Last month, The Guardian ran a story titled ‘Male circumcision: the issue that ended my marriage‘.
Mireille Thornton was living in Istanbul, Turkey with her husband who is of Muslim faith. The issues began when Thornton gave birth to their first son. She explains that she “played for time”, given that sunnet (a Turkish festival that centers are the circumcision of a boy) is usually performed around six or seven years of age.
But as her son grew older, the argument “became more polarised”. Thornton was adamant that it was unnecessary and would hurt their child. She couldn’t see how washing was not “better than cutting off part of the body”. When the debate became particularly tense, her husband finally thrust their son into her arms and said “There. Go. Take your baby.”
Their marriage eventually fell apart over the issue. And her article gave way to a heated debate that is rarely performed outside the confines of the private home.
As a 25-year-old woman who does not have children, I hadn't thought much about the subject of circumcision. Honestly, I naively assumed that no one really gets circumcised anymore, and if they do it's a fairly simple procedure performed on newborns. I had absolutely no idea how contested, deeply personal and highly political the circumcision decision really was.
Here are the facts. About 20% of men worldwide are circumcised. The majority of men in Britain, Europe and Australia are uncircumcised. In Australia, approximately 32% of men under 30 have been circumcised and the number is in steady decline.
According to a study published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the procedure fell out of favour with Australian paediatricians in the 1960s. They discouraged circumcision, arguing that it was unnecessary and carried with it a number of dangers including bleeding, permanent damage to the glans, infection, excessive skin removal, and in extreme cases, even death.