Blog By Barry

January 7, 2009

Male circumcision could be outlawed in Denmark

Filed under: Sexism hurts men — Ampersand @ 12:59 am

Via BigFred:

The Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper has reported that several parties in the Danish Parliament are considering legislation that would ban circumcision on boys as well as girls. After an intense week of discussions by MPs, it appears that the proposal for a ban covering both genders is gaining traction.[…]

At the centre of the debate is the question of religious freedom. Female circumcision was outlawed in Denmark because it was deemed a too-common practice among some Muslim immigrants. But Jewish tradition demands that boys be circumcised, and many Christians and Muslims support the practice as well. Denmark’s Ethics Council has criticised the practice, suggesting boys should wait until 15 to decide for themselves, the age at which a child has sole legal control over his or her body in Denmark.

I probably favor this ban, and think Jews and others should begin using alternative ceremonies. The main reason I say “probably” is that I wonder how effective the ban will be; if the only effect is to make religious minorities feel unwelcome while they have circumcisions performed anyway (either illegally or by making a day trip to Norway or Germany), then a program of pubic education to convince people to voluntarily move away from circumcision might be more effective.

(On the other hand, if an actual ban persuades all but the most orthodox members of religious minorities to leave their sons uncut, then good.)



  1. Since Barry has this space over here (that doesn’t seem to get much attention) I’ll put this here:

    What is the routinely “life changing difference” made by male circumcision? I never have encountered a man who has said that circumcision changed his life for the worse (admittedly I know very few circumcised men who can remember a pre-circumcised life, but we’re discussing a ban on infant circumcision, not on voluntary circumcision by adult males). They don’t seem to suffer continuous pain or to have had impeded sexual lives.

    Well as people have mentioned over on the other thread reduced sexual sensitivity due to lost nerves and the (albeit small) chance that the procedure could go wrong lead to a permenantly damaged (if not totally lost) penis. And I’m still detecting a hint of, “Well since he won’t remember it its okay. How can he feel violated if he doesn’t remember he had that foreskin?”

    A group that made sex painful and undesirable for men probably has a short-lived existence, unless it’s some sci-fi fantasy of a female dominant society with male slaves who are cruelly circumcised to ensure they don’t experience sexual pleasure and thus will remain under the owners’ control.
    Was that supposed to be some sort of literary cleverness based on the situation at hand? Ha ha…

    And that “worse” that I put a twist of emphais on, that’s your word, not mine. I just just said both male and female circumcision made life changing differences, I never said who had it worse….well except for earlier when I said:
    (yes adolescent girls have a greater risk but male circumcision does have risks as well).

    I have encountered women who have said that certain forms of circumcision have changed their lives for the worse. Groups can make sex painful and undesirable for women so long as women do not hold enough power in that culture to refuse sex and thus reproduction.
    And that is one reason why I agree that female circumcision is unfair and and just plain wrong.

    Again, why not argue for what is wrong with male circumcision on its own terms instead of making exaggerated comparisons to female circumcision?
    Exaggeration? To say that male and female circumcision share a few common reasons for why they wrong is an exaggeration?

    The set of problems you describe with male circumcision — the infliction of pain on a minor unable to consent; the lack of medical benefits; the risk of medical costs due to infection; the loss of a piece of the body that never will grow back; etc. — are all bad things in themselves.
    Well at least that settles the thought that I had brewing that you were trying to claim first dibs on those reasons for female circumcision.

    They don’t somehow gain the quality of being bad things only to the extent that they are similar to what happens with female circumcision.
    The sad thing is PG to some people on their personal level it actually does. Not to say that all people who are this way are bad people to the core nor to excuse what they have done but one of the best ways to open someone’s eyes is to associate it with something they already know.

    Honesly I wish everyone could recognize that male circumcision on its own is a bad thing but the simple fact of the matter is they don’t. They shrug it off as, “Oh they do it all the time. It’s not hurting anyone.”

    It reminds me of the Vatican’s reference to “concentration camps.” Israel’s treatment of Gaza is bad, but seriously, why go there? Can’t we acknowledge that the situation in Gaza violates human rights law without pretending that Israel is herding Palestinians into gas chambers?
    To get people to recognize that the current events in Gaza are a horrible atrocity that needs attention.

    Comment by Danny — January 9, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  2. Call me what you want PG but I’m still a little lost over how pointing out how both female and male circumcision share a few common negatives is an absurdly stretched comparison or exaggeration.

    A stretch (and outright bull) would be trying to say circumcision actually did hurt baby boys more than adolescent girls. The only way to stretch that would be to look at a botched male circ and a successful female circ. And even if the wording of that previous sentence doesn’t give it away there’s still the numbers on how many boys are botched and how many girls are done properly. But I never said that so there’s no worry.

    Comment by Danny — January 9, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

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