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The Circumcision Ban: Is Circumcision an Assault on Human Rights or Religious Rites?

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Circumcision is increasingly considered a human rights issue. San Franciscans will be voting on banning the controversial procedure this November. While the AMA does not recommend it, circumcision is still considered an essential sign of the covenant in reformed Judaism. Like France’s ban on the hijab, the question is: Are we denying freedom of religion or are we protecting human rights?


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Contributor: Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)

So sad that these parents ultimately decided to mutilate their child. Circumcision is NOT a "religious freedom" and it's awful that religious leaders and medical hacks perpetuate a totally unnecessary "procedure."

Contributor: Eleanor Smith
Eleanor Smith  

What people don't seem to understand is that the parents' right to religious freedom doesn't extend to perpetrating harmful acts on an unconsenting minor - and that's what circumcision is. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that circumcision is hugely painful, not medically necessary and actually causes psychological, health and sexual problems. And of course, the little boy has a right to religious freedom too - including the right not to have a religion! Judaism (or Islam, whatever religion) is not his religion - he is far too young to understand the concept.

Furthermore, in Judaism circumcision is meant to represent the covenant with God. But surely the covenant is void when the person doesn't understand or consent to what's happening to him? Take marriage, for example - if it were discovered that one of the partners didn't understand what their vows represented, or had been coerced into the marriage, it would have to be annulled. It's the same kind of thing with circumcision. Why not wait until he's 18 and can make the religious commitment of his own free will? It would have more spiritual significance and not breach anyone's human rights.

That said, however, there are lots of reasons why he may not want to be circumcised at 18 (see above). There is the fact that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of babies and men die from botched circumcisions every year, which means that it violates the Jewish tenet of pikuach nefesh or 'the saving of life'. Also, it conflicts with a man's onah as it causes sexual dysfunction - how can he oblige his wife if his organ doesn't work properly?

Contributor: Hugh Intactive
Hugh Intactive  

"To be a male citizen of Israel, one must be circumcised." Really? I understood that a significant proportion of Russian Jews, left intact under communism, decline the operation when they move to Israel. It seems an astonishing condition of citizenship for an adult. There is an anti-circumcision group in Israel ([]) that doesn't seem to be concerned about citizenship.

"I do question whether now is the right time for a circumcision ban without a religious exemption." A religious exemption would involve a religious test, which really would violate the First Amendment, and the human rights of babies of Muslim and Jewish parents. The ban, when it comes, will have to be across the board, like
"18 United States Code Section 116: Female Genital Mutilation
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both."
which just needs the word "female" deleted and the words "or foreskin" added to the list.
Notice that it says "or ANY part", so horrific Africa tribal rites are not at issue here. If you don't like the word "mutilation" (and many people who cut their daughters don't either), by all means substitute the word "cutting".

"In a flash, I decided that’s what it was, for our family."
As one man said, but more colourfully (try it) -
"My family doesn't [urinate] with my [penis],
my family doesn't [masturbate] with my [penis]
and my family doesn't [have sexual intercourse] with my [penis],
so what business did my family have to go cutting part OFF of my [penis]?"

Contributor: Michael Mooney
Michael Mooney  

There are no legitimate reasons to mutilate a baby's sexual organ. No reduced risk of diseases or any other good reason. And religious notions do not trump that it is a human rights violation. Read a thoroughly documents article on it: []

Contributor: Joseph Lewis
Joseph Lewis  

The foreskin is not a birth defect. Nor is it a genetic anomaly or congenital deformity akin to a 6th finger, a cleft, or a horrible birthmark. The foreskin is normal, healthy tissue found in all human males at birth.

Circumcision is the deliberate destruction of normal, healthy tissue. It causes an intentional wound. Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors is by definition infant genital mutilation. It is child abuse and the violation of basic human rights.

I can already hear some say "this is your opinion." But you know what? So is saying that "female circumcision is so much worse."

For better or for worse, female circumcision is ALSO a religious rite in some circles. Especially for Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, it is a religious ritual called "sunat," and it is performed in babies, as well as pre-pubecent girls. Not all female circumcision is severe, and the kind of female circumcision that is performed in these countries is minimal. Actually, last year, the AAP tried to endorse a "ritual nick" for baby girls, which didn't remove anything; it was just a symbolic ritual to draw drops of blood. The AAP was shamed and it had to backpedal. Double-standards anyone?

For better or for worse, there is already a ban on all female genital cutting, even the least invasive kind that would not remove anything. Such a ban ALSO infringes on "religious freedoms" and "parental choice," but we don't care here don't we.

Recently, a new law was signed in Oregon, saying that parents can no longer deny their children needed medical treatment in the name of their religion. A church that calls itself "the followers of Christ" was infamous for letting their children die and/or get grotesque deformities caused by diseases.

Do opposers to the San Francisco ban object here?

It sound like what is "mutilation," what is a violation of basic human rights or not is defined by what we as a culture are comfortable with. We, who object to a law that would stop us from mutilating our baby boys have the audacity to fly all the way to Africa and South-East Asia to call parents monsters for practicing the same "religious freedoms" and "parental choice" on their daughters, as we practice on our boys here in America.

For shame.

Contributor: sage love
sage love  

That made me feel really sad that she allowed her husband to have his way over the safety of her newborn son

I pray that if she has more male children she protects them from this horrific practice!

Contributor: Bronwyn Millar
Bronwyn Millar  

ah, how sad. i dont understand how that mother - armed as she was with foreknowledge of the harm and pain of circumcsion - could hold her helpless baby in her arms and still decide to cave to family pressure. made me sad for her and her son.

Contributor: BexvanKoot

There is no "religious exemption" provided under the laws against female circumcision and other forms of female genital mutilation. Why is this double standard so endemic in North American culture?

Contributor: Restoring Tally
Restoring Tally  

Both religious freedom and human rights apply to the individual. Any person is free to practice their religion as long as they do not harm another person. This is where the conflict arises.

Certain religions wish to cut off parts of somebody else's body, which is a human rights violation for that other person, unless they consent to the cutting. Just because a religious practice has a long tradition does not mean it should be tolerated when it impacts somebody who has not yet decided for himself to practice that religion. We should allow baby boys to grow up unmolested so that they can decide if they want part of their penis cut off when they are an adult. If their faith is strong, they may choose to do so. Many men do for religion.

Contributor: oldman

First, let me remind everyone that a parent has every right to make decisions for their minor children. You may not lie it or agree with it, but oh well. A person's religious belief is not to be questioned by others. The Jewish requirement of circumsision on the 8th day of the boy's life is a covenent with G-d and dates back to Abraham. Who are we to change such a strong tradition that has gone on from generation to generation without and break in the chainl It is something to be honored and respected.

Would a christian person say that children should not celebrate Christmas and Santa because they do not understand that they are being decieved?