Should male circumcision be banned?
15 June 2011
Male circumcision is common amongst Muslims and Jews, but judging from the 286 comments (so far!) to the article, there are a lot of people who feel that the practice is outdated and should be banned. I have responded with my own article, arguing that whilst the debate is by no means settled, a ban at present would amount to a disproportionate interference with freedom of religion rights.
The debate has been fierce in San Francisco, with even actor Russell Crowe stepping in. He called the practice “barbaric and stupid” on Twitter. See also this Washington Post blog and the Wikipedia page on circumcision and law. For an interesting discussion see this article from 2000 on Circumcision after the Human Rights Act 1998. One interesting point which emerges from that article is that
the Law Commission indicated that “male circumcision is lawful under English common law”, but recommended that the lawfulness of male circumcision on infants and children in accordance with the Jewish and Muslim religions should be put beyond doubt.
I cannot find a web link to the original report: Law Commission Consultation Paper no. 139, Consent in the Criminal Law, para. 9.1.
As I have written, I see it as very unlikely that we will ban the practice in the UK on the current scientific evidence in relation to the costs and benefits of the practice. Unless there was strong evidence of harm – something which the World Health Organisation amongst others basically rejects – I cannot see a politician taking on this cause, let alone Parliament voting on it.
We have covered the ongoing debate on religious freedom on the blog on numerous occasions – see this link for our posts on religion.
Please feel free to comment on the article itself.
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