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Human Rights And Wrongs

FGM (forced genital mutilation)


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  • Across the world, people, especially young people, are being pressured into making an ill-informed decision to circumcise.
  • The force applied varies, from direct action in holding the body down while the operation is performed
  • Sometimes, coercion is used based on bogus reports of medical benefits
  • Often, the operation is performed on a child unable to give meaningful consent

The situation is probably worst on the African continent, where millions of men are being fooled into having their penis altered, with devastating effect even if the operation goes to plan (which it doesn’t in up to 10% of cases). Human Rights And Wrongs reported on part of the situation in Africa at the beginning of December 2019.

However, the USA is a big problem area, too, where often a baby has it’s genitals mutilated for no better reason than that the father had it done to him. This is akin to other aspects of multi-generational domestic violence, where the violence of an adult in one generation is perpetrated because of the violence done to them as a child.

The pressure to be circumcised after moving to Israel. And the regrets

In Israel, circumcision rates are high. When the communist state of the USSR collapsed, there was a migration from the previous, restrictive, countries to Israel. This led to many thousands of teen boys and men from the newly freed countries to be intimidated into circumcisions. Years later, they recall the resulting trauma and pain, and the damage wrought on their sex lives.

I had a religious commander who saw that I was searching for myself, and he suggested that I speak with the rabbi at the base. The rabbi talked about how the brit milah ⇩1’brit milah’ is Hebrew for circumcision, which has its biblical basis in Genesis 17 is very important, that it’s the gateway to paradise.

Things started to come together: the girls, the rabbi, my traditionalist friends from Kiryat Malakhi, the claims that circumcision has hygienic advantages. I decided to go for it.

It took a few years for me to understand that I had lost something… As time passes, you understand that there was something you had really enjoyed at one time, but suddenly it becomes just routine sex. But it’s not only in oral sex. The feeling is 180 degrees different. In someone who’s not circumcised, the tip of the sexual organ is covered with a super-delicate, moist tissue. If you don’t have the covering and it’s constantly touching your clothes, it becomes less sensitive over time. It’s something else – people who are circumcised at eight days have no clue.”

Ok, who had the operation when 21 and is now 33; Haaretz

Some men, even knowing what they have lost, are not bothered about it. Some feel deeply about it, sometimes leading to sexual problems such as apathy and impotence. For most, the damage is physical, with a loss of sensation that — if they were operated on as a baby or young child — they might not be aware of. The psychological damage is barely investigated, but is known to range from an increased tendency to clinical anxiety to deep problems over body image, personal independence, and masculinity.

As another man describes, after his foreskin was removed:

When the skin beneath the foreskin was exposed and started to rub against my clothes, it hurt really badly. I started to use certain aids, like putting a piece of cotton in my underpants. During masturbation, there was quite a rapid deterioration in sexual sensation, but at the time I didn’t attach any importance to that. Before being circumcised, I was sexually active, and I thought that when I resumed being active, the feeling would be different.

…At the age of 23, I started having relations again and discovered that the sexual pleasure had changed very much for the worse.

Zisser; Haaretz

As the author of the article in Haaretz is right to point out, proper research is hard to come by and his article does not pretend to fill that gap. Nevertheless, interviews with fifty men count for something.

Of the 50 interviewees, the vast majority are immigrants who underwent the operation in Israel. Some are non-Jews who live outside Israel and were circumcised for medical or cosmetic reasons. The interviewees were aged between 13 and 53 when they were circumcised. Most had had sexual relations before undergoing the procedure. The source of comparison for the others is masturbation, before and after. They, too, were able to describe the difference clearly.

Hilo Glazer, They Felt Pressured to Get Circumcised After Moving to Israel. They Now Regret It; Haaretz

The damaged sex life

Not all men will find that circumcision removes much sensation. Hilo’s findings are similar to what is reported by other, unbiased, sources. Roughly a quarter experience a significant decline in feeling, about a third consider it only as a minor drop, and approximately a quarter report no noticeable change. It is possible that those who experience no drop-off have been used to wearing their foreskin folded back: but no research has been done on this point.

No man ever says they experience more pleasure, though some who say there has been a noticeable drop-off in sensation say they feel they can satisfy their lover more easily, because ejaculation takes longer to achieve. As they get older and feeling drops with age, this can mean that their sex life ends earlier, too.

However, in one of the few studies on how the lack of foreskin affects women, researchers in Denmark⇩2Pub Med, Oct 2011; 40(5):1367-81; Male circumcision and sexual function in men and women: a survey-based, cross-sectional study in Denmark; DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyr104 found that women with circumcised spouses more often reported incomplete sexual needs fulfilment. The conclusion was clear: male circumcision statistically leads to frequent orgasm difficulties for men, and to sexual unfulfilment for women.

Little wonder, then, that in early 2017 a poll in Denmark resulted in 87% of the population wanting a legal ban on non-therapeutic circumcision. The only surprise is that something with an 87% popular support hasn’t happened yet.

For some men and boys, circumcision creates lasting and life-long complications. Even the best hospitals have a damage rate and it is worth noting that countries relying on private medical insurance rarely have the effects of circumcision covered: something they would naturally include if they hardly ever had to pay out. This makes the plight of the boy with a mangled penis even worse, with some dreadful consequences that parents have already signed away their chance even for financial compensation, let alone a medical fix. It is a sad state of affairs that a trans-sexual can have a more functional penis than a man who was circumcised, often as a boy and by definition without his consent.

Many of those who were interviewed for this article spoke of a gradual loss of sensitivity. In some cases, the operation caused serious, even critical, damage, to both the individual’s sex life and his ability to form a lasting relationship.

Hilo Glazer, They Felt Pressured to Get Circumcised After Moving to Israel. They Now Regret It; Haaretz

Correction to the Haaretz article: smegma (click to read)

A German reader has written concerning something the author of this piece noticed, too. It is worth being clear.

Smegma is not connected with preejaculate (aka precum).

The preejaculate is a secretion of a clear, viscous, alkaline mucus-like fluid into the bulbous urethra from Cowper’s glands. In fact, the preejaculate serves both as a lubricant during sexual intercourse, and also to clean the urethra before an expected ejaculation, wherein the pH of the urethra increases and the acidic environment is converted into an alkaline.

Smegma, on the other hand, consists of the sebum of the foreskin glands, mixed with residues of dead cells and bacteria. Smegma accumulates under the male foreskin as between the labia and the clitoris. Smegma is a source of unpleasant odour and can cause diseases; it should be removed by washing. Exaggerated efforts are not called for; daily normal cleaning is enough.

I think the blunder in the paper is more of a concentration error.

The article on Haaretz is useful for anyone wanting to know more about what really counts: the individuals’ stories. They’re not all from men who had their genitals mutilated as a man or even as a child. Dima was operated upon when just a baby, like so many poor kids are:

I don’t call what I underwent a ‘brit milah,’ because I don’t believe in what that term stands for. I have no connection to religion or to faith, and as far as I’m concerned, there was no brit [covenant] with anyone. That term purports to give the process some sort of meaning that distances it from the actual operation itself. I certainly don’t feel more whole. Exactly the opposite. I had a body, which was perfectly fine, and after the operation it became not perfectly fine.

Dima; Haaretz

That’s a point often raised by the deeply religious: if God made man, who is man to decide that what God made needs to be adjusted?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child indicates that a child has the right to their own religious beliefs:

Article 14
Every child has the right to think and believe what they choose and also to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is even stronger on the point:

Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

It is a parental right to raise children to follow our religion and culture. It is crossing the line of human rights for parents to force their religion upon a child, mentally or physically. Physically adjusting a child to fit a parental preference is a human wrong.

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