An Irish academic has called for male circumcision, which is a central religious practice in Judaism and Islam, to be banned, calling it “a gross breach of the bodily integrity of baby boys”.
Writing in today's Irish Times, politics lecturer Dr Kenneth Houston says the practice is “barbaric” and termed it “male genital mutilation” (MGM).
Dr Houston, who lecturers in Webster University in Thailand, welcomed the recent decision of a court in Germany which held that male circumcision amounted to bodily harm.
The decision led to a firestorm of protests from Islamic and Jewish leaders. Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that criminalising circumcision would make Germany a laughing stock.
However Dr Houston said that the ruling was “an entirely sensible and long-overdue assertion of individual liberty by a European court in favour of society’s most vulnerable and voiceless members: its children”.
He said: “Freedom of religion should not grant licence to holy men to mutilate infant boys’ genitalia. It is barbaric and its tacit acceptance in Europe demonstrates a misplaced deference to religious sensibilities.
“That only one regional German court stood up unambiguously against it is shameful. That it has been castigated by political leaders for doing so demonstrates the erosion of secular liberal values and ideas of individual freedom.
“MGM amounts to a gross breach of the bodily integrity of baby boys. There is a fundamental inequality at work here.
“In direct contravention of gender equality, boys are treated differently to girls. Anyone who takes a knife to a baby’s penis in 2012 is committing a breach of human rights. They should be prosecuted, not pandered to.”
Just last week, an Austrian provinced banned hospitals from carrying out religiously motivated circumcisions, and before that two Swiss hospitals ceased carrying them out.
In June of last year, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik called for male circumcision to be banned.
She issued the call at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin Senator Bacik's comments come after a proposal to ban male circumcision was placed on the ballot in San Francisco earlier that year.
In response to questions from Senator Ronan Mullen, she defended her remarks in the Seanad the following week.
She said that she had mentioned her Bill on female genital mutilation at the conference and somebody in the audience had asked her what she thought about ‘male genital mutilation’.
She continued: “I said I thought it was of a different scale and of a different order entirely to female genital mutilation but personally I do not believe that the cutting of a child’s genitals for anything other than medical reasons is ever justified.”