Bouquet to RACP

rosesIn late August the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) released a statement that reaffirmed their position that male circumcision should not be performed on infant boys as a routine procedure. Good on them! Read their statement, a brochure for parents, and the policy which is currently being reviewed.

Circumcision seems to arouse incredible passion and tenacity among its supporters. These are usually – but not always – people from cultures where circumcision is a time-honoured cultural practice. It’s been my observation that in mixed relationships, it’s usually the partner from the non-circumcising culture that gives way, if there’s any disagreement. Well, that may promote marital harmony but seems pretty unfair to the child, who has no choice in the matter. 

I don’t see culture as a defence for what I consider to be an oppressive practice.  Culture is ever-changing and over time, people often repudiate cultural practices that used to be routine – there are, for example, plenty of African women now speaking out against female genital mutilation – and in my own culture many people now reject cultural practices around gender roles that used to be unquestioned.

I also don’t think much of the medical arguments. As the RACP says in its statement, the alleged benefits of male circumcision just don’t stack up against the risks of the operation and the ethical issues around perfoming non-reversible, non-essential surgery without anasthaesia on a minor. And if you are concerned about the big bogey HIV (some studies have shown it may have a protective effect agaist HIV transmission) inform yourself with this briefing paper by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

I could write a thesis on this topic but that will do for now …. I will sit back and await the brickbats that may shower upon me for revealing that I oppose circumcision.

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4 thoughts on “Bouquet to RACP

  1. Circumcision is a dangerous distraction in the fight against the big bogey HIV. There are six African countries where men are more likely to be HIV+ if they’ve been circumcised: Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, and Swaziland. Eg in Malawi, the HIV rate is 13.2% among circumcised men, but only 9.5% among intact men. In Rwanda, the HIV rate is 3.5% among circumcised men, but only 2.1% among intact men. If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn’t happen. We now have people calling circumcision a “vaccine” or “invisible condom”, and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms.

    The one study into male-to-female transmission showed a 50% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw.

    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost African lives, not save them.

  2. Wow, I’ve never heard that statistic – what’s your source? Certainly I agree with you it’s a distraction and is in no way an alternative to taking responsibility for your sex life.

  3. This is the one and only RCT into male-to-female transmission:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2960998-3/abstract

    17 (18%) women in the intervention group and eight (12%) women in the control group acquired HIV during follow-up (p=0·36).

    This is not the first time that HIV in women has been linked to male circumcision. This study :
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8082965?dopt=Abstract

    concluded: “History of multiple sexual partners, history of STD, high household income, **partner circumcision**, and past oral contraceptive use remained strongly associated with HIV-1 infection even when simultaneously controlling for other covariates.”

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