Saturday, May 29, 2010

Crazy Dutch Want to Ban Male Circumcision

At a time when much of the world is embracing the life-saving and healthy practice of male circumcision, Radio Netherlands is reporting that the Royal Dutch Medical Society wants to ban all male circumcisions in that country.

What's wrong with these Dutch doctors? What studies have they failed to read? What recommendations of the World Health Organization do they reject? What makes them incapable of seeing the benefits of a clean-cut penis?

My own view is that they have a deep cultural bias against the clean-cut penis, given that circumcision is so rare in that country. Now I know the anti-circ fanatics in USA will say this mirror our own cultural biases in favor of newborn circumcision, but the situation here is more nuanced than that. After all, we do have a strong anti-circumcision propaganda machine here that exerts inordinate pressure on medical societies and government agencies. In short, the USA has a national debate -- at least among the passionate -- on male circumcision.

That is apparently not true in Holland, where the uncircumcised doctors are simply rejecting, for their own cultural reasons, all the medical studies and evidence from around the world that support male circumcision. Forget the evidence. They want everyone to be uncircumcised because they are.

This blog supports the universal circumcision of all males, not because of any cultural norm, but because it is a medically proven way to protect not only the male but all his partners. If all males were circumcised, we would see a reduction in HIV, HPV, cancer, and so many other ailments directly linked to the useless foreskin. This is not a cultural argument; it's a medical one.

Here is an except from the Radio Netherlands report:

"The circumcision of boys is reportedly almost always unnecessary and medically risky. The Royal Dutch Medical Society (KNMG) has published recommendations advising doctors to discourage parents from having their sons circumcised. Jewish and Islamic organisations have reacted angrily."

"The KNMG would really like to ban the circumcision of boys altogether, but the organisation feels a legal ban would only lead to circumcision going underground, increasing the risks."

"More than 46,000 Dutch doctors and trainee doctors are members of the society. They call circumcision for non-medical reasons “an infringement of a child’s right to autonomy and the right to bodily integrity”. And they say there are unnecessary risks."

"However, the doctors are willing to take the cultural and religious sensitivities of parents into account. Which is why doctors, parents and religious groups plan to engage in a dialogue. And yet, Rasit Bal, chairman of the interest group Muslims and Government, was unpleasantly surprised by the advice of the medical community:

“I have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to publicly display one’s religious identity. Things like this make it difficult. This is one of those issues that make life difficult for people who practice a religion”

"About 10,00 to 15,000 circumcisions are performed each year, most of them on Jewish and Muslim boys. Rabbi Raphael Evers says this figure includes about 80 Jewish boys. He argues peer pressure does not play a role in the decision to have one’s son circumcised. The rabbi says it’s the wish of the parents. He brushes aside any medical risks and even claims the surgery brings health benefits."

“Agitation against circumcision as a perceived threat against public health has been going on for quite some time, and it’s just nonsense. I have personally made extensive inquiries into both the physical and psychological problems of circumcision but never heard about any.”

"The growing number of circumcisions among boys has not led to any kind of serious discussion in the Netherlands, in marked contrast with the circumcision of the daughters of African immigrants. The excision of girls’ labia minora and/or clitoris is almost universally condemned as genital mutilation.

"So now the doctors have set their sights on the circumcision of boys. Medical ethicist Gert van Dijck says doctors will invoke children’s rights to emphatically discourage parents from requesting the procedure."

“We are asking doctors to actively and urgently warn parents that there are no medical advantages to circumcision and that there is a risk of complications. This way, we are hoping to achieve a culture change via the parents, so that they will eventually stop doing it.”

Friday, May 7, 2010

US Pediatrician Group Okays "Minor Circumcision" of Girls

Anti-circumcision fanatics have long argued that if female circumcision is outlawed, then male circumcision should be, too. Of course, this argument assumes that both types of circumcision are the same -- which they are clearly not.

Female circumcision has never been proven to offer any health advantage to the circumcised girl. It is solely a cultural tradition embraced by many around the world. In contrast, in one medical study after another, male circumcision offers positive benefits to the male and his partners. That should end the discussion, but it never does with the anti-circs.

Sure to complicate the debate is an apparent position change by the American Academy of Pediatrics in support of a "nick" or "minor circumcision" of a girl, as a means by which to discourage a full-scale removal of female genital parts. The New York Times below reports the story, and I invite your comments.

While I find female circumcision abhorrent as a practice because it has no medical benefits, I recognize the cultural myopia that we Americans have on this issue. Maybe the AAP is right. If a nick or little cutting makes parents feel comfortable that they do not need to remove the clitoris, labia, or whatever else is involved in full female circumcision, I suppose it is an option that should be considered carefully -- without American cultural blinders affecting our vision.

One thing is certain. The anti-circumcision fanatics will try to use this debate over female circumcision to denounce the obviously beneficial removal of the foreskin from males. Watch my words. I guarantee it.

NewYorkTimes: Group Backs Ritual ‘Nick’ as Female Circumcision Option
Published: May 6, 2010

"In a controversial change to a longstanding policy concerning the practice of female circumcision in some African and Asian cultures, the American Academy of Pediatrics is suggesting that American doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or “nick” on girls from these cultures if it would keep their families from sending them overseas for the full circumcision."

"The academy’s committee on bioethics, in a policy statement last week, said some pediatricians had suggested that current federal law, which “makes criminal any nonmedical procedure performed on the genitals” of a girl in the United States, has had the unintended consequence of driving some families to take their daughters to other countries to undergo mutilation."

“It might be more effective if federal and state laws enabled pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick as a possible compromise to avoid greater harm,” the group said.