Council of Europe under pressure to reconsider its resolution condemning male circumcision

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According to a report in the Times of Israel, the Council of Europe is to revisit last October's resolution which stated that the ritual circumcision of young boys violates their basic human rights.

The decision comes after an Israeli delegation met members of the Council in Paris to argue the case against banning religious circumcision. The matter is scheduled to be debated at a full meeting of the Council in January 2014.

The announcement came after an Israeli delegation led by MK Reuven Rivlin met with members of the council in Paris to argue the case against banning religious circumcision, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday. The matter is scheduled to be debated at a full council meeting next month.

Leader of the delegation, MK Rivlin, speculated that he thought the Council would "change its position".

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution that called male ritual circumcision a "violation of the physical integrity of children" by a vote of 78 to 13, with 15 abstentions in October. The decision was based on a report from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development led by German rapporteur Marlene Rupprecht.

Written By: National Secular Society
continue to source article at secularism.org.uk

26 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      I think there is something faintly macabre about that image in the photo.

      Not just faintly, mate. It’s effing weird. All blokes, no women, and no female kids either.

  1. If they do that, then they have no argument left against FGM, the marriage of underage girls or any other kind or human rights violation based on religious beliefs.
    And – why not exempt “honour killings” for the violation of religious norms at the same time.

    • In reply to #4 by Peter Grant:

      Precisely why I thought it was too early to open up this particular can of legal worms. Get rid of FGM first.

      Peter, a couple of points.

      First I agree that FGM is worse and clearly needs to be dealt with however it was my understanding that cutting off the clitoris of small girls is already illegal in Europe. Please correct me if I am wrong. I worry that people get away with it out of fear of being labelled racist and they hide behind the fact that Jews are allowed to circumcise their boys, why should we not be able to follow our cultural heritage. So unless all childhood mutilation is considered illegal (unless in genuine medical need) they will come off as hypocrites – which indeed they are.

      This next bit is not addressed at you but at the tread in general, some apologists for male circumcision suggest that as it happens when the child is a baby it does not hurt and the child does not remember it. Indeed I cannot remember mine however we would not accept FGM if they used anaesthesia or did it in the comparative safety of a hospital would we? In my opinion (and that is all it is) male circumcision is as bad as say cutting off the earlobes of your baby boy because you are affiliated with a particular cult or belief system and wish to mark you child likewise.

      • In reply to #7 by Reckless Monkey:

        I worry that people get away with it out of fear of being labelled racist and they hide behind the fact that Jews are allowed to circumcise their boys, why should we not be able to follow our cultural heritage.

        That’s the problem with cultural relativism. Some cultural practices are objectively worse than others. Though I agree circumcision is pretty bad, FGM is far worse.

        • In reply to #16 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #7 by Reckless Monkey:

          That’s the problem with cultural relativism. Some cultural practices are objectively worse than others. Though I agree circumcision is pretty bad, FGM is far worse.

          Agreed.

          As an aside. The Maasai Warriors are circumcised during a ceremony in which the males upon reaching adulthood need to go through the procedure with without flinching or showing pain. That this is the hardest thing they have to do is a testament to how much it hurts. I suspect that if circumcision was delayed until adulthood very, very few would ever have it done.

          • In reply to #18 by Reckless Monkey:

            I suspect that if circumcision was delayed until adulthood very, very few would ever have it done.

            You’d think this would be the case, but sadly not. Not here in SA anyway. Though many do go to clinics and just say they underwent the ceremony.

          • In reply to #19 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #18 by Reckless Monkey:

            I suspect that if circumcision was delayed until adulthood very, very few would ever have it done.

            You’d think this would be the case, but sadly not. Not here in SA anyway. Though many do go to clinics and just say they underwent the ceremony.

            Easy enough to check,

            In the last John Safran series he visited people who want their circumcision reversed and have to wear an uncomfortable device for months to stretch the skin. Apparently it works, I think John tried it out can’t remember.

    • In reply to #4 by Peter Grant:

      Precisely why I thought it was too early to open up this particular can of legal worms. Get rid of FGM first.

      How the hell are you going to write that in to law that stands to protect children?

      “Section x.x.x. of the Law forbids anyone from conducting surgical procedures for non medical reasons on girls until they
      are of age to consider the procedure, but don’t mind little boys. Do with them as you please!.”

      No! being moral cowards and hypocrites like what you are calling for, is exactly what we shouldn’t do!
      We can shoot down many children’s issues at the same time as the article it self states…

      ” The resolution also urged member states to… the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards” and to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.”

      Practices covered by the resolution included female genital mutilation, the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersexual children, corporal punishment, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.”

      • In reply to #10 by Terra Watt:

        In reply to #4 by Peter Grant:

        Precisely why I thought it was too early to open up this particular can of legal worms. Get rid of FGM first.

        How the hell are you going to write that in to law that stands to protect children?

        “Section x.x.x. of the Law forbids anyone from conducting surgical procedures for non medical reasons on girls until they are of age to consider the procedure, but don’t mind little boys. Do with them as you please!.”

        That’s not what you do. You make a law which quite clearly spells out what is not allowed.

        If I was the government I would defend my decision not to make a similar law in regard to male circumcision by arguing that it is not as gross a mutilation as the female varieties. Of course you risk an argument then that some varieties of FGM are actually comparable in degree of mutilation to MGM. A lot simpler and cleaner to ban the whole lot as the Council of Europe has proposed. In the UK though I’m guessing it’s mostly occurring amongst African immigrants where the FGM practised is a severe mutilation.

        Michael

        • In reply to #15 by Peter Grant:

          In reply to #10 by Terra Watt:

          No! being moral cowards and hypocrites like what you are calling for, is exactly what we shouldn’t do!

          I’m a moral realist, I’m also a pessimist.

          You are a moral relativist!
          There’s no such thing as a moral realist.

  2. There should be consistent opposition to tribal initiation rites which involve mutilation of children. Sprinkling water is physically harmless, even if it had magical power to turn baby Adolf Hitler into a Roman Catholic for life.

    • In reply to #6 by kraut:

      To be very clear about it: let us call it Male Genital Mutilation. As long as there is no medical need, the religious demand is exactly akin to FGM

      Legally yes, but medically and morally FGM is much worse.

  3. The Parliamentary Assembly’s resolution included FGM as well as ritual circumcision of boys and other acts like tattooing and piercings. The Turks voted against, focussing on the circumcision of boys, I suppose. This vote is a recommendation and doesn’t ban anything. It’s up to the 47 member states to decide on what action to take.However, Muslims and Jews have a common cause here and in the UK and the rest of Europe there are going to be intense campaigns, so it’s nothing like over, one way or the other.

    Female genital mutilation is mainly carried out in African countries but it continues among immigrant populations in Europe. In the UK it’s illegal but there have been no prosecutions, I believe.

    • In reply to #8 by aldous:

      The Parliamentary Assembly’s resolution included FGM as well as ritual circumcision of boys and other acts like tattooing and piercings.

      Interesting. So there will be pressure to end some cultural practices of piercing young girls ears. I wonder what age they will be allowed to get their ears pierced ?

      Female genital mutilation is mainly carried out in African countries but it continues among immigrant populations in Europe.

      Also quite common in Muslim parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Phillipines. I think what happens there tends to be on the less
      destructive end of the spectrum.

      Michael

      • In reply to #9 by mmurray:

        I think what happens there tends to be on the less destructive end of the spectrum.

        Still quite destructive (type iv) according to the wikipedia article,

        Malaysia (Type I and IV)

        FGM is prevalent in Malaysia. It is widely considered as a female sunnah tradition (sunat perempuan), typically done by midwife (mak bidan). It is either a prick (Type IV) or cutting off a small piece of the highest part of clitoral hood and foreskin (Type I).[142] FGM Prevalence rates have been estimated between 62% to 90% in Muslim Malay communities… Malaysian women claim religious obligation (82%) as the primary reason for female circumcision, with hygiene (41%) and cultural practice (32%) as other major motivators for FGM prevalence…

        The Malaysian government sponsored 86th conference of Malaysia’s Fatwa Committee National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs held in April 2009 decided that female circumcision is part of Islamic teachings and it should be observed by Muslims, with the majority of the jurists in the Committee concluding that female circumcision is obligatory (wajib). However, the fatwa noted harmful circumcision methods are to be avoided.[145] In 2012, Malaysian government health ministry proposed guidelines to reclassify and allow female circumcision as a medical practice.[146]

        undefined> Indonesia (Type I and IV)

        FGM is prevalent in Indonesia. In certain communities of Indonesia, mass female circumcision (khitanan massal) ceremony are organized by local Islamic foundations around Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Some FGM are Type IV done with a pen knife, others are Type I done with scissors. Two Indonesian nationwide studies in 2003 and 2010 found over 80% of Muslim girls are subjected to cutting, typically newborns through the age of 9. More than 90% of adults claimed they wanted the practice to continue… In 2006, FGM was banned by the government; however, FGM/C remained commonplace for women in Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim nation. In 2010, the Indonesian Health Ministry issued a decree outlining the proper procedure for FGM, which activists claim contradicted the 2006 ruling prohibiting clinics from performing any FGM. In 2013, the Indonesian Ulema Council ruled that it favors FGM, stating that although it is not mandatory, it is still “morally recommended”. The Ulema has been pushing Indonesian government to circumcise girls, claiming it is part of Islamic teachings. Some Indonesian officials, in March 2013, claimed cutting and pricking type circumcision is not FGM.

        Philippines
        FGM is prevalent in parts of Philippines. The communities that practice FGM call it Pag-Sunnat, sometimes Pag-Islam, and include Tausugs of Mindanao, Yakan of Basilan and other Muslim communities of Philippines. FGM is typically performed to girls between few days old and age 8. Type IV FGM with complications have been reported.

        • In reply to #11 by Terra Watt:

          In reply to #9 by mmurray:

          I think what happens there tends to be on the less destructive end of the spectrum.

          Still quite destructive (type iv) according to the wikipedia article,

          Sure. I did say “tends to be” and “less destructive”. There is also comment on some being Type I although no indication of proportions. Both Type 1 and Type IV seems to cover a multitude of things of varying degrees of severity

          WHO Type IV

          A variety of procedures are known as Type IV, which the WHO defines as “all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example, pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.” These range from ritual nicking of the clitoris (ritual circumcision) to gishiri cutting, angurya cutting, burning or scarring the genitals, and introducing substances into the vagina to tighten it.[60]

          Burning or scarring sounds nastier to me than ritual nicking. But I’m no expert. It’s all barbaric.

          Michael

      • In reply to #9 by mmurray:

        Also quite common in Muslim parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Phillipines. I think what happens there tends to be on the less destructive end of the spectrum.

        That undermines the contention that it’s mainly an African problem. This is the point where the argument gets into the different varieties of the practice. It also underlines its association with Islam. Even if it isn’t a religious practice it has religious endorsement, as it were, by being part of the culture of ethnic Muslims. It should, however, be possible to follow the Council of Europe recommendation and eliminate FGM in Europe

        • In reply to #20 by aldous:

          It also underlines its association with Islam.

          As does this comment from wikipedia

          Historical records suggest female circumcision in Indonesia started and became prevalent with the arrival of Islam in the 13th century as part of its drive to convert people to Islam. In islands of Indonesia, where partial populations converted to Islam in 17th century, FGM has been prevalent in Muslim females only

          Michael

  4. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution that called male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children” by a vote of 78 to 13, with 15 abstentions in October.

    That’s a pretty substantial majority. Even if a few waverers can be persuaded to go with the wooist accommodationist special pleading, there’s a big margin if it reflects the more general view.

    • In reply to #22 by Alan4discussion:

      That’s a pretty substantial majority. Even if a few waverers can be persuaded to g..

      I don’t expect FGM is legal in Europe, certainly not in the UK. The problem is with enforcement. Resistance to laws against male circumcision is coming from the Israeli government, which is presenting itself as the champion of Jewish identity, although it’s not a member of the Council of Europe. Jewish and Muslim groups in Europe will oppose the recommendation but it’s up to the 47 member states, individually, to deal with the issue.

  5. Enough with the religious privilege. This “privilege” – a.k.a. “getting away with crap that no one else can because God/Allah/Jehovah/Yahweh…” has got to end. Child circumcision of either sex is a violation, and I don’t care how much beating around the bush goes on, there is no justification for it. In America particularly it is often performed for ostensibly secular but poorly thought-out reasons, such as hygiene and appearance. My medical ethics say that no invasive procedure should ever be performed on a person who cannot consent except to save life or limb. Since when do ethics stop at childhood or infancy? This whole issue is just an extension of the pervasive, religiously-inspired idea that children are property and not fully-realized individuals with human rights. Circumcision should never be done except in cases of true medical need or when an adult makes an informed decision to have it performed on himself. And don’t even get me started on the so-called health benefits of infant circumcision that have been making the rounds, such as hygiene, prevention of STDs, etc. There are so many non-surgical ways to be clean and prevent STDs that performing circumcision is like cutting off your fingertips to prevent hangnails. We don’t perform prophylactic appendectomies on newborns, even though appendicitis is a common and potentially fatal infection in adolescents and young adults, so why do we try to justify mutilation of a child’s genitals with such weak arguments, let alone religious mumbo-jumbo?

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