Are we getting anywhere with ending circumcision?

I sense that I’m not a good person to be answering the question.  I’m like a fish that swims in the fishbowl and does not realize that there is water, if you know what I mean. I belong to several large email lists for ‘intactivists’ and I even belong to one list that is for men who are restoring their foreskins.  By immersing myself in the subject each day, I get the impression that great strides are being made and the end of this barbarism is in sight.  Then, I go out in the “real world” and I wonder what the truth is about this whole subject.

Statistics would be helpful but accurate accounting is hard to come by.  In my province, B.C., Canada, hospitals are not cutting babies any longer and right across Canada, no provincial medical plan will pay for it.  Although both of these measures are commendable and hard won, it means it is now difficult to know what is being done privately in doctors’ offices.  It’s estimated that our rate in B.C. is about 10%.  My American cohorts think this is a wonderful statistic but I find it absolutely sickening.  One in 10 boys being unnecessarily tortured can not be condoned.  We do have a formidable tool in this province for ending circumcision of baby boys and that is the position statement of our provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons.  A baby boy died in 2002 after his parents had his foreskin amputated at the Penticton Hospital.  Soon after that tragedy, which was reported to the press by a hospital whistle blower, the doctors’ regulating body took a tougher stance on this insanity.  Ryleigh McWillis’ death has meant that many Canadian boys have been saved from this painful, permanently mutilating procedure.

What makes me wonder about what’s going on in the “on the street” reality of life in my province is the feedback that I get when I meet people who have nothing to do with the birth field and nothing to do with intactivism.  I am taking a business course right now and have been assigned to a team with two young (30ish) men and a young (25ish) woman.  The other night, at our team meeting, we each declared one of our commitments to the group.  I, of course, let them know that I am committed to ending circumcision.  The two men proceeded to agree with me (I suspect to be polite) but both muttered  afterward about “Of course, it’s cleaner to be cut”. . . this is a sure sign that they both are cut and have been sold a bill of goods about how they are “cleaner”.  The real surprise and heartening reaction was from the young woman.  She stated “I can’t believe you, since when do we cut off body parts instead of washing them?  Would you cut off your ears because they are dirty?”  Wow!  how did she get so educated?  I’m just starting out with this team but I’ll be getting deeper into their information and beliefs about this subject.  I’m happy not to be preaching to the converted and you never know where opening up this subject may lead.

8 thoughts on “Are we getting anywhere with ending circumcision?

  1. Hello Gloria,

    Thank you for asking this question, “Are we getting anywhere with ending circumcision?” My answer, after looking at this issue seriously for 15 years (since 1993) is yes. Although it seems excruciatingly slow the level of awareness is growing. This is seen and heard in online discussions and sites like YouTube that have exposed the barbarity of the act, and given a safe place for people affected by circumcision to express their feelings. You’ve suggested that the “real world” may not be keeping pace with the on-line world and this may be due to several factors.

    In real-life social situations many people are still more likely to say what they think is acceptable, while on-line people are much freer to express themselves without fear of the sort of criticism they may still fear in person.

    The struggles for civil right, women’s rights and gay rights have been very long, are still being waged. Sometimes it’s hard to see progress, or it seems to be two steps forward one back, but over time progress is made subtly and surely.

    We have some huge hurdles to overcome, but the tool of the internet and the ability it has given us to bring forward frank and honest discussion on this issue must be appreciated. Never before have ordinary people had access to so much good information, and the ability to speak up even if only under a cloak of anonymity.

    Now that Obama has been chosen we have overcome another huge hurdle in the white male majority rule illusion.

    My purpose is to speak up against genital mutilation and hopefully inspire others to do so also. We are primates, and as such often require a good example of how to do something before we are able to as well. This includes speaking out on issues that may be difficult for many reasons. For years I wondered why there was no visible or vocal opposition to genital mutilation of children, then I met Tim Hammond of NOHARMM and saw what he was doing. His example inspired me. Once I got going I remembered how many times I questioned why no one was speaking out. Why did it take meeting Tim to set me on that path?

    The point I’m attempting to make is how important it is to keep speaking up and out about this and other issues of importance to human rights. Our voices will inspire others. Genital mutilation of children will not likely stop entirely anytime soon. But their are many conscientious people raising intact children who are better informed than ever before.

    Please keep up your great work Gloria. I know you are inspriirng others.

  2. Pingback: Circumcision In The News | Natural Childbirth

  3. Gloria,
    I agree with you completely. Things have improved – just compare the latest circumcision statistics in the US with those of twenty years ago. It’s slow, but we’re going in the right direction. Here in California, the statistics for newborn males is that about 65% to 70% are left intact.
    Obviously, I would like to see zero circumcisions, but that will not happen in my lifetime.
    I promote ‘intactivism’ wherever I can. Gloria, thanks for your comments and efforts. Our slogan should be: ‘Yes We Can!’

  4. [copied from the facsimile post on Facebook]

    I think facebook is a great place to post this. Hopefully it will stimulate conversation and make people think about something that is usually ignored. It is easier to pretend that genital mutilation hasn’t happened to people around us, but if the world is to become a better place, then the denial needs to stop.

  5. Gloria, we are too impatient aren’t we? I’ve been in the movement 8 years now and I’ve seen a miraculous change. Yes, I do go to places where I know I’m preaching to the choir but I also go to places where just the general population posts and I see that same miraculous change. Unfortunately, we are both of an age group that is not generally even remotely aware of this issue but the younger generations are certainly aware of it. They are the ones who really count because they are making the decisions. It would be great if they had the full support of their parents and other family but we take what we can get sometimes.

    Once, people circumcised just because “Everyone else does.” That is (relatively) quickly changing to not circumcising because “Everyone else doesn’t.”

    I know that we both tend to be idealists about this issue and when our ideals are not realized, we tend to get discouraged. The fact is that circumcision is really dying a quick death for a deeply entrenched cultural practice. These practices can persist for decades without much change. Relatively speaking, circumcision is ending quickly.


  6. If a blastula has the same legal rights as an adult human, then surely a male infant should have the implied legal right to stop his parents from cutting off the tip of his penis without consent or anaesthesia. If somebody opposes abortion without also opposing circumcision, they are a hypocrite.

    It is also hypocritical to oppose female circumcision without also opposing male circumcision.

  7. * In parts of Africa, it is a tradition going back millennia to attack young girls and cut out their genitals.
    * In other parts of Africa, a wooden disc is used to stretch their lips grotesquely.
    * In part of south east Asia young women have their rib cages collapsed with brass rings to create the illusion of long necks.
    * In China, female babies had their feet bound to deform them and make them smaller.
    * In Britain, people set dogs loose on bulls to kill them for entertainment.
    In Spain, matadors torment bulls for entertainment.
    Even today there are just as many people living in slavery as there were in the American civil war.
    * In some parts of the world, women are still not permitted to vote, drive, go to school, show their faces in public or go out in public unaccompanied.
    * In Calgary, Alberta Canada every year about half a dozen horses are killed in re-enactments of chuckwagon races.
    * In the United States an ancient religious ritual calls for bullying homosexuals, denying them housing, denying legal recognition of their relationships, and is some cases beating them up and killing them.
    * In Canada, parents snip the tips off their son’s penises without consent or anaesthesia.

    Is tradition sufficient justification for blindly continuing all these practices? Or should they each be examined afresh on their own merits? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

  8. Some good news from Australia. We had a census a couple of years which made it possible to see how many circs were secular and how many were ritual.

    The national rate of secular circ for boys under 4 is now less than 10%. Its decreasing. About another 4% have been circed ritually (mostly Muslim or Jewish).

    A big step here was the end of infant circ in public hospitals.

    And a recent poll found that the majority of Australian doctors thought infant circ was child abuse and most the rest saying it was a bad idea.

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