Confronting and controversial waters, I know.
I’ve been hesitant to speak or write about this topic for a long time. Always mindful of not wanting to offend anyone. Always trying to curb my passion for injustice for fear of alienating my friends. Trying not to appear judgmental.
But I decided recently that I cannot be silent anymore. This is not about differing with others over a ‘parenting decision’. This is in fact about human rights. The right of a child to be protected from amputation or mutilation (alteration beyond repair) of healthy organs without medical need and without their consent, forever impacting their body and life.
The truth is, this is not a ‘parenting decision’, where it’s our own private business what we do. It becomes everybody’s business when a child is subjected to cruelty.
I can differ with other parents on many things (co-sleeping, breastfeeding, food choices, home birthing – to name a few), but I cannot be silent when someone knowingly inflicts pain on their children, and leaves them with lasting harm.
I am no longer worried about offending anyone. I need to be a voice for children who have no voice. To be passive makes complicit in allowing this cruel practice to go on. At some point in history don’t we need to speak up? Hundreds of years ago during the slave trade era, people felt like they couldn’t speak up against it due to a fear of not wanting to offend anyone. Imagine where would be today if someone had not spoken up back then.
Even before I had children (let alone a son) I knew where I stood on this issue. Instinctively I knew I didn’t want to inflict pain on my child, especially as there is no medical need whatsoever. Not saying that in a morally superior way, just saying that I thought it was logical not to do it.
But for many people this isn’t the case, including many of my friends who I hold dear. I’m not saying people who choose to circumcise their sons are idiots. I’m also not saying that they don’t love their children. I think in most cases people are uninformed or misinformed about the facts. I believe we all have all made errors in our lives about a whole range of things.
This is not intended to make my friends feel bad about the decisions they’ve made. But I believe there is a need to fully inform ourselves as humans on every matter where we are deciding to do something to another human. Once a person has been given access to the facts and then knowingly continues and/or justifies the practice of circumcision, then I find it harder to understand. Surely when you know better you should do better?
I have the utmost respect anyone who can admit their mistakes and can apologise to their sons. (There are some great apology articles about this linked below). It takes enormous courage for anyone to admit that they’ve damaged their children. Admission is painful. It’s much easier to not confront it.
There is so much information available about this issue, almost too much to explain in one blog post. But what I can tell you is why I’ve decided to keep my son intact:
- Because it’s his.
- Because it’s barbaric. Babies do feel pain. In fact, in most cases of circumcision they feel severe and insistent pain. Many circumcisions are performed without anaesthesia. And even if babies are given pain relief, evidence indicates that it cannot take away all of the pain. It’s only possible to relieve some of the pain on the upper side of the penis; there is no anaesthesia to block the nerve endings underneath. Additionally, when the anaesthesia wears off, there is still a great deal of pain associated with the recovery. (If doctors tell you otherwise about the pain, research more… or ask them if they’d be willing to undergo genital mutilation).
- Because I wouldn’t circumcise my daughter either. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is accepted as a completely abhorrent practice and is illegal in most countries. It’s about time the world catch up to the same truths that apply to males.
- Because it’s not medically necessary. No medical association on the planet recommends it. And there is no medical benefit to it.
- Because I wouldn’t amputate another normal functioning piece of my child’s body either. The prepuce removed during circumcision is not an extra piece of skin; it is a functioning organ that protects the glans. It is laden with nerve endings. It is sensitive and affects sexual function.
- Because I don’t think ‘matching penises’ within families is sufficient enough reason to inflict pain on babies. Not that this is an issue in our family, as, paradoxically, my son and his father match in their intactness. But hypothetically speaking, if I was subjected to FGM I wouldn’t subject my daughter to this as well just so we ‘match’. At what point in our consciousness did we let this asinine logic get through? Besides, all it would take is one generation of brave males to say no to MGM and suddenly we’d all be matching again! Yay!
- Because I do not know a grown man who would willingly have someone take a knife to their penis. So why do people think it’s okay to do this to a child?
- Because it violates the rights of my child. Children should be protected from permanent body disfigurement without their consent.
- Because I respect my son’s right to genital integrity. Similar to the above point, but more specific. (And full circle… back to point 1).
If you’re interested in more information and want access to more facts, here’s a few very informative links.
No apologies for this not being a feel-good topic. If somehow even one baby is saved from genital mutulation, then I’ll have every reason to feel good about it.