03 June 2009

Circumcision in Australia -- Legal?

I was reading an interesting article earlier today and thought it was worthy of a post. Not quite sure how it fits in with my recent posts on alleged Indonesian criminals and the underage marriage and the alleged subsequent abuse of Manohara, I am guessing it doesn't. However, circumcision is something that we have thought about with young Will.

We talked about it with the doctor while we were in Indonesia. I am not sure 'talked about' is the right phrase, as we broached the subject with the doctor and his response was, "no need!" And, that was the end of the conversation. We have not talked about it with the doctor here and to be perfectly honest we have not talked about it between ourselves either.

So, onto the post.

Circumcision was a routine procedure when I was born. Estimates suggest that the rate of circumcision around the time of my birth was somewhere around 90%. Generally, the reasons for the procedure were health based. Simply, it was healthier to be without a foreskin than to be with one. It has only been in more recent times that the argument has moved to the rights of the child, serious questioning of the supposed health benefits of circumcision, and whether the "mutilation" is warranted. I must say that I have never felt mutilated myself and harbor no ill will to my parents for allowing the procedure to be done.

The current rate of circumcision in Australia is about 12%. The numbers are approximate. However, it is suggested that a great number of the circumcisions that still occur are for religious reasons. Religions where circumcision is required include Judaism and Islam.

The debate not only revolves around the physical and health implications of the procedure but also the legal implications. The recent discussion on this point by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute says that the criminal and civil law with respect to circumcision is far from certain, and in fact circumcision may abuse the rights of the child.

Circumcision is the general term in the sense that the mere utterance of the word is recognized by most However, in legal terms, the correct term for where problems may arise is 'non-therapeutic male circumcision'.

The main concerns revolve around the physical loss and then the social and psychological effects of having one's foreskin removed. The issues though are more interesting in that there is some debate as to whether circumcision is in fact an assault or wounding or maybe even grievous bodily harm.

If the argument is accepted that the procedure constitutes any one of the actions noted in the previous sentence, then it is unclear as to whether a parent could in fact provide consent to allow their child to be harmed. Nevertheless, the jury is still out on whether the procedure is in reality something that causes an injury in the strict legal sense.

So, is Will to be circumcised? The jury is still out on this one as well.

This post probably lends itself to a gratuitous posting of a penis picture...but I won't go there.


Harry Nizam H. said...

Hi Rob,
Very interesting article about something that is considered as an important step for most males here.
Note: would be more interesting if your show a picture, ha ha ha ha ..

Rob Baiton said...


A rite of passage into manhood, right?

I thought about a picture and then decided it would be a little gratuitous and decided against it :D

Winston said...

Rob, I respectfully submit to you that the jury regarding any non-therapeutic circumcision on Will should consist of one juror, Will himself, and that he render his verdict after he has carefully understood and weighed all pertinent evidence, however long that may take!

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, respectfully and all.

Perhaps this is why the jury is still out on this one ;)

Caroline said...

Just wondering, if the rate is as low as 12%, why would you want to do it? Obviously, not for conformity reasons?

Brett said...

Great article. I love the bit about "the main concerns revolve around the physical loss and then the social and psychological effects of having one's foreskin removed."

In my 40 years, not once have I come across anyone who had a problem with the loss of their foreskin.

As for the rights of the child? Please. Circumcision is largely cosmetic. How is it different to the babies and toddlers I see with pierced ears?

Incidentally, there is some research that indicates that a circumcised man is less susceptible to catching STIs (including HIV). This is probably more to do with personal hygiene.

And a personal annecdote... For the first 20 years of my life, I thought I was circumcised. My mother has this story about how the doctor refused to do the deed, but eventually caved in. It wasn't until I (ahem) got busy, that I noticed the difference. It seems that to appease my mother the doctor removed just enough to give the impression that he had done the full deed. I can understand why my mother wouldn't notice, but my dad? He claims he doesn't remember. I suspect he knows more than he's letting on...

Ruth said...

My vote is to let Will choose for himself. My husband was circumcised as an infant and is starting the process of restoring his foreskin. It's an arduous process, especially with a tight circ, and often takes years.

Needless, to say, we didn't circ our son. I figured, 80% of the world's men are getting along just fine with their foreskin, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. Nature/God created the male body perfect and not in need of immediate surgery at birth.

The foreskin has valuable functions, such as protection, lubrication, and gliding motions.

Even if all of circumcisions alleged benefits were true, the overall complication rate is higher than the benefit rate.

For example, a 2% chance of severe bleeding, a 70% chance of adhesions, and a 10% chance of meatal stenosis. (I've known of more than one mother who's dealt with meatal stenosis in her circ'ed son)

There are also rarer complications such as permanent deformity or death. Canada started really questioning the procedure after a baby bled to death following a circumcision in British Columbia in 2002.

And as your circ rate in Australia is only 12%, your son will be in the majority of boys if he is not circumcised.


Latinalonestar said...

I say don't make a decision for your son. Let him decide over the function and appearance of his penis. You can check out my blog to learn about the 12 common misconceptions about circ and the intact male. His body, his decision!!!

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Comments are always appreciated.

I have never been one for conforming to the norm. So, no that has not been a consideration.

I am circumcised and have never had any drama with having had the process done. I can accept that others may have suffered.

It is a matter of balancing all of the pros and cons. It is also a matter of deciding whether the Dyah and I as parents make the decision on Will's behalf or let him make the decision when he is old enough to do so.


To be honest, neither have I. That is, come across someone who had a problem with having the foreskin removed. I have known a couple of fellas who have had it done as adults though.

The STI angle is an interesting one. I am guessing the arguments against this would be; your kid is just 6 months old, so how do you know he will need his foreskin lopped off to protect against the transmission of STDs?

I think personal hygiene has plenty to do with it nowadays and knowledge of the risks of certain types of infections for those that have not been circumcised.

So, does the story get the annual rerun around the dinner table along with a few hindsight chuckles? You have never asked your old fella whether he knew the state of play?


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Comments are always appreciated.

I have read about all of the things that you state in your comment.

I, too, have been circumcised, but have had none of the issues that your husband has encountered. Therefore, is that reason enough for Dyah and I as parents to decide in favour of circumcision or should we give more weight to the horror stories of others?

It is a dilemma but not really a dilemma if you get my meaning. The issues are clear for each of us as individuals so there is no dilemma. however, when we contemplate the inputs of others then perhaps we create a dilemma of our own making.

As I said, thanks for posting your personal account. It is interesting and worthwhile to read and learn how others are handling or have handled the issue.

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Comments are always appreciated.

I will check out your blog and read what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm Canadian and I chose to get circed!
I am 28 years old, and I got circed about 4 years ago. I decided it would be a better choice from me. I am a bisexual man, so I have seen both sides of the "judgement". You would think with so many sites out there, that circumcision is just a MUTILATION AND AMPUTATION! I have to say NO! I never rejected an uncircumcised man after I was circed myself, but I am not blind or stupid. I could seriously tell the difference in hygene (I will not get into details becaus eit was very bad and "nasty"!). I have NO DIFFERENCE IN PLEASURE! That is just a myth that was created to scare people away from circumcision! I had sex before I was circed! I have a female partner and she prefers the circed penis, because of hygene, aesthetic reasons, and the feeling. This is all personal mind you! I have been to Europe and men and women there do prefer it, maybe because it is an uncommon thing! But in Canada it is a 50/50 thing! And if you're circed now, it is better, partners do prefer you like this! The news doesn't focus on adult circumcision! Many regions in Canada where circumcision has stopped gravely (Quebec, Newfounland, British Columbia, etc...) have high percentages of adult circumcions and the problems they are encountering they did not percieve when they discouraged circumcision (Phimosis, Cancer of the penis, etc...). When I travelled to Australia it was the same situation. Adult circumcision is growing, and the news doesn't cover these stories! There are many problems with the foreskin. We tend to concentrate on children and their problems, but when they growit is a completely different problem! I see circumcision as a preventive tactic. I'm sad my parents did not circumcisise me or my brother (Who got circed before I did by his own choice! And he circed all three of his sons for he saw the benefits and did not get confused by those anti-circed myth websites out there, especially those Mothering.com people/fanatics!). I have a son, and his mother and I talked about this issue and we both decided, with the doctor, it would be for the best of him (Born in Montreal, Quebec mind you) to be circed! W.H.O. has recommeneded this procedure and it has been seen as something beneficial in Africa. Canada is NOT Africa, but we can learn from this. In the USA they don't tell you most AIDS/HIV infected victims are African-American Women, and Black Men and Latinos who are not circed...mainly infected in prison! They don't tell us this FACT! Black women get infected by their partners coming out infected out of prison! Almost ALL white Males in the USA, especially those that are EDUCATED are circed at birth by their EDUCATED parents! Same goes to Royals in most of Europe (Especially the UK, Spain and most of the nobles in Western Europe!) and Jews have been doing it for millenia, while Muslims do it as a continuation of this Abrahamic practice, where the Christians took it out JUST TO DIFFERENTIATE THEMSELVES FROM THE JEWS (I recall Inquisition times and NAZI Regime...why most of Europe is still SCARED of the practice! It's called ignorance!). I spoke to my parents and they told me because in their country, Russia, it was not a common proceudre! Australia is made up of mainly immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Balkans nowadays! Real Aussies get circed, especially in New South Wales and Queensland! As your child grows older, he will see the benefits of circumcision, even if it's not "fashionable" today, but it has gotten the attention of MOST parents again! The "HEAD" of the medical groups in Australia is from Tasmania, am I wrong? And Tasmania is perieved as the "Alabama" of Austraila (Inbred and backward people for the MOST part! Or correct me if I'm wrong!) In the general population this has been the opinion of most Aussies! I ask you father of this child: Do you feel like you're truly missing something?

Anonymous said...

Does your penis function? Do you get and orgasm and make your wife get one as well? Can you get erections? Have you had infections in your penis? Have you had problems with sex because you're penis prevents you from this? Irritation? Tight foreskin problems? (obviously not this last one!) But just think about it! And question who is in charge of these medical charges! Because it has to do a lot with the response of your doctor "No need", but did he/she inform you about the pros/cons of circumcision? I would go further into these questions! If you find yourself, a circumcised male, being incoomplete, than maybe ask yourself WHY? If NOT! Then give your son the benefit of being a healthy male with a circumcised penis!
PS: Jews circumcise on the 8th day of birth, ever asked yourself why? Science and Religion eerily go hand by hand on this question! When I heard the anwser, I wish I was circed in my 8th day of birth! I ask my nephews and RICed friends if they remember their circumcision from the clinic and they say NO! There is NO TRAUMA OR ANYTHING! Cheers, and good luck in making this decision! You are the parent, you vaccinate, you are to take care of your child! Another thing to think of is: If you can't retract your child's foreskin until it loosens up itself, imagine how much bacteria is accumulating under there right now! Think of your child FIRST! Australian Medical teams will bring back circumcision like it's happening in Canada and the USA, as well as parts of Europe and China!

Rob Baiton said...


I generally prefer my anonymous commentators to adopt a pen name. Something easy for them. This is just so that I can distinguish one anonymous from another.

Like now, for example, as there are two anonymous comments in a row.

The first one identifies themselves from being from Canada, so, Mr. Canada it is. The second anonymous seems to just be an extension of the first (same writing style).

Mr. Canada...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment, a long one to boot. I enjoy receiving comments.

Nope, I do not feel like I am missing anything. I do not feel like I have been mutilated. I do not have regrets. I am not psychologically scarred. And, I do not hate my parents.

That said, I was circumcised when I was a baby. So, in that sense I have not really had the opportunity to know any different. But, once again, I am not scarred or traumatized by this.

I will have to take your word for the experiences you have had and the knowledge that you have gained through them.

The Tasmania as Alabama point is off the mark. Tasmania might be a small state and perhaps there are jokes about inbreeding and the like, but it is probably a little bit of an over-simplification to suggest that being Tasmanian colours your views on circumcision.

On the 20 questions :D

Yes, it functions. The answers to the rest of the questions are probably not for discussion in the public domain ;)

As I said, the jury is still out.

Rob Baiton said...

Mr. Canada...

You own both of the final two anonymous comments I responded to, right?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm Mr. Canada hahaha Sorry, I don't have an account! But let's just leave it at that! I thought I should ask some questions you should consider yourself! Sorry for the LOOOONG message! Once I start writing, there is not much stopping haha!

Mr. Canada

PS: That was a quick response!

Rob Baiton said...

Mr. Canada...

The response was quick because I happened to be online when I noticed that you had left a comment. I also try and respond to all the comments I get, just seems like the right thing to do.

I do not mind long comments.

On the questions that you posed. I think that I have considered most of them and I believe that my Wife has also considered them from the perspective that she has on this whole matter.

We have not really decided to go one way or the other. Hence, the jury still being out on this one.

I am not sure that I will post which way we decide to go even once a decision is made. The decision to make his circumcision, or lack thereof, public is indeed a matter for him :D

Anonymous said...

The law's attitude will probably be influenced by the medical implications. Here is a newspaper article that looked at some.