Why we should not circumcise infant boys

Jun 17, 11 Why we should not circumcise infant boys

Posted by in Culture

In response to Claire’s article on the San Francisco bill to ban infant male circumcision, I have decided to sketch what the case for banning really is. I’m going to structure this by reviewing the common (usually unarticulated) reasons for supporting circumcision, and then I’ll make the case against it. Firstly, some disclaimers and terminology. This is an interest of mine, but I’m by no means the originator of most of what I’ll say here. It is most cogently put in the statement by the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) linked to at the end. In this article, as in that document, I will refer to the type of male circumcision under discussion as non-therapeutic circumcision (NTC) to distinguish it from the occasionally necessary medical procedure with the same effect. I’d like to keep this article readable and uncluttered, so I won’t reference in line, but will post some useful links in a short bibliography after the main text. Secondly, the background (largely from the KNMG report). Approximately one-third of the world’s men are circumcised. It is estimated that 13 million boys around the world are circumcised each year. The increasing criticism of routine circumcision, also from doctors’ organisations, has led to a situation in which the incidence of circumcision is falling significantly in many countries and is less and less accepted as ‘normal’. In the United Kingdom, the number of circumcisions in newborns has fallen from 35% in the 1930s to 6.5% in the 1980s, to 3.8% in 2000. In the US, the incidence fell from 85% in 1965 to 56% in 2006. Canada saw a fall from 47.4% in 1973 to 31.9% in 2007, while Australia witnessed a fall from 90% in 1955 to 12% in 2000.   The case for NTC There are two, often linked, arguments for infant NTC. Aesthetic: for a time NTC was on the rise as a social norm, leading to 70% of adult males in the US being circumcised. Thus, many parents believe that not circumcising...

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Toilet talk

Mar 28, 11 Toilet talk

Posted by in Politics

This morning on Talk Radio 702 Redi Tlhabi interviewed DA leader Helen Zille. Amongst other things, they talked about the dreaded open toilet fiasco. The issue has been talked about a lot, so I just want to make a quick comment. HZ took the opportunity to lay out her version of what happened in an attempt to explain why the DA doesn’t regret their actions. Her explanation was roughly this: National guidelines for upgrading informal settlements demand one toilet per five houses (she said “closed toilet” but I refuse to allow a term into my vocabulary which implies that “toilet” does not automatically entail “closed”). The DA carried out this obligation. Following this, the residents of Makhaza went to the local government and said they weren’t happy with that ratio of toilets to houses and wanted a toilet per family. The DA’s response is crucial: HZ stated that, while they didn’t have the resources to build more toilets they proposed simply setting up the bare infrastructure (pipes, toilet pan, cistern), on the assumption that the residents would construct shelters. The residents agreed. HZ stated that she believed it was an “ideal solution”. For HZ to act surprised that some families were unable to build shelters for their toilets is simply disingenuous. She was at pains to point out that some large percentage (I think it was over 90%) of residents had succeeded in enclosing the toilets but that others (about 50) “could not or would not”. Once the issue came to light, the DA moved in to construct shelters for the toilets which had not been closed. Things then got messy when some ANCYL loons decided the solution was to destroy the shelters to keep the toilets open and the political points rolling in. There are two points I want to make. The first is that certain agreements are unconscionable and this is one of them. A choice is unconscionable when it is so obviously inadequate that to enforce the contract would be grossly...

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Why I don’t Like It

It is an obvious fact that two kinds of people will read this: men, and women. It is less obvious that women will know already what the ongoing “I like it on the…” Facebook meme was about, while many men will not. The trend, of women posting where they “like it”, is about handbags. It is a follow on to January’s similar meme of posting (bra) colours. Both were set up as ‘girls only’ games and both are apparently (and  bizarrely) awareness campaigns. The cause, Breast Cancer Awareness month, is a good one. The campaign, however, is poor. On the one hand I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this. After all, many women are enjoying themselves, the message seems to be spreading and men are hardly complaining about all the sexy innuendos flying around Facebook. But that is also the problem. It isn’t a big problem, like Darfur or AIDS or breast cancer itself, but it isn’t trivial either because what is wrong with this campaign is part of why activism of this sort has limited impact. The campaign succeeds if “the boys” are completely confused by the spontaneous but exciting bout of kinky statuses. In a general sense, I think it would be a good idea if more people were aware about breast cancer. But as a campaign, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Like all distributed campaigns the message often gets lost, a la broken telephone. It baffles me that this should happen in an age where you can just hit “forward” but still, many women seemed to be in on the ‘trick men’ part of the bra colour meme, but not the breast cancer. Unsurprisingly, many women are more interested in having a bit of fun than spreading a message. So before we even discuss the side-effects of this campaign I think it’s worth pointing out that it isn’t particularly effective at spreading awareness. In fact, I am not sure I should be calling it a ‘campaign’; the term...

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