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Don't circumcise babies!

25 March 2014, 14:34Chris McEvoy

Abuja - My father’s first good deed as a parent was to get angry at the doctor who delivered me. Apparently, the bastard dared to ask him if he should go ahead with the circumcision. As my father told me the story many years later, I saw his chest puff with righteous indignation.

“I said, ‘What? No, of course not! He was born that way, and that’s the way he’s going to stay. Are you suggesting there’s something wrong with him? Are you telling me he has some sort of deformity that needs to be removed? What kind of person looks at a new born baby boy and immediately wants to start lopping off bits of him with a scalpel?’”

Well, Dad, lots of people, actually. But thanks for your decision all the same.

My father was a practising Catholic at the time, and I’m sure this must have influenced his attitude (although circumcision isn’t expressly forbidden, the Catholic Church has a thing about “respecting bodily integrity”). Also, it’s a bit of a family tradition. Dad didn’t get the chop, and neither did his father.

But if he had, or came from a different culture, there’d be slightly more room in my underpants – space I’m glad I do without. Because my father gave me what circumcised men don’t have: a choice.

There are many good reasons for circumcision, particularly the fact that the practise “reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%”, according to the World Health Organisation.  Other reasons include the prevention of bruising and tearing during sex, and it’s said to even reduce women’s risk of cervical cancer.

Which raises the question: how many of these advantages are beneficial to babies?

Perhaps hygiene could be a reason if parents don’t have access to warm running water (uncircumcised boys are at a higher risk of contracting urinary tract infections), but other than that, medical benefits appear to be minimal.

At least, that’s what my personal bias tells me.

Because that’s what it comes down to, you see. We can argue the medical pros and cons of circumcising boys all we want, but in the end the decision is almost always an emotional one. So it’s not surprise that circumcision continues to be a sensitive and controversial subject, and whatever your opinion may be, it’s bound to infuriate someone else.

So let’s get to it.

Being the boring old liberal humanist that I am, I think people should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies. Get circumcised, get a Prince Albert piercing, get a tattoo of the Cat in the Hat – be my guest. But doing it to babies?

It’s irreversible. It’s non-consensual. And it bloody HURTS. Don’t fool yourself into thinking babies don’t feel pain like adults do. In fact, many medical professionals argue they actually feel more pain than us.

Parents with emotional, cultural, or religious influencesaffecting their decision should pause to remember one small fact. Babies are empty vessels. You may have a history, a culture and a religion, but they don’t.

When I was born (for example), I wasn’t a Catholic baby. I was just a baby with Catholic parents. So when they did the traditional Catholic thing and had me baptised, it was a profoundly meaningless act imposed on me, without my understanding and without my consent. And yes, according to my Dad, I cried like a baby.

But at least a little cold water on the forehead doesn’t leave any permanent scars.

- Parent24

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Intersex explained

26 October 2016, 08:38

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