This week marks the 14th anniversary of passage of the U.S. Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996. This law made it illegal to practice genital mutilation, sometimes called female circumcision, on any girl under 18. However, it is still permitted, and even encouraged by some, to practice male genital mutilation on infant boys, sometimes called male circumcision. Genital Integrity Awareness week is held annually to advocate for an end to this needless and dangerous cosmetic surgery to baby boys.
What can you do? Sign the petition to ask the CDC to not recommend a painful surgery that serves no medical purpose. Spread the word by blogging, facebooking, and tweeting the message that baby boys should be protected from genital mutilation just like our girls are. Visit intactamerica.org for more information, including 10 reasons not to circumcise you baby, reprinted here:
10 Reasons NOT to Circumcise Your Baby Boy
- Because there is no medical reason for “routine” circumcision of baby boys. No professional medical association in the United States or the rest of the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision. The American Medical Association calls it “non-therapeutic.” At no time in its 75 years has the American Academy of Pediatrics ever recommended infant circumcision.
- Because the foreskin is not a birth defect. The foreskin is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the body. In infant boys, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans) and protects it from urine, feces, and irritation; it also protects the urinary opening, keeping contaminants from entering the sterile urinary tract. Throughout life, the foreskin keeps the glans moist and protects it from injury. The foreskin also has an important role in sexual pleasure, due to its specialized, erogenous nerve endings and its natural gliding and lubricating functions.
- Because you wouldn’t circumcise your baby girl. In the United States, girls of all ages are protected by federal and state laws from genital surgery to which they do not consent, whether practiced in medical or non-medical settings, and regardless of the religious or cultural preferences of their parents. There is no ethical rationale for distinguishing between female and male genital alteration. If it is wrong to remove part of a baby girl’s healthy genitals, then it is wrong to do the same to those of a baby boy.
- Because your baby does not want to be circumcised. Circumcision painfully and permanently alters a baby boy’s genitals, removing healthy, protective, functional tissue from the penis and exposing the child to unnecessary pain and medical risks – all for no medical benefit. What do you think your baby boy would say if he could tell you? Of course, no baby boy can consent for himself, and parents cannot ethically consent to surgery on behalf of a child unless the child’s health or life is at risk.
- Because removing part of a baby’s penis is painful, risky and harmful. Babies are sensitive to pain, just like older children and adults. Many circumcisions in the United States are performed with no pain control at all. But even when pain control is employed, the analgesics used for circumcision can only decrease pain; they do not eliminate it. As with any surgery, complications – even including death – can and do occur with circumcision. Infection and abnormal bleeding are the most common complications. Other complications include removal of too much skin, loss of part or all of the penis, life-threatening infection, and urinary problems. All circumcisions result in the loss of the foreskin and its functions, and a penile scar.
- Because times and attitudes have changed. Today, nearly half of all baby boys in the United States leave the hospital intact. The circumcision rate in the U.S. was 56% in 2005 (and much lower in some parts of the country), down from 81% in 1981. More and more parents are choosing to keep their son intact.
- Because most medically advanced nations do not circumcise baby boys. People in Europe, Asia and Latin America are often appalled to hear that American doctors and hospitals routinely remove part of a boy’s penis shortly after birth. Approximately 75% of the men in the world are not circumcised and remain intact throughout their lives.
- Because caring for and cleaning the foreskin is easy. A natural, intact penis requires no special care. Gently wash the genital area with warm water while bathing. That’s it. Later, when the foreskin can be retracted (something that often does not occur until adolescence), a boy can be taught to pull back his foreskin to wash his penis. The boy should be the first person to retract his foreskin, since forcible retraction by anyone else results in pain and injury.
- Because circumcision does not prevent HIV or other diseases. Despite common misinformation, studies show no conclusive link between circumcision and sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention. Over the years, the claims that circumcision prevents various diseases have repeatedly been proven to be exaggerated or outright fabrications. Most men in the United States are circumcised, but our STD rates are as high as or higher than those in countries where circumcision is rare; it is obvious that circumcision does not protect against STDs.
- Because children should be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, or parental preference. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents can consent to surgery on behalf of a child only if it is necessary to protect that child’s life or health. “Routine” circumcision fails this simple ethics test because it painfully and permanently removes a normal and healthy part of a boy’s penis, does not protect the child’s life or health, and in fact creates new risks. Medically unnecessary surgery to alter a baby’s penis is no more justified than removing a finger or any other healthy body part.