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The Original Danish Text Can Be Seen At : Click Here


The Danish State Advisory Children Council Position on Circumcision
- Translated from the Danish by Troels Schmidt:


Topic for debate in the Danish daily Politiken on the 3rd of December 2008:
The Danish State Advisory Children Council Position on Circumcision of Boys

By Charlotte Guldberg, President of The Danish State Advisory Children Council 
[Translation from the Danish by Troels

DEBATE ON circumcision of boys tends to be emotional.
We have seen several examples in recent weeks. Some positions were, inter alia, based on religious and cultural considerstions, both of which are significant and important, perhaps especially in Denmark. However, when The State Advisory Children’s Council, and The State Advisory Ethics Council have dealt with issues of infringing the body, it is because there are also other key considerations to be made and there is a tendency to overlook these considerations.

The crux of the discussion deals with the child's right to exercise its own personal body sovereignty. In that debate the Children's Council is obviously an advocate of children's rights. They are clearly outlined in the UN Child Convention. Article 24 mentions society's duty to protect children against following traditional social practicies that are harmful to health.

Supporters of circumcision of boys suggest that surgery is in the best interests of child, and we are accustomed to three arguments being employed:
The first is that circumcision of boys is only a relatively harmless incision. Another, that surgery promotes health. The third, that circumcision is a religious and cultural right. Let us look at each argument:

Complications resulting from circumcision is a fact. Scientists discuss to what extent and frequency, but even in so-called best-practice settings, it appears that there are complications between 0.2% and 3% of all surgery. There is everything from petty bleeding and infections to more complex and serious problems, which sometimes leave lasting injury. It is rare, but it happens and it happens also in Denmark. Doctors at our national hospital, Rigshospitalet, tell us that at least every two months they treat mutilated boys for complications.

There is sound evidence that boys without prepuce have reduced risk of urinary tract infections. This is of course a question of hygiene. But consider the benefits: Less than 2% of non-circumcision boys get urinary tract infections. The option of using circumcision as a prevention means that at least fifty boys must be circumcised to prevent one case of urinary infection that could be treated with antibiotics.
We also know that women who have circumcised male partners, have lower incidence of cervical cancer, and circumcised men are protected better against HIV infection. But neither the cancer nor HIV is caused by newborn boys foreskin. Both diseases are linked to adult sexual behavior, and they can both be prevented effectively without surgery in the boys' genitals.

Culture and religion are sometimes depicted as static entities. Change is unthinkable and devastating for culture, it is argued, even when the subject is circumcision of boys. But as

numerous sociological and anthropological studies have shown, cultures and their traditions are not immutable - on the contrary, they are constantly evolving.
In all cultures and religions, there are discussions and negotiations, power struggles and interpretative discussions of how community rituals are to be performed. For example, among Jews, there is a lively debate about circumcision. There are different ways to perform surgery, and there are both Muslims and Jews, that are directly opposed to circumcision of boys.

THE DANISH STATE ADVISORY CHILDCARE COUNCIL has taken a position on surgery from a child perspective based on the UN Child Convention. We believe that the boys themselves must be allowed to decide whether they want to be circumcised, and if so, then this cannot take place before the child reaches the age of 15. This view has triggered a debate in which opinions and facts once again are brought up front, so everyone can have an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of surgery.

From a child perspective, this is an important debate. Whether this will lead to a ban on circumcision of boys is not for the Children Council nor the Ethics Council to decide. But it is a worthwhile consideration.