Abuse or Tradition: Female Genital Mutilation and Male Circumcision

Medical instruments
Why is male circumcision considered acceptable, while female circumcision isn’t?

Last week we shared with you the story of a Michigan doctor who is accused of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on a number of young girls in the name of tradition and religion. As is often the case when stories of a controversial nature become public, people on all sides step up to the plate in order to share their perspective on the matter. So while there has been a great deal of outcry over the issue of FGM, the issue of male circumcision has also been raised, and people are asking the question: where do we draw the line between tradition, and abuse?

Circumcision of male babies, where the foreskin of the penis is surgically removed shortly after birth by a doctor, has been practiced for thousands of years. There are tomb paintings from 2345–2181 BCE that depict circumcision in ancient Egypt. It was also widely practised by Semitic people in the middle east as part of a ritual covenant with the Hebrew God. Additionally, it has long been practiced in sub-Saharan Africa by many tribes and by Aboriginal peoples in Australia, who used the act as part of a coming-of-age-ritual for young boys.

Either way, whatever the origins of the practice, it has become somewhat contested in recent years, as more and more people claim that male circumcision is a form of genital mutilation that offers no health, medical or sexual benefits to its victims. A study conducted by the British Journal of Urology International revealed that men with “normal, intact” penises (uncircumcised) enjoy as much as four times more sensitivity during sexual intercourse than those who have been circumcised.

This, according to those who believe that circumcision is a form of genital mutilation, is a clear example of why circumcision should be banned. After all, it greatly reduces sexual pleasure for men, in addition to having no medical benefits for most ‘victims.’ However, not everyone agrees with this perspective.

Male circumcision may have health benefits, some say, while female circumcision doesn’t.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are numerous possible health benefits to be gained from male circumcision, including:

  • Easier hygiene.
  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Prevention of penile problems.
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer (and cervical cancer in the partners of circumcised men)

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that while there are certain risks involved in performing male circumcisions, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, the AAP does point out that they don’t recommend routine circumcision for every male newborn baby. The decision, they say, should be made by parents who consider all of the options and are informed of their choices..

Whatever your beliefs and perspective, the reality is that Michigan law allows circumcision but doesn’t make it compulsory in any way. So if you choose to circumcise your sons, or even yourself, you may do without violating the law. Your daughters, however, are a completely different story. Michigan law forbids ANY form of genital cutting or alteration on an underage female, regardless of your religious beliefs or cultural practices. It is considered to be a form of child abuse, and in some cases, sexual assault.

Given how particular Michigan law can be about certain practices and not others, it can be confusing for some people to know what is legal and what isn’t. Especially for people who were not raised in Michigan, or whose religions and cultures are not considered to be mainstream in the U.S. With that in mind, if you have any questions about Michigan law and how it may affect your religious and cultural practices, please contact our experienced defense attorneys. We are here to help you.