Earlier this month, the Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovenia published his opinion that circumcision for non-medical reasons was a violation of children's rights. He based it purely on preexisting laws and maxims of medicine, but speaking ill of the non-medical circumcision of children has outraged Jews and Muslims in Slovenia.
The following is an excerpt translated from the original article linked above:
A complainant asked the Ombudsman to assess whether circumcision of boys is interference with the rights of the child, especially if it is done only for religious reasons and not justified on health grounds. The complainant considered that such interference by the Slovenian doctors is harmful, but he did not know all the negative consequences (prejudice, subconscious trauma, impotence, infection, etc..).
Before preparing the opinion, available scientific literature on the issues was examined, particularly the article by Damian Korošec, published in the magazine Lawyer, Volume 50 (1995) entitled [Circumcision - pointless] banality of surgery. Inquiries were sent to the College of Experts on General Surgery, the National Medical Ethics Commission of the Slovenian Republic and the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia.
... The expanded expert committee for surgery ... concluded that the circumcision of boys for non-medical reasons is not medically justified. Indications for professional intervention are listed in the professional urological literature.
The Office of the Commission for Medical Ethics has given a long answer, which is summarized in its opinion of principle: "ritual circumcision of boys for religious reasons in our country, for legal and ethical reasons is unacceptable, and doctors should not perform it." In addition to the unacceptability of circumcision from an ethical point of view, the Commission also points out that it is unacceptable to falsify medical documentation by recording a ritual circumcision as medically indicated.
The Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia was asked for information concerning payment for circumcision (annual number of interventions, the price of services) and how the issue of payment is arranged, if medical intervention is not indicated, but is carried out only at the request of the individual or his legal representatives. The Institute replied that they have no information on the annual number of interventions; the delivery price that society pays health care providers is €34.88.
When intervention is not medically indicated, service is not covered by the compulsory health insurance, the patient or his agents must pay for the intervention.
...We decided to examine the situation with regard to some important issues of human rights and especially children's rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges States Parties to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians or any other person who care for him (article 19 CRC).
The Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia in the 56th Article grants the child special protection and care under the 35th Article as everyone is guaranteed the inviolability of physical and mental integrity. These provisions clearly show that any intervention in the physical integrity of children is limited and justifiable only for medical reasons. If there is a medical indication, which is to protect the health of the child, circumcision may be performed; such intervention is a legitimate and legal, and the permission of a parent who has responsibility for the child's development is required or allowed. (Reader: Note this is usually the way it works for ANY OTHER medically indicated surgery, not just circumcision.) If for any reason parents would not allow an indicated medical intervention, the competent authorities may determine possible dereliction of duty in caring for the child and take the necessary measures provided by law.
However, if medical circumcision of the child is not indicated, but is only a result of his parents' beliefs (religious or otherwise), such intervention has no legal basis. This is so whether or not the child is explicitly opposed to the intervention. Interference with the physical integrity of a child solely because of the desire of his legal representatives or guardians, therefore, constitutes an inadmissible interference in his body and is in our opinion the evidence of criminal behavior.
The Patients Rights Act (Official Gazette. 15/08) in section 26 stipulates that a patient who is capable of making prior free and informed consent is not permitted to undergo medical procedure or medical care, without such consent except in cases provided by law. For children, the Patients' Rights Act provides that, generally over 15 is the ability to consent, unless the physician, according to their maturity assesses that it is not able. A child before the age of 15 but under the law generally is not able to consent, with the doctor in these cases, estimated to be in this position. The Act specifically provides that a child's opinion regarding the treatment takes into account the extent possible, if it is able to express an opinion and if he understands the significance and consequences.
The Constitution recognizes the right of parents, in accordance with their beliefs, to provide their children with religious and moral education. ... Guidance on religious education, in our opinion does not include the right of parents due to mere religious belief to choose to intervene in the child's body. We therefore believe that circumcision, for reasons other than medical, is not permitted and constitutes unlawful interference with the child's body and thus violates his rights.
... Parents are primarily responsible for the development of children's health, but also they must in all cases take into account the child's interest as a guide in decision making. Also, in deciding their rights they are limited by the rights of others, in this case, therefore, their children, ... The right to religious freedom does not justify interference with the right to physical integrity of another, so we believe that circumcision for non-medical reasons, may only be [with] the child's consent, subject to the conditions provided for by law on patients' rights, therefore, usually after 15 years of age.
The Whole of Western Medicine Agrees
The trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board recommends the circumcision of infants, not even in the name of HIV prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against the best medical authorities of the West.
"The British Medical Association has a longstanding recommendation that circumcision should be performed only for medical reasons... Recent policy statements issued by professional societies representing Australian, Canadian, and American pediatricians do not recommend routine circumcision of male newborns".
"...benefits are not sufficient for the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised."
"...the association between having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) - excluding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and being circumcised are inconclusive... most of the studies [of the effect of circumcision on HIV] ...have been conducted in developing countries, particularly those in Africa. Because of the challenges with maintaining good hygiene and access to condoms, these results are probably not generalizable to the U.S. population".
"Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit. Routine infant male circumcision performed on a healthy infant is now considered a non-therapeutic and medically unnecessary intervention."~College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
"[We] do not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns."
"The BMA considers that the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it."~The British Medical Association
"...the level of protection offered by circumcision and complication rate of circumcision do not warrant a recommendation of universal circumcision for newborn and infant males in an Australian and New Zealand context."
The Catholic Church Intervenes"The official viewpoint of KNMG (The Royal Dutch Medical Association) and other related medical/scientific organizations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."
The Human Rights Ombudsman in Slovania would have local, international law, and standard medical practice on his side, much to the chagrin of Jews and Muslims who have expressed outrage against him.
And yet, despite the clarity of the law, local and international, despite the consonance of Western medicine regarding the issue, the Catholic Church has impertinently decided to intervene on behalf of the Jewish and Muslim communities who see the circumcision of children as their "religious right."
According to the Slovenian Times:
[The Justice and Peace Commission of Slovenian Bishops] stressed today that the Ombudsman's statement, which had already been rejected by the Jewish and Muslim communities last week, was in violation of both Slovenian legislation and human rights, considering it a public call for disrespecting identities of at least two Slovenian religious communities.
The president of the commission, Maribor Archbishop Marjan Turnšek, moreover said in the press release that this was not in line with the Constitution and the religious freedoms act, as well as "a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms".
Odd... I'm pretty sure he made quite sure his statement was in line concerning Slovenian legislation and human rights (see above).
Turnšek claimed that the Ombudsman did not prove that circumcision would harm the children's health, and that it was not justified that religious circumcision had elements of a criminal act.
The opinion "limits religious freedom and the right to religious education of children" of Muslim and Jewish parents, according to him.
And here, it looks as if the Catholic Church is now acting as some sort of medical authority. This wouldn't be the first time the Catholic Church made a medical value judgement; in the past, the Pope condemned the use of condoms as a means to stop HIV transmission.
The circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors defies the standard of care for therapeutic surgery, which requires that the medical benefits of the surgery far outweigh the medical risks and harms, or for the surgery to correct a congenital abnormality. Standard medicine dictates that unnecessarily invasive procedures should not be used where alternative, less invasive techniques, are equally efficient and available. The most basic maxims of medicine tell us that it is unethical and inappropriate to perform surgery for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown there to be other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive.
Continues the article:
Turnšek added that the Ombudsman acted in violation of the religious freedoms act because it did not consult religious communities and churches before releasing its opinion.
Oh? Is it some sort of requirement that churches and synagogues must be consulted before the ombudsman can issue a statement on the medical validity of a surgical procedure? Since when?
The article concludes:
The commission also said that circumcision for religious reasons was not forbidden in virtually any developed and secular country.
It called on all relevant state bodies to reject the biased opinion, which had been published by the Ombudsman at the beginning of the month.
And why, precisely, should medical bodies ever listen to religious institutions regarding the validity of a surgical procedure is beyond me...
As if defying local and international law, and further still taking an unfounded position against the best medical authorities in the West weren't enough, Maribor Archbishop Marjan Turnšek seems to be oblivious to his own faith:
"… Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."More an what the Catholic Church has to say on circumcision here.
~The Catholic Catechism (Item 2297: Respect for bodily integrity)
"…the amputation of any part of the human body is never legal, except when the entire body cannot be saved from destruction by any other method."
~Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58)
"From a moral point of view, circumcision is permissible if, in accordance with therapeutic principles, it prevents a disease that cannot be countered in any other way."
~Pope Pius XII
So WHY Did the Catholic Church Do This?
It is quite clear that this was nothing more than a PR tactic to pay lip service to the Jews and Muslims who have expressed outrage, and it has absolutely nothing to do with peace and justice.
So how far does the Catholic Church advocate "religious freedom?"
It is a Muslim religious custom in some countries, to slash their children's heads on the day of Ashura.
What if Muslims started practicing this in Slovenia? And what if Slovenian authorities condemned it? Would the Catholic Church intervene then?
It some countries, female circumcision is seen as a religious requirement for Islam.
Does the Catholic Church defend "religious freedom" here too?
How far does the Catholic Church defend "religious freedom?"
How far must medical organizations keep quiet about "religious customs?"
Or is this limited to male circumcision?
The Bottom Line
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails. The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, FUNCTIONING tissue, with which all boys are born.
Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting individuals is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.
The Ombudsman is to be commended for standing up for what is right, according to local and international law, and according to the most basic maxims of medicine, in the face of religious fanatics.
The Justice and Peace Commission ought to be ashamed of itself for sacrificing the most basic of human rights on the altar of political gain.