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Ethics committee rules against infant circumcision

00:00 21/09/2017

The Belgian federal government’s Committee for Bio-Ethics has ruled against the circumcision of infant boys for reasons other than medical necessity. Its ruling states that bodily integrity is more important than religious faith.

The committee was ruling on a question posed in 2014 by Brussels doctors, who asked whether carrying out ritual circumcision of infant boys was ethically correct. The process is irreversible, has no medical justification in most cases, and is performed on minors unable to give their own permission.

The committee has taken three years to give its ruling, it said, because of the religious and cultural importance of the question.

“We’re dealing with a very difficult question,” said Paul Schotsmans of the University of Leuven on behalf of the committee. “On the one hand you have the freedom of religion, which means a parent is allowed to have their son circumcised for religious reasons.”

On the other hand, he said, is the child’s right to physical integrity, which is protected by the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child, and in particular its protection from physical injury.

“As circumcision is irreversible and therefore a radical operation, we find the physical integrity of the child takes precedence over the belief system of the parents,” the committee chair Marie-Geneviève Pinsart pronounced.

Photo: Ingimage

Written by Alan Hope (Flanders Today)

Comments

Marc Slonik

And what are the implications of this ruling? Do I understand correctly that the committee was discussing for three years to arrive at conclusion that is merely an opinion?

Even though I cannot agree more with that opinion, I see a risk. Today parents are seeing doctors in hospitals for the circumcision. Tomorrow if the doctors won't be carrying the procedure it will be up to religious authorities in mosques and synagogues as it happens in the 3rd World countries.

Sep 22, 2017 11:55
mumsile

A procedure, whether you agree with or not, that has been performed by the community's ( jewish first then Muslim) 'specialists' , and not by doctors, for 3000 or so years, where millions of men have come through unscathed. what has suddenly changed? with growing muslim population in Belgium i cannot see any of this being implemented. More, much more, important is to enforce and prosecute instigators and performers of FGM

Sep 25, 2017 11:22
Joseph4GI

"Even though I cannot agree more with that opinion, I see a risk. Today parents are seeing doctors in hospitals for the circumcision. Tomorrow if the doctors won't be carrying the procedure it will be up to religious authorities in mosques and synagogues as it happens in the 3rd World countries."

This sounds like the perfect argument for allowing female circumcision or at least mild forms of it as proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There is a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics proposing that a compromise should be made and doctors should offer mild forms of female circumcision for this specific reason.

"This has been performed for thousands of years" is ad antiquitam: the same can be said of FGM. No, men have NOT come through "unscathed," the men who were scathed just weren't talked about. Now, men who have been adversely affected by their procedure are gaining the courage to speak out. (Google "circumcision harm.")

There's a growing Muslim population in Belgium, and MUMSILE can't see this being implemented, but s/he feels it's more important, even feasible that instigators and performers of FGM can be prosecuted? This doesn't make any sense.

Whether you agree with it or not, "specialists" have been performing female genital cutting for thousands of years too. And whether you agree with it or not, there are entire religious groups with millions of adherents that see female genital cutting as a religious requirement. (Google "sunat" in South East Asia.)

So how are we going to maneuver justifying genital cutting of one sex for one religious group that sees it as an "age-old tradition," but oppose and prosecute the other?

We need to be consistent. Either "parental choice" and "religious freedom" justify forcibly cutting the genitals of a healthy, non-consenting minor, or they do not. To condemn the forced genital cutting in one sex and not the other as a violation of basic human rights is sexist, self-serving special pleading.

Some might argue "potential medical benefits" for male circumcision and are ready to list off a long list of "studies" and "researchers" that back their claims. Throwing "research" and "studies" at a cultural or religious custom in hopes of safeguarding it from moral scrutiny is the oldest trick in the book, and advocates of FGM are beginning to adopt it. We need to stop pretending that the right amount of "science" and can legitimize forcibly cutting healthy non-consenting individuals.

Sep 26, 2017 04:48
circharm

MUMSILE makes the unsubstantiated claim that circumcision is "A procedure...that has been performed....for 3000 or so years, where millions of men have come through unscathed." The physical, sexual, emotional and self-esteem harm that adult men have endured from infant circumcision - most in silence - has never been formally studied by the medical community but was reported in grassroots men's surveys in 1999 and 2017.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1464-410x.1999.0830s1085.x/pdf
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13642987.2016.1260007

This subpopulation of circumcision sufferers was confirmed in 2017 by Canadian researchers Bossio and Pukall.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28894958

Sep 29, 2017 18:49