Are Icelandic boys the first ones in the world to have a law to protect the immunity of their bodies?
Iceland has caused a ruckus among Jews and Islamic believers when a number of Icelandic MPs have drafted a bill for banning non-medical circumcisions of boys under the age of 15. The law does not prohibit circumcision. It only forbids the execution of it to a child who cannot express his consent or is not yet able to understand the impact of the operation to his body. The passage of the law would be a significant step forward in promoting the rights of children and especially boys rights. A bill that respects the integrity of the body would show to the rest of the world how children’s integrity and human rights should be respected.
Religious leaders see such a bill as a dangerous attack on religious freedom. But why do gods of certain religions require amputation of the male foreskin? Jews and Muslims are convinced that the removal of the foreskin will connect the child with God. In Islam, circumcision is a sunna set by Prophet Muhammad, one of the norms of his teaching that every Muslim male must adhere to. The circumcision of Muslim boys is carried out before the puberty. The Jews justify circumcision in the first chapter of the book of Moses 17th, which dictates in expressis verbis that the foreskin should be removed at eight days of age.
In the US, the circumcision of baby boys is a routine surgical procedure that mainly results in additional costs for hospitalization due to delivery. Many health insurance covers circumcision and it is a very big source of income for many hospitals. Surgical equipment companies also conduct regular surveys to try to convince parents of the health benefits of circumcision and to ensure the continuance of the circumcision business.
Many American men do not realize till young adulthood that their genitals have been modified as a child. This fact is often presented as proof that the surgery must be harmless! Well for some there are no adverse effects, and for others there can be plenty. The genitals of a small child are not supposed to be mutilated. In the case of an adult, the situation is completely different. When a boy’s genitalia is modified immediately after birth, he does not even have the experience of how it should have felt or looked untouched. Understanding this is a psychologically difficult situation for many men.
It is very common thinking that circumcising boys without their consent would be more acceptable than girls FGM. Why is this so? People have been inspired by religious traditions and ancient medical studies to imagine that the baby would not feel pain and that the foreskin would be somehow unnecessary, so it’s only positive to get rid of it for aesthetic and hygienic reasons.
Even 50 years ago, it was generally believed that children do not feel pain in the same way as adults, and therefore very painful operations were performed for children without anesthesia or painkillers – including circumcision. Even today, especially in the US, it is customary to give the baby only sugar water before mutilation to distract from the feeling of pain. Babies can’t be anesthetized in the same way as older children and sugar water is believed to alleviate a painful operation. Often, however, the baby vomits the sugar water because the pain is so unbearable. In the US alone, over hundred babies die for complications of circumcision. Also some of the deaths are hidden in statistics as sepsis or other complications.
At the moment in Finland, non-medical circumcision of male minors is not prohibited by the law, but it’s considered to offend the child’s self-determination. In comparison with for example the Finnish animal protection laws, they determine that animals may not be subjected to any unnecessary pain and suffering by truncating their ears or tails. Yet, our law has not written a paragraph that would protect the baby boys bodies from an unnecessary amputation.
What are the alleged benefits of circumcision? The only rational answer is that there are no benefits. All mammals have a protecting foreskin and it is designed to be a functional part of the male genitalia. In Finland, the most frequent need for operative aid is phimosis, a stenosis of the foreskin. Nowadays phimosis is treated more and more with very good results with stretching therapy. The skin is elastic and moldable. Another way of treating the tightness of foreskin is to release the adhesion under the glans which is called frenulum. This is a very minimal operation that improves the foreskin movement. The foreskin thus acts as a mechanical protection and an important erogenous organ. Therefore, it should not be removed, just like generally we do not want to remove the labia from baby girls sex organs. Foreskin is part of the skins metabolism, it increases erogenous feelings because it has a lot of nerve connections, it protects against microbes, regulates heat and keeps the glans moisturized. It also increases lubrication during intercourse and solo sex.
The rights of the boys to have the immunity of their body and the right for self-determination should be enshrined in the Finnish law alongside the equivalent law for girls FGM. Every child has the right to partake in decisions about their own body and to be spared from unnecessary, dangerous and irreversible surgical operations.