We’re not in America any more, Toto

Good morning.  Ms. Sharpie here.  I wanted to post about a little thing I saw online Wednesday, before the Supreme Court came down with their ruling on Obamacare and that took over EVERYTHING!

What am I talking about, you ask?  What else is there than what dominates the air waves?

Well, I tell ya, if you live in Germany, the German court came down with a very powerful ruling on Wednesday.  One that shocked this American.

Germany’s regional court in Cologne outlawed circumcision for any reason but medical reasons.

Yes, the court in Cologne basically told the Jews and Muslims that their religious customs were so much poo under their shoe and that they should not be practiced fully.

“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”

Now, before we start screaming about how the German court is stepping all over a person’s right to practice their religion, let me tell you how this case came about. A young Muslim boy was circumcised, as called for by their religion, and was taken back to the hospital a few days later because he was bleeding heavily.  The doctor that performed the circumcision was charged with causing grievous bodily harm to the child.

It snowballed from there.  The doctor was found not guilty, but the court took up the issue of circumcision and came down with its ruling on the 26th of June.

The court stated that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighted the fundamental rights of the parents,” stating, as well, that, “the religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their chld would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised.” (All quotes pulled from the AFP wire)

This story caused me to do a little research.  There are a lot of places out there that consider circumcision, for any reason other than medical, genital mutilation on par with female circumcision.  I can’t say that I disagree with the fact that it is mutilation, but I didn’t realize that it was such a huge cause for so many.

History of Circumcision

I started looking at statistics from all kinds of different places and I started reading up on the history of circumcision.  It’s fascinating how the idea of circumcision has changed over the years and how many people have practiced this procedure throughout history.

Traditionally, circumcision was a rite of passage into puberty. Some of the earliest proof of circumcision goes back to 10000 BCE in Australia.  It wasn’t until 600 BCE, when the Torah was compiled that it became a religious rite.  The Greeks were taken aback by the Egyptian practice of circumcision, with Herodotus (a noted Greek philosopher) making the following statement about the Egyptian priests, “They [even] practice circumcision for the sake of cleanliness, considering it better to be clean than handsome.”  The comment was made to prove how backwards the Egyptians were, as the Greek influence has already caused the Phoenicians to abandon their practice of circumcision.(1)

Now the world bumped along for awhile with the Greeks trying to outlaw the practice and the Jews trying to keep it in place.  The Romans rose to power and the Jews rose in power, too.  But, like many cultures that are being overtaken by another, the Jewish community wanted to keep their own traditions and didn’t want their people to be influenced by the Roman ways (which were, admittedly, pretty darn decadent – Caligula, anyone?).  Around 140 CE (AD), the Mishnah, the commentary on the Torah, was written down giving details of radical circumcision.  It is generally accepted that this became the norm so that it would keep Jews from participating in Greco-Roman social life, to include Greek athletic contests which were done in the nude.(2)

Fast forward a few thousand years, and you bump into circumcision around the world.  Doctors around the world, starting in the early 1900s, called for early infantile circumcision (makes you wonder if these doctors went and got circumcised as adults….somehow, I think not).  The reasoning for circumcision ran the gamut from it helped prevent the spread of STDs to helping to stop masturbation.

Just an aside here:  why are authority figures so worried about everyone else’s genitals?  A thought for you to ponder while you drink your coffee this morning.

As the rate of circumscision was falling around the world in the 1940s, America was seeing a rise in the procedure.  The reason?  World War II.

What?  How is that possible???

Well, American soldiers and sailors were a horny bunch.  The rate of syphillis and other STDs was amazing throughout the American military.  It was a national security issue, because if your battle buddy was laid up with the effects of an STD, then he couldn’t be watching your back in the trenches.  The US military used this as a reason to popularize the thinking of the time – circumcisions would help prevent STDs.  They started pushing the procedure on their folks and, when they landed in South Korea in 1950, 6 years after the end of WWII, they brought the procedure to a country that had never practiced it before. 

Reversing its Stance

All of this leads to today.  The medical profession is reversing its stance on circumcision for males and saying that there is no reason, outside of rare medical reasons, to circumcise male children.  Most of the first world is following this now, with circumcisions reaching historic lows everywhere but the United States.  This website has a terrific chart on how many circumcisions were performed by state in 2009, the last year there were statistics available.

But what shocked me, what made me take a second look at this article, was the fact that a governing body had decided that religious freedom wasn’t as important as the child’s right to not have a medical procedure.  For the Jewish and Muslim faithful, this is quite a blow to their practices.  The fact that this ruling came out of Germany shocked me even more, considering their history with the Jewish religion.

So, the question that I pose to you, dear reader is this:  Could you see this ruling coming down in America, especially in light of the intense interest that seems to be being paid to the genitals of all Americans these days?  Do you think that the government would rule in favor of pushing aside sacred religious practices for a debated medical practice? 

Let the discussion begin!

1.  Chronology of the foreskin and Circumcision, Dr. Robert Darby, Australia (all facts in this paragraph)

2.  Chronology of the foreskin and circumcision, Dr. Robert Darby, Australia (all facts in this paragraph)

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21 thoughts on “We’re not in America any more, Toto

  1. I am in the UK and this is a subject being debated here. I guess the thing I think has to be taken into account is the rights of the child given that it is something that cannot be undone at a later date. To demand the right to do something just because it was done thousands of years ago does not really hold much water. I am a pagan historically some of the pagans who came before me carried out human sacrifice if I were to claim the right to do this on religious grounds everyone would be rightly horrified. There are african tribes that scar women’s faces as a passage to womanhood would we accept that as okay because it is their beliefs. i think also the perception we have of children’s rights are now also different to what they have been in previous ages, they are now viewed as individuals in their own right rather than the property of their parents.

    • I agree. I have to admit, I have two boys that are circumcised. Here, in America, it was an accepted, standard practice that the doctors made seem like a fait accompli for me and my children. I think that the shift in thinking about children is a good thing. To illustrate how far we’ve come, the very first child abuse case brought to court in America was brought by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. There was an SPCA to protect animals before there was an organization to protect children. While I don’t doubt that the court was acting in the best interest of the children, I find it (as an American) very hard to swallow. Simply because it does withdraw the right of the parents to practice their chosen religion as they see fit, practicing sacred rites that have been a part of that religion for thousands of years. I think I’m more in awe of the fact that a court would take on a religion than the fact that they would take up children’s rights. It just would never, ever happen here that I could foresee.

      • I think the real worry is that people will not stop no matter what the law says and children will be placed at greater risk by unlicensed untrained people performing the surgery illegally but maybe if a positive is to be found it is that it will reopen dialogue about a subject that is tabbooed because of the religious implications and the actual reasons as to why this was needed can be addressed, after all hygenie standards in modern life are far higher if the need is for the body to be be kept clean does the practise actually need to be carried out in this day and age

      • All good points. I’m hoping that there is a dialogue that will open about this and bring a closer look at the reasons and the reasoning behind the practice.

  2. As a home birth, I was not circumcised. In the three years before the birth of my brother, my mother and I were afflicted with several nasty infections. He was circumcised! Cleanliness counts! Medical necessity, or strong desirability? It’s just a physical procedure. Brother’s neither Jewish nor Muslim. A circumcised boy-child can still choose Wicca or Jainism later in life. Do I see the not-too-delicate hand of anti-society-shift in this ruling? BTW, is this a girls-only site? I’ll leave quietly.

    • Absolutely not a girls-only site! We’re interested in everyone’s opinion!

      That is one of the reasons I circumcised my boys was the idea of infection. You have to keep it very, very clean. Throughout your life. Now that my boys are teenagers, and can’t keep their armpits clean, I’m happy that I did what I did, the choice that I made. And as for religion, if you come to a religion later in life that doesn’t require it, I highly doubt they would turn you away. Either way, I do believe that we are seeing a shift in what the government is willing to do and say about their people. In some cases, that may be good. In others, not so much.

  3. I could definitely see something similar happening in our country, just look at the fact that they are trying to implicate restrictions on what a woman can do with her Vagina and her body,I too had my son circumcised, not only for cleanliness reasons but because at the time it was what everyone was doing and certainly didnt want him asking why he was different when he got of a age where he would be in a locker room or heaven forbid with a girl who had never seen one NOT circumcised before, it can have lasting effects on their emotional and personal view of their bodies.
    If it comes down to this, what will be next? NO you cant fix your male dogs as that is castration and well they don’t have a choice and would they choose that? Maybe say a vasectomy for your pet would be better.
    I would like to believe otherwise, but at the rate our country is going at least with the current Political Talk tossed around I don’t see this as something that will not come up as a debate in the future.

    • I agree. But, I disagree that it would ever be passed. The religious lobbyists hold way too much sway here for that to be an issue. To mess around with a sacred rite of a religion. They will actually see that for the slippery slope that it is. Unfortunately, they can’t see the slippery slope in other issues. Especially those dealing with women’s health rights.

  4. I am surprised that there is no mention in the remarks of the fact that formerly — certainly before mid-twentieth century — circumcision was commonly practiced by Catholic families. I was born into a Catholic family prior to the second “World War” as were several close relatives during the next 20 years. To my knowledge, all of us guys were circumcised. Both of my sons were circumcised even though by that time I was long away from the burden of Catholicism. It is my conviction, from the problems of males I have seen or known about, both circumcised and un-circumcised, that circumcision from a health standpoint a very smart thing to have done. I see no need to go into any more detail than I have already, but I definitely recommend that the removal of foreskin necessary to expose the glans (head) of the penis be performed as early as possible for general hygiene reasons and prevention of possible infection.

    • Actually, as a former Catholic, I had no idea! Both of my sons were circumcised for the reasons you mentioned. For me, it’s a hygiene thing. We all know that teenaged boys are sooo not clean! 🙂

  5. Interesting thought. I think that with the current stance and posture of our currently elected officials,…in all capacities, the future of our “free choice” is in danger. Given the force by which our current health care bill was passed, anything we hold dear could very well be in danger of revocation. I pray not but,…I’m no longer sold on the idea that we are a totally “Free” country.

    As for circumcision, I am for it and feel strongly that it should be performed shortly after child birth.

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