One thing we can always be sure of in Denmark is that various non-stories will hit the press during the summertime. When the politicians are on summer vacation and parliament is closed down, we have to rely on others to provide our daily entertainment.
This year the biggest story by far is the news that a German high court has ruled circumcision of boys illegal, much to the dismay of Muslims and Jews who claim that circumcision is dictated by their religions and should be respected as a religious right.
To which one might ask well, “What religious right?” Last I checked, cutting pieces off other people wasn’t a “right”.
Except, apparently, the right to cut a piece off a newborn baby, provided that said baby is your own offspring!
Because a 2,000 year old book of dubious origin and ditto value to humanity says so! And this commandmend from up high was copied into another book, of equally dubious origin and value, some 600 years later.
The ruling in a German court sparked a heated debate about whether Danish lawmakers oughtn’t to prohibit this custom. Or, as some (women!) argued, whether all men ought to be circumcised “for the common good”.
Many arguments have been brought out both for and against, some better than others. Of course it wasn’t long before the “Race” card was drawn: Anybody who spoke out against circumcision was only out to get at Jews and Muslims. In other words, either you support parents’ right to have their boys circumcised, or you are an Islamophobe and a Jew-hater! Some women claimed that sex with circumcised men was just better because you had direct penis contact without the foreskin getting in the way. On a more serious note, statistics were brought out to show that complications arising from the “innocent” operation cost 100 babies their lives each year in the U.S., but also that circumcised men had less risk of being infected with AIDS and other STDs.
One argument, however, was only brought up a few times:
The boys’ right to decide for themselves! The fact that any boy owns his own body and should be allowed to make the decision for himself, and that nobody else – including his parents – have no right whatsoever to make irreversible changes to his body!
Seeing that this is the single most important argument of all, it is hardly surprising that it was only brought up sporadically, and that it was quickly countered with a number of explanations and excuses.
– But – parents also bring up their children and teach them their faith! (Yes, but this is hardly avoidable, and a religious conviction can be reversed. I know of several people who have lost faith as grown-ups, or gained faith, or switched faith. But circumcision is irreversible. I know of nobody who has grown his foreskin back once it had been removed!)
– But, but – what about the Christian babtising ceremony? We bring our children to a church and pour water over their heads and give them a name. (Again: They don’t have to keep that faith forever; they can renounce it as they grow older and more aware. And the water poured over their heads will dry off. Again, foreskins don’t grow back! And just for the record, I also find it morally wrong to babtise children before they can give their own informed accept, but at least no permanent damage is done.)
– But, but, but – parents force their children to undergo surgery in other cases, for example for tonsillitis or appendicitis. (Yes, they do. In cases where such surgery is necessary to save a child’s life or well-being. I never heard of a boy being in mortal danger from keeping his foreskin!)
– But, but, but, but – what about the parents’ right to exercise their religion freely? (Well, what about their CHILDREN’s religious rights? Don’t the children have a right to choose their own faith once they grow up? Shouldn’t I also have the right to practise my faith in cannibalism and head-shrinking, then? No, of course not! One person’s rights end where the next person’s rights begin. You do not have the right to mutilate other people in your God’s name. Not even your own children.)
The important issue here is one of self-ownership and self-determination. Pure and simple!
Who owns your body? You do.
Who should make the decision about whether or not to have your genitals permanently altered? You should!
So when should we accept circumcision? Only when a man* makes the informed and voluntary decision to have his foreskin removed, and a surgeon makes the informed and voluntary decision to carry out the operation.
* Similar arguments pertain to the “circumcision” of women which our legislators have surprisingly had sufficient common sense to outlaw.