men over women, and it is a form of violence, too. Even the term Female Genital
Mutilation conjures up the horrific nature of this act, which quite rightly incites an angry
reaction from the majority. And yet, no one balks when we talk about circumcision.
There is a strong line of defense whenever you broach the subject of circumcision. They
usually include the following: the baby doesnt remember, it doesnt hurt (the foreskin is so
small at that age, after all), its more hygienic and its my right as a practicing Jew or
Muslim. And yet none of these arguments are defensible.
Google Psychological trauma of circumcision and what comes up is a wave of articles,
which, interestingly, dont all distinguish FGM from circumcision. Indeed, FGM is often
referred to as female circumcision. There are several groups advocating against the practice
of male circumcision, including Intact America, Norm UK and Doctors Opposing
Circumcision. Their research turns the outdated biblical notions of foreskin removal on their,
well, heads.
Male babies who have been circumcised experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),
from the severe pain the foreskin may look small to you, but its all relative on a newborn.
To a newborn, its more than big enough. Babies will also feel terror, helplessness and later
on, some experience night terrors, too. The reseach suggests that the circumcision itself can
also cause problems into adulthood.
The hygiene argument has also been proven to be unfounded there is no tangible evidence
which shows that circumcision itself prevents disease. The reality? Good personal hygiene

does. As for perceived religious rights, we have to ask ourselves when do we ever have the
right to physically hurt another human being without their consent?
FGM also suffers with many of its own misconceptions, some similar to male circumcision.
Believed for many years to be more hygienic, that it preserved fertility and made women
more attractive, there has been pressure on mothers for a long time to ensure their daughters
are circumcised so that they will be able to get a husband. The physical act of mutilation on
both boys and girls is a deeply ingrained cultural one, which is perhaps why it is so hard to
tackle.
Male circumcision plays a vital role in Judaism. As a Jew myself, with a son, who has a
Muslim father, being a lone anti-circumcision voice in a family filled with missing foreskins,
was always going to be a challenge. But I did not relent, quietly and gently stating my case,
armed with all the evidence I could gather, to show that circumcision was not going to
happen to our little boy. I won the day, but I had a choice. Not everyone does. In a telling
news item, a woman in Israel has just been fined for refusing to the same thing, and will
continue to be fined, until she agrees to let her son be mutilated. It is this kind of cultural and
systematic thinking which is the root of the problem, when we talk about male circumcision.
In any other setting, it would be child abuse.
The controversial practice of Metzitzah BPeh would certainly fall under that definition in the
UK, and perhaps also in the US. This custom allows, with the consent of the parents, for the
circumcising rabbi to bend down and suck the residual blood from the babys penis upon
having his foreskin removed. It seems that some Rabbis do not even wait for consent, so
eager are they to indulge in what could be described as a form of paedophilia.
And yet despite the obvious cultural and physical similarities these two practices share, we
still live in a world where FGM is viewed as a crime, and male circumcision as a health
benefit.
I see no difference between these two monstrous practices, but I am often comforted by the
fact that Israels founder Theodor Hertzl, actively resisted his son being circumcised.
Sometimes, we must think outside the boundaries.
April 2014