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Male genital mutilation

February 3, 2013

Of children, by the US government!

Female circumcision is now properly called genital mutilation. We would imprison and strike off the register any doctor who did it.

But although foreskins also serve an important function – movement within them during intercourse reduces abrasions for both partners – male circumcision is tolerated, even in newborns or children. But attitudes are changing, and in most of the world the medieval practice of adults cutting children’s genitalia is dying away.

Except in Africa, if the US government has its way.  The United States Agency for International development (USAID) plans campaigns to circumcise adults and newborns in Africa (click here for more).  Circumcising men has some justification, it may reduce sexual transmission of HIV, although the evidence is only moderately strong (details here). Even so, it’s a jump to apply it to babies.  There have been no trials in babies, and nor should there be. No ethics committee would ever sanction such an experiment.

Besides the damage of the operation, there are the usual complications of infection and bleeding, as well as the special risks of removing too much skin or accidentally damaging the penis itself.* More importantly infected needles may be a factor keeping HIV infection rates high in Africa (click here for more).  How can USAID be confident that their campaign will not contribute to that?

Newborn circumcision is one of the many things governments should do less of.

Jim Thornton

More here, and here.

*If you’ve a strong stomach and there are no children about, type “complications of circumcision” into Google.  Most pictures are of procedures done in developed countries.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2013 10:42 am

    And it harms you sex life.

  2. February 20, 2013 1:45 am

    Here’s my take on the AAP statement over at the University of Oxford’s Practical Ethics Blog:

  3. February 20, 2013 1:46 am

    And here are my thoughts on the HIV/AIDS push, same site:

  4. February 26, 2013 10:18 am

    Marilyn Milos writes: “The foreskin is an integral part of the penis, so when it is amputated, the act of circumcision damages the penis itself. I make the point because so many people think the foreskin is “redundant,” disposable tissue, I think it’s important for us to refer to the foreskin as an important part of the penis–a crucial part! Hope you don’t mind my making this case.

    John Taylor (who identified the Ridged Band that encircles the opening of the foreskin) wrote an article just before his death, which is posted at I think it’s an accurate and clear description of the penile system and how it works. Enjoy.”


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