Gender, Genitals, Cutting, and Power
In their review of Genital Cutting: Protecting Children From Medical, Cultural, and Religious Infringements, Sussie Eshun and Irina Khusid note how long the circumcision debate has gone on, the differences in attitudes about male and female circumcision, and the need to provide parents with balanced education and information on the topic. However, the reviewers note the difficulty that parents have in obtaining clear, evidence-based information on circumcision. In Western industrialized nations there is little debate over female circumcision; it is considered wrong and is referred to as mutilation. The opposite is true for male circumcision. It is generally presented as a beneficial medical procedure and is deeply rooted in cultural and religious tradition. Medical and religious support for male circumcision creates a power imbalance in this culture that prevents debate, just as the strength of male power and cultural tradition limits discussions of female circumcision in those societies that practice it.
Eshun and Khusid suggest that parents receive information and education on male circumcision prior to the birth of a child and that they be informed that this is an elective medical procedure. However, is this recommendation sufficient, given medical and cultural sentiment? Can parents who see this practice as a violation of the child’s human rights who wish to decline it for other reasons comfortably do so? How do uncircumcised males handle the stigma of being uncircumcized? Does decision science or social psychology have anything to contribute to this ongoing debate?
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(19)