I was one of those men who were “given the choice” - I wasn’t circumcised at birth.
As a child I suffered from a tight frenulum, which prevented the full retraction of my foreskin. While I did not suffer the nightmare of recurrent infections, it was certainly no picnic.
Due to several factors - family culture, the medical culture of the time being opposed to circumcision, etc. - it wasn’t resolved and I was forced to live with a less than perfect foreskin.
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I was in kindergarten when I first realised parts of my penis were missing - and it felt horrible. My parents were forthright in explaining my body to me as a child; I have clear early memories of bathing with my Dad and I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know I was circumcised.
However, when I saw other preschool boys who had “the whole package” I was taken aback by the contrasts – their penises had interesting parts mine lacked, and the glans (head) of an intact penis looked glossier, smoother, moister and far healthier than mine.
Proponents of circumcision claim that those against it have been brainwashed by anti-circumcision websites, however my own discomfort originated in these early observations available to any child with even a passing interest in difference.
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In June, a regional appellate court in Cologne, Germany determined that performing circumcision on a male child for religious reasons, even with parental consent, constitutes a criminal assault and violates the child’s right to bodily integrity.
The decision which did not constitute a ban, stated that circumcision “irreparably and permanently” changes the body of the child. The Court balanced the rights of the child to bodily integrity and to decide his religious beliefs, against the parents’ constitutional religious freedoms and right to educate their child in religious matters.
Although the doctor who performed the procedure was acquitted of committing grievous bodily harm on the grounds of legal ambiguity, the decision has become a useful prism to re-examine the practice in other countries like Australia.
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When it comes to infant male circumcision there’s been an astonishing change in Australia over the past 30 years.
While nearly half of the adult male population has been circumcised, today as few as 10 to 20 per cent of newborn baby boys get it done. We’ve given the snip, the snip, and the scalpel of old is collecting dust.
In fact, the federal government is even reviewing whether the procedure should still qualify for Medicare benefits. Leading medical authorities don’t believe there’s a substantial medical justification for it.
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Should circumcision be banned? Is it mutilation or a culturally and medically significant practice?
That’s the question facing legislators in San Francisco after a controversial, but successful, campaign lead by “Foreskin Man” Michael Hess to have the question put to a ballot.
In California in the last year, the anti-circumcision movement has gained enough public momentum to have the question put to a ballot. Under Hess’ proposal, the circumcision of a minor would be a criminal act and be treated as an assault.
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Around this time of year, Aborigines are conducting ceremonial business in central Australia, including circumcision initiation rites.
News Ltd reported on Monday that three teenagers had turned up at the Tennant Creek hospital, 500km north of Alice Springs, bleeding badly from circumcision procedures that had gone wrong.
They had been circumcised in a makeshift bush camp just out of town. The boys spent three nights in hospital. It can be revealed here that a fourth teenager presented at Tennant Creek hospital on Sunday night, also with lacerations.
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