The UK isn’t likely to ban male circumcision anytime soon. But we should still strongly oppose it.

male circumcision
Support us and go ad-free

The Icelandic government has proposed a law that would ban male circumcision for non-medical reasons. Following the move, anti-circumcision groups are calling for a ban on the practice in the UK. And leading British doctors are reviewing the guidelines [paywall] on ritual circumcision.

I doubt that male circumcision will be banned in the UK anytime soon. The UK is just way too different from Iceland in terms of its Jewish and Muslim populations. Nonetheless, I still think we should strongly oppose male circumcision. Religious freedom should not outweigh a child’s rights. It most definitely is not a good justification for mutilating boys.

Key differences between Iceland and the UK

We have to look at Iceland’s ban on male circumcision in context to help explain why it will be harder to push for the same law in the UK. As a case in point, there are only about 250 Jewish people and 1,500 Muslims in Iceland. In contrast, there are around 290,000 Jewish people living in the UK, while at the 2011 census there were about 2.8 million Muslims.

Jewish and Muslim groups in Iceland have, understandably, pushed back against the proposed ban. But given the much stronger presence of Jewish people and Muslims in the UK, opposing a similar ban is likely to be more successful than in Iceland. Other than the practical issues at hand, I also believe that outlawing the practice could lead to a rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.

Why we should oppose ritual male circumcision

The Icelandic legislation states that male circumcision for religious reasons is a violation of the child’s rights. It acknowledges religious freedom but says “such a right can never exceed the rights of the child”.

When we talk about male circumcision for what it actually is – genital mutilation, it truly seems abhorrent that we still turn a blind eye to it. Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir of the centre-right Progressive Party in Iceland proposed the bill. She said:

If we have laws banning circumcision for girls, then we should do so for boys.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free


Female genital mutilation (FGM), which can involve the removal of the clitoris, is very different from male genital mutilation. It is far more harmful. However, this difference in degree doesn’t mean only the former is horrific. If we agree that children have a right to bodily integrity, then both practices are immoral.

Removing the foreskin of boys can also damage sexual sensitivity, lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological issues, put the health of the child at risk, and even sometimes be deadly.

There’s also no getting around the fact that having your foreskin cut off, including as a child, is incredibly painful. When it comes down to it, there are no benefits to circumcision – including its importance in religious traditions – that could possibly outweigh the harm and violation of rights it also involves.

Religious groups have also tried to justify male genital mutilation due to its supposed health benefits, such as lowering the risk of contracting HIV. However, experts have highlighted that there’s no link between male circumcision and HIV risk.

Encouraging change

The majority of the public supports a ban on non-medical male circumcision in the UK. But for the reasons stated above, we are a long way off such a ban being feasible.

I view the issue as slightly similar to raising animals for meat. A ban on meat would be in the interests of animals, yet it’s unlikely to happen. Meat is an integral part of people’s lives, so there would be too much opposition to the proposed ban. This is why most animal activists don’t call for a ban on animal products, but for a change in people’s behaviour. We should likewise be persuading religious groups and parents why it’s wrong to circumcise boys.

It’s surely no sign of a progressive society to give priority and special treatment to religious traditions over children’s rights simply because they’re traditions that many people follow. No child wants to be circumcised. And no baby can consent to his genitals being mutilated. In order to protect innocent children, religious groups and society at large have to encourage reform and progress. Religious freedom is vital to any liberal society. But it should never matter more than a child’s interests, safety, and rights.

Get Involved!

– Read more about the male circumcision from Men Do Complain and the National Secular Society.

Join us, so we can keep bringing you the news that matters.

Featured image via Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed