Is Male Circumcision a Violation of Human Rights?
While flipping through the WestJet TV lineup on a recent cross-country flight, I reluctantly settled for a popular daytime talk-show (my other options included Days of Our Lives and re-runs of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo), which saw a panel of 4 diversely opinionated women duking it out to see who could make their co-host seem like the biggest idiot. Sigh.
More interesting, however, was the subject they were debating about: male circumcision.
Two of the female hosts in particular were taking the stage with polarizing views. One host saw the medical procedure as a hygienic practice that lowered the risk of disease while the other saw it as an archaic and highly irrelevant surgery.
In the end, the victor was left undecided. I, however, was left with an ignited curiosity about a medical procedure that I had never really taken time to question.
I was impressed by the research the anti-circumcision host had prepared for her debate, and it got me thinking intently about the ethics behind the globally rooted practice.
How Did Circumcision Come To Be Globally Recognized?
While the true origins of circumcision are largely obscured, the procedure undoubtedly has ancient roots, as documented in findings from several ethnic groups, including ancient Egypt, Greece, and Sub-equatorial Africa.
It has been proposed that the procedure began for a number of reasons, including serving as a rite of passage marking a boy’s entrance into adulthood or as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility or fertility. It could also have been started as a means of reducing sexual pleasure, marking those of higher social status, aiding hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, or even humiliating enemies and slaves by symbolic castration.
By the 1890s, it became a popular technique to prevent, or cure, masturbatory insanity.
Clitoridectomies (removal of the clitoris) were also performed for the same reason, and were widely practiced in the US until 1925. This of course was until someone recognized the absurdity of such an invasive and irrelevant medical procedure.
Yet even still, male circumcision continued onwards unto further generations of men.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that globally one-third of males aged 15 years and over are circumcised, with almost 70% of those being Muslims.
To Cut Or Not To Cut
Surprisingly, even though circumcision is still performed by most surgeons today, many leading medical institutions show no favour towards the procedure.
Take the New England Journal of Medic
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