Letter to the editor: Circumcision pointlessly harms boys

Circumcision seems to be a taboo topic in our society, even though according to the most recent numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 56 percent of infant boys in the United States are circumcised within the first few days of life. With circumcision being one of the most common surgeries performed with one occurring roughly every 30 seconds, why aren’t more people willing to talk about it? 

This week, advocates from across the country are doing exactly that as they descend on our nation’s capitol for the 21st Annual Genital Integrity Awareness Week. Their message is simple: routine infant circumcision is a violation of human rights, and boys deserve the same protections from forced genital cutting that are already in place for girls. Since 1997, American girls are legally protected from even a ritual pinprick to the clitoris, and rightly so. But how is it fair then that a baby boy can be strapped to a board and have his prepuce ripped, clamped and cut away from his penis, usually without adequate, or any, pain relief? In mere moments, the most sensitive part of his penis, what would equate to 15 square inches of highly erogenous tissue on an adult man, is cut away without his consent or any actual medical need. 

American parents circumcise their sons for various reasons but really are any of these reasons worth a painful procedure that risks the child’s life? An estimated 117 boys die from circumcision-related complications every year in the U.S., yet no child dies from being left intact. 

There are many alleged benefits to circumcision but they are highly disputed and often based on flawed studies. Overwhelmingly, medical societies from around the world have determined that infant circumcision is not beneficial but is instead harmful. Recently the Council of Europe, an organization of 47 countries, passed a non-binding resolution that called circumcision a violation of the physical integrity of children, according to established human rights standards.

The circumcision of baby boys is a practice almost exclusively unique to the United States and Israel. The most recent estimates from the World Health Organization show that about 70% of the world’s male population is intact — not circumcised. Globally, intact is normal and circumcised is the exception. 

Whatever your belief system is, you must acknowledge that God, nature or evolution gave men a foreskin for a reason. As a matter of fact, the male and female member of every single species of mammal on this entire earth has a prepuce or foreskin. This would not be the case if it was some vestigial, unnecessary body part. The foreskin has a vast number of very important protective and sexual functions that benefit, not only the man but also, his partner.

Whether or not to remove the foreskin is a decision that should be left for a man to make for himself at the age of consent. It’s his body, he is the one who will be left dealing with the lifelong consequences of the circumcision, not the parents or circumcising doctor. He should have some say in this irreversible and highly personal decision that will forever impact his body and sexuality.

To learn more, check out The WHOLE Network, both at http://www.thewholenetwork.org/ and on Facebook. TWN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing accurate information about circumcision and the foreskin.