Male Circumcision is a Rights Violation and Does Not Belong in a Secular Society

religious customs of circumcision and kosher meat

In the UK, we have freedom of religion like all other secular countries and it is a freedom which is supposed to entitle people the freedom to believe what they want and practise what they want without interference from the State.

But some religious groups abuse this freedom and act in ways which we would usually call inhumane. We sometimes refrain from calling these acts inhumane just because they are the acts of a religious group.

One religious custom I believe should be explicitly illegal – based on the harm it inflicts on the individual and the individual’s interests it ignores – is non-consensual, medically unnecessary male circumcision (or genital mutilation).

About a year ago my cousin had a son and being Jewish it was natural for him to call in a ‘Mohel’ and have his son circumcised. I was invited to the bris (Jewish ritual of circumcision) and I was interested to see what the ritual involved. During the hour-long process, however, my curiosity changed to disgust. I felt like stopping this scalpel-wielding stranger hacking the skin off this baby’s genitals. Imagine for a second that this practice never existed amongst an organised group. Now imagine an individual being in someone’s home slicing off the foreskin of someone else’s newborn infant. We would either send that person to jail for child abuse or to a psychiatric ward if they pleaded insanity.

The Children Act of 1989 gives the NSPCC statutory powers to protect children when they’re at risk, but the NSPCC would not be allowed to prevent circumcisions. Why? Well, there is no reason, except that it is expected of politicians and the general public to respect what religious groups do in private. But when one individual harms another, without consent, then this calls for State intervention.

Removing the foreskin of an infant violates that infant’s freedom, as well as the infant’s interest in not being harmed. It’s also worth noting that the Mohels who do the circumcising are not trained in anaesthesia, nor are their implements sterile, considering that the bris happens in the home and not in a hospital. So I think under the Children Act (1989) the practice of circumcision on non-consenting boys or girls should be considered child abuse and warrants the State to condemn it, just as it condemns child molestation, neglection and other forms of abuse. The only way in which circumcision should be allowed to exist, in a religious and non-medical context, is by the individual deciding to have it done as a consenting adult.

I’d wager that if this is how circumcision really worked, by individuals consenting at a mature age, there would be increasingly fewer people being circumcised on the basis of faith.

It’s also worth a reminder that the foreskin, or prepuce, exists for a reason and serves several biological functions. Some include: preventing chafing, increased sexual pleasure, (the prepuce has the most nerve endings compared to the rest of the penis), prevention of infection during early age. And the list goes on…

Also, here is a fascinating article on common misconceptions and myths surrounding circumcision. Circumcision, without anaesthesia, is a painful form of mutilation which carries many health risks and long-term psychological problems.

On a quick side note, it is worth mentioning that the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act was passed in 1985 and makes it a criminal offence for one to remove or mutilate a female’s genitalia for cultural or religious reasons. There is no act, however, which says it is a criminal offence to mutilate the genitals of a boy for religious reasons. This is nothing short of a double standard.


  1. Benjamin Burns
    June 26, 2013 / 3:12 am

    I never particularly understood where circumcision comes from, or why people feel the need to do it. And I know a few circumcised people who have weird issues derived from it. One of them cannot use condoms, because it dulls the sensation enough that he can't reach orgasm– probably due to the decrease sensitivity from the bulk loss of nerves. The other guy I know can get intense discomfort from an erection, where the skin gets so tight that it puts causes uncomfortable pressure, and it has the added bonus of easily tearing the skin and bleeding. Neither of these things sound all that fun..

  2. Anonymous
    June 27, 2013 / 3:41 am

    I'm not sure if you just wrote this for a bullshit school paper or something, but go ahead and take a look at your average slaughterhouse and read up on the pros & cons of circumcision.

    • slrman
      May 1, 2014 / 10:50 pm

      You're a typical internet coward. You post nonsense without a shred of proof and then hide behind "anonymous" because you know you are wrong. The article provides proof of the position taken. Why don't you? Could it be you already know you are wrong?

  3. SubStr8
    July 1, 2013 / 2:47 am

    To Anonymous – What a typical cowardly response. How about you respond to the actual content of the article? Mutilating babies is indefensible except through the distorted and ignorant eyes of a religious convert.

    Would you cut off your ear voluntarily if we found an old jewish text that stated it was compulsory? Of course you would not. If you saw a foreign culture that cut off the left hand of all children at birth, would you protest? Or would you argue that it is their right to proceed, as it is in accordance with their religious beliefs?

    If you would argue that they have this right, that a religious argument is all that is needed to justify any action, regardless that it physically mutilates an innocent child, you must also agree that Hitler, as he was acting on his belief that god wanted all Jews dead, was acting appropriately and should not be condemned.

    I agree with the position stated in this article, and the reasons given are clear and reasonable.

    Yours Sincerely
    Michael Treadgold

  4. SubStr8
    July 1, 2013 / 2:49 am

    Oh and as the youtube video was removed, here is a link to a slaughter. I can only assume the content is similar.


    • Sam Woolfe
      July 1, 2013 / 9:34 am

      I find it funny how a video could be removed for "shocking and disgusting content", yet the practice is not banned for those very same reasons.

  5. Bianca
    July 17, 2013 / 6:46 pm

    I noticed the author excluded the part where the mohel draws blood during the "circumcision". Lovely, yeah? An infant male has a wounded penis 8 days after entering this world, and if he's lucky enough to be the first born then the family has a redemption ceremony where they "buy back" his soul. (Look up "golden calf" and the the "levites").

  6. Anonymous
    November 30, 2013 / 8:46 am

    It's really sad how little you understand about either of these topics. The point of kosher animal slaughter is to provide the most humane and painless death to an animal. If the animal suffers, it was clearly not done correctly. The point is for the animal to have as instantaneous a death as possible from as calm a point as possible.

    As far as circumcision, you obviously have been paying too much attention to the American Pediatric Association, who make most of their statements from a political and not from a scientific viewpoint. Talk to urologists instead. That will give you a better view. If you actually did witness a circumcision, it clearly was from a ridiculously biased viewpoint. I've seen and performed plenty. I've also seen the repercussions of not having a circumcision. There is clearly more discomfort at the time by cleaning the area than from performing the circumcision, which the baby usually has absolutely no reaction to, whatsoever. The medical problems involved with not having it done are surprising extensive. As far as the change in sexual pleasure, probably minimal to non-existent. Worst case scenario, you might actually last long enough to pleasure your partner. Best case scenario, you avoid infection and cancer. An adult circumcision and a newborn circumcision are completely different procedures. Trying to compare them is stupidity.

    Yes, I am a doctor. Yes, I was raised Jewish but know how to think for myself. Sadly, on these topics, you are a misinformed fool. Stop talking about what you know nothing about.

    • Anonymous
      January 18, 2014 / 3:41 am

      Kosher is definately not the most humane or painless death, the standard method used by normal slaughterhouses is for sure the most humane and painless. The main method used is to shove a bolt through the brain destroying it and instantly killing the animal. The proper kosher method actually requires the animal to be alive and awake when its throat is slit, and it typically takes very little time for the heart to stop beating (2 seconds or so) if done right but the brain and nerve endings will actually work for much longer when done that way(over 30 seconds before brain would lose consciousness), and a brain will actually still survive for about 6 minutes with no bloodflow.

  7. Anonymous
    January 27, 2014 / 10:21 pm

    My wife and I had a son 6 months ago, and the decision to circumcise him was one of the most difficult choices I have ever had to make. I am atheist; my wife is agnostic. So, the only religious motivation involved is my strong compulsion to avoid anything overtly religious in nature or origin. I am circumcised, and we live in a part of the country where most men are. How was I going to handle him asking why he is different from daddy? or from the other boys? or when a special girlfriend who has never seen an uncut penis sees his for the first time and does not like it? Would he even ask me or would he just internalize feeling different or rejected?

    I considered that those could be growth experiences and could improve self-image and confidence when resolved. But they could also cause damaged self-esteem and sexual insecurity he could carry throughout his life. In principle, I disagree with circumcision, but that's MY principle and my reasons, not his. My choice was: do I possibly damage him psychologically so that I can avoid conforming with a religious tradition I don't like? or do I allow a very common, minor surgical procedure (with no religious ceremony) which would benefit him socially but goes against my atheist grain? I believe I made the right choice; I hope he agrees.

    • Sam Woolfe
      January 30, 2014 / 3:45 pm

      Thanks for your perspective on this. It sounds like as an atheist you really struggled with this decision, so I can appreciate that at least you didn't make the decision blindly on faith, but thought about the risks and benefits carefully. Can I ask where you're from just out of interest? I know that circumcision for non-religious reasons is very common in the US. I can understand the social pressure of circumcising your son if that's the custom of the country, but I don't know if that would be reason enough for me. It's a tough call.

  8. Alien Mind Trick
    July 9, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    Both practices are barbaric and stem from Judeochrislam, a horrid disease that's plagued humanity for 4 millennia.

    If we're ever to move forward as a race, we have to stop mutilating both children and animals, and the practice of killing our fellow Earthlings for food, sport, or religious nuttery has to end. We're in the Sixth Great Extinction and there will almost certainly come a day when we'll wish that we'd stopped this practice long ago.

    Religion is poison; truth is the antidote.

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