Recently, a small but highly publicized domestic court case in Florida, was at the center of a nationwide debate to protect a children from child abuse. The mother of 4-year-old Chase Nebus-Hironimus had ignited a powder keg of powerful emotions surrounding religious and cultural beliefs and a movement to “Save Chase” was quickly in the public eye.
What caused this explosive national response? His father’s desire to have him circumcised. The court ruled in favor of Chase’s father and the procedure was performed on the little boy. This small, bitter, legal battle between a husband and wife ended but the larger cultural war had just begun with U.S. medical authorities proclaiming that the benefits of the procedure outweighed the risks despite the neonatal circumcision rates dropping in the United States. Even more interesting is that in many European countries, the procedure is quite rare. And recently, official sentiment is that circumcision is form of child abuse.
Here’s some historical perspective from an article published in Ozy, earlier this year:
“Male circumcision has for centuries been an established practice in Jewish and Muslim communities, but it came into wider use in the 19th century in the U.S. and U.K., where it was initially believed to counter the perceived ills of masturbation and wet dreams. That medical rationale did not survive, but the procedure did: According to a 2014 Mayo Clinic Proceedings study, around 80 percent of American males have been circumcised. Those in the U.S. who insist circumcision’s benefits outweigh its risks, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, point to studies suggesting it can reduce the risk of contracting urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and HPV, penile and prostate cancer, and HIV.”
Several European opponents of circumcision however, including The Royal Dutch Medical Association and the British Medical Association, disagree and feels that circumcision is “medically unnecessary” and violates boys’ human rights. The British Medical Association considers it a cultural, non-therapeutic procedure and requires the consent of both parents.
Lately there has been some agreement in the scientific literature here in the U.S. that suggests that the scientific community may be changing their official stance and are somewhat in agreement with the Europeans, in that the research on circumcision showing protection from STDs like HIV, has been cherry-picked from few studies and that overall the benefits of circumcision are not well-proven.
Ultimately, this conversation is about culture and cultural norms, more than medical research and we must be respectful of different cultures in order to continue the discussion in a way that truly helps children. We must also consider female circumcision in its cultural context and expand the conversation here as well.
We welcome your thoughts on this controversial and ancient practice and the video below: