Is circumcision considered a violation of human rights? Despite circumcision being detrimental, painful, and leading to bodily injury, it is sad enough that only a minority believe circumcision to be a violation of human integrity. Circumcision involves surgically removing the foreskin (the skin covering the tip of the penis) to expose the end of the penis. Circumcision can be done to either an adult or a kid. In kids, the procedure is performed during the first 10 days since birth and is done without the kid’s consent. The process also takes 10 days of daunting pain, bleeding, and total discomfort to heal. While circumcision is an irreversible medical procedure, some men feel strongly about the damage done to them. These men end up trying to stretch the remaining tissue to recreate their foreskins.
Recently, Germany repudiated the practice of male genital mutilation unless it’s the strictest medical reason. However, an alliance of the Jews and Muslims has challenged Germany’s move, and the chancellor has promised to make religious circumcision legal again. In the meantime, other countries such as Austria and some other European countries are working on repudiating the atrocity. This comes when there is instream of people whose religious and cultural backgrounds require circumcision.
Several outspoken movements, such as foreskin reclaimers, and doctors opposing circumcision, among others, have been started to openly challenge circumcision. Some shows, such as “the revolution will not be circumcised” in U.S. and “foreskin pride” in Canada, have also been held to sensitize the breach of bodily integrity through male circumcision.
With the ability to reach many people at once, social media has also played a major role in fighting this atrocity. Several social media pages such as “bloodstained men and their friends” and “stop the cut” on Facebook consist of people from all over the world who are dedicated to ending this brutality. Kennedy Akumu (jay mjinga) from Kenya, for example, has done a commendable job in the sensitization of the Kenyan communities against male genital mutilation through his Facebook page “stop the cut”(https://www.facebook.com/stopthecutfoundation ). The efforts undertaken by these individuals on the fight against male circumcision can never go unnoticed.
Claims of circumcision having medicinal benefits have all been dismissed as fabricated. Urologists advise that unless a man has recurrent health conditions such as swelling of the glans or phimosis (problems retracting the foreskin), circumcision should be the last thing on his mind. With consistent hygiene, one should not experience such issues.
In this article, we will look at circumcision in-depth and how it violates all aspects of human rights.
So, where did circumcision originate from?
Before we dive any further, we need to understand where this atrocity springs to life, for only can we know the source of the problem to decide how to end it. Male genital mutilation Is one of the oldest known human surgical procedures with evidence dating back. Male circumcision is also known to have preceded female genital mutilation and has been practiced in most societies, even where female mutilation is not practiced. According to DeMeo (DeMeo, 2013), circumcision seems to have originated in East Africa long before the biblical account of Abraham. However, the origin of this exercise is not wholly clear, but several theories have been placed, and they all point to religious rites. Some ideas suggest that circumcision was initiated to purify individuals by reducing their sexual pleasure. Human sexuality was seen as filthy; hence, mutilation was the only way to cleanse.
Circumcision among the Jews was adopted as a religious ritual. The process involved stripping the prepuce (fused with the glans) from an infant in a painful procedure known as synechotomy. This procedure removed more foreskin than was necessary, and the corresponding injury was always more significant.
In the 1850s, prophylactic circumcision was introduced in England as a way of reducing sexually transmitted infections. Beyond its use in healthcare, circumcision significantly influenced many of England’s cultures and religions. These reasons made circumcision to be frequently performed for those reasons.
About one-fifth of the world’s men population has been mutilated, with over 30,000 procedures annually. These procedures have had about an 18-22 percent complication rate, with the leading causes of morbidity being hemorrhage and sepsis. Other recorded complications include, inter alia, psychological and possible sexual complications.
Reasons for male circumcision
Over the years, male mutilation has been executed for various reasons, from health to cultural to religious reasons. Below, we shall see some of the reasons why male mutilation is practiced and why they are unimportant in our current world.
In Judaism, circumcision is a religious ritual done on the infant’s eighth day by a Mohel. The instruction to mutilate male children was given to Abraham in the Bible (Genesis 17:7-14). Circumcision has been one of the follow-to-the-letter practices of Judaism for a long time. However, no anesthetic is used. No use of anesthesia means maximum pain. This alone violates both the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (1948, art. 5) and the INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND COVENANT RIGHTS (1976, art. 7), which states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Also, according to Jewish law, one is forbidden to hurt living things. Necessary pain causing is also considered heartless in Judaism. Another Jewish law states that one should not alter God’s given body. Circumcision is a complete alteration of God’s given body part, contrasting to the law.
Muslims also practice circumcision on males aged 4 and 13 years. However, there is no specific ordinance of the koran on this subject.
In Christianity, male genital mutilation has no religious gist.
Male circumcision is performed for various reasons, including cultural/ traditional reasons. These procedures are often undertaken under non-formal medical settings and are performed by untrained individuals who are not medical professionals. These types of initiation are often accompanied by a ceremony or celebration to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. This transition also comes with responsibilities and duties as members of the community.
There is a massive difference between clinical and traditional circumcision. For example, among the Kikuyu of Kenya, the initiates must troop to the river early in the morning and dip themselves in the chilly water. The ice-cold water makes them numb to face the circumciser’s knife. Even after several weeks of preparation, this is such a painful experience. Also, most people end up contracting infections and diseases such as H.I.V. This also leads to severe bleeding and sometimes death. However, these cases have reduced as more men get aware of their rights and decide to boycott genital mutilation.
There are currently no established health exploits from circumcision. However, several prevalent underlying conditions might warrant circumcision. Such conditions include;
- Paraphimosis is a condition occurring from the foreskin not pulling back after retraction.
- Balanoposthitis- this condition affects about 1% of males. The prepuce is often non-retractile and is also accompanied by purulent discharge.
Human rights are violated in the aspect of male circumcision
Like female genital mutilation, male circumcision is a nightmare that needs to be eradicated. Following Germany’s ban on male genital mutilation and several non-governmental organizations taking arms on the same, we are finally in the spotlight to entirely eliminate all forms of mutilation. In the remaining part, we will see some human rights violated by male genital mutilation.
- The right to life and physical integrity, including freedom from violence
Circumcision, especially in infants, is an outright denial of physical integrity. The right to life and physical integrity includes the right to liberty and security of the person, freedom from torture, and the right to liberty. Various human rights instruments cover this category of rights. These instruments include; the universal declaration of human rights, articles 1 and 3, the international covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights, and the convention of child’s rights (article 19).
- The right to health
Male genital mutilation might result in extreme physical and mental injury. Since it involves an invasive procedure on a totally healthy tissue without any medical necessity, male circumcision should be considered a violation of human rights. Several documents on international human rights, including the universal declaration of human rights, and the international covenant on economic, social, and cultural rights, among others, contain provisions that analyze the right to health.
- The rights of a child in general
Using the universal declaration of human rights and the declaration of the rights of a child as a basis, male genital mutilation can be taken as a rupture of the universally accepted human rights and the rights of a child.
According to the convention on the rights of the child, article24(3) reads, “States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.” some of these practices should include male genital mutilation.
At what point should the behavior be deemed dangerous enough to violate human rights? Male genital mutilation, like F.G.M., should be considered a “harmful traditional practice” that violates human rights.