Thursday, December 1, 2011

Damage Assessment

In my time of circumcision education I occasionally run across people that are certain that forced circumcision does not violate anyone’s rights. They always say the same basic thing: circumcision is not a violation of human rights because it is not “damaging”. They go on and on about how the foreskin is dirty and the cut penis is clean, and the foreskin isn’t a sexual organ (has no nerves) and the cut penis feels the best, etc. Even if you tell them that the foreskin has sexually responsive nerves or that the glans keratinizes after circumcision it won’t matter one bit, because it doesn’t fit with the opinion they have formed. (Their reasons for being so adamant are another story.)

What this argument is really saying is that their own priority structure is the decider of where other people’s rights begin and end. It’s like saying “I don’t value the foreskin, therefore no one has the right to keep theirs”. Imagine if the ruling powers felt this way about the eyebrows. Would it be right to say “The eyebrows are totally worthless, a lot of people look stupid when they’re too bushy, and it’s no big deal to cut them off of babies?”

Everybody has a different idea of what is or is not valuable, and what is or is not harm. One opinion cannot be taken as the rule for all. If human rights are decided by a damage assessment, then whose idea of damage do you use? Imagine this eyebrow-less society where it’s not a violation to remove eyebrows from a baby. If the baby cannot stop the procedure, being too young, then no individual’s opinion is ever taken into account. No one would be supported if they said they were violated. This is what happens when a violation happens to everyone, it isn’t seen as a violation, it’s seen as ‘normal’.

The fact is that is doesn’t matter if circumcision is damaging or not. What matters is that the individual has the right to decide if a part of his body is to be removed. Opinions are a right as well. If a circumcised man says he isn’t damaged, then he’s not, and if a circumcised man says the forced removal of his foreskin harmed and damaged him, then it did.

This is a fistula, caused by the circumcision clamp.

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