Genital Mutilation

Written by Andy

The law in the UK forbids all forms of female genital mutilation – FGM – including those which have less impact on females, than male genital mutilation – MGM – has on males. FGM is justifiably regarded as a human rights issue, and the law makes no accommodation for religious or cultural considerations.

Male genital mutilation – MGM – is a human rights issue too, but boys are not accorded the same rights to protection as girls. It is right to be concerned about girl’s rights not to have their genitals mutilated, and it is right to be concerned about boys’ rights not to have their genitals mutilated. If genital mutilation is illegal for girls, why shouldn’t it be illegal for boys? Everyone in a modern society should be accorded the same rights irrespective of gender.

With adults, it’s a different matter. It’s right that adults should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. Adults are in a position to give informed consent to surgical procedures, but babies and children aren’t in such a position.

In the vast majority of cases, genital mutilation is performed solely for cultural or religious reasons. This applies to boys as well as girls. Both MGM and FGM frequently lead to complications, however – sometimes resulting in death, from bleeding. Furthermore, it’s now widely accepted in medical circles that MGM doesn’t have the health benefits (for males or their partners) which were at one time widely claimed, and the practice is increasingly being opposed by people in religious traditions which have long required or recommended it.13

MGM can lead to numerous physical problems. [14] MGM results in a considerable reduction in the sensitivity of the penis, reducing circumcised men’s pleasure during sex [15],[16] just as some forms of FGM reduce sexual pleasure in women. MGM can also lead to mental health problems, when men become resentful and angry at the assaults carried out on them when they were babies or children.

Quite apart from potential adverse physical and mental health consequences, a number of authorities are strongly opposed to MGM on ethical grounds. Brian D Earp, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, recently published, ‘Female genital mutilation (FGM) and male circumcision: Should there be a separate ethical discourse?’ [17] Glen Poole leads the organization ‘Helping Men’ [18] and runs the blog, ‘Ending Unnecessary Male Circumcision in the UK’,[19] which expands this debate.


  1. We call for the practice of MGM on individuals under the age of 18 to be made illegal other than on grounds of medical need.
  2. All MGM operations should be registered, the reason(s) for them being performed recorded, and the related information passed to the Department of Health for publication.
  3. Until MGM is made illegal, it should only be performed after the application of local anaesthetic. Only medical practitioners should be permitted to perform the operation, and only in registered medical premises.
  4. Taking males under the age of 18 abroad to have MGM performed should be a criminal offence.
  5. Men may choose voluntarily to have MGM performed on themselves any time after their 18th birthday.
[The above is from the J4MB 2015 Election Policy]

Further discussion:

The non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors – Male Genital Mutilation, ‘MGM’ – is a scourge across much of the world, causing widespread physical and psychological suffering. Men and boys are shamed into keeping quiet about the problems that have resulted from the procedure.

Sometimes it leads to death, either as a result of the procedure, or suicide in adult life. Unlike Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) it’s not specifically illegal in the UK, but it doesn’t need to be – nor did FGM, when it was made specifically illegal in 1985, as the Attorney General pointed out at the time. A parliamentary override would be required to make MGM legal, and no such override has ever existed.

Performing MGM is a criminal offence under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, being at least the infliction of Actual Bodily Harm, probably Grievous Bodily Harm. Minors cannot legally consent to having ABH or GBH inflicted upon them on non-therapeutic grounds.

No exemptions to the law are permitted on religious or cultural grounds. The fact that MGM is a common practice inflicted upon male minors by those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths is utterly irrelevant in legal terms in the UK.

We continue to press the government to make MGM specifically illegal, in line with FGM, and in the meantime we call for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring prosecutions against the criminals who are carrying out the procedures, invariably for financial gain. The government is a direct beneficiary of the crimes, drawing income tax from the criminals. [20]

What is male circumcision?

The word circumcision means “to cut around”. In male infants, circumcision is an operation which involves tearing the foreskin away from the glans (head) of the penis, cutting along the top of the foreskin, then clamping the foreskin and cutting it off. The skin of the penis is a complex movable ‘sheath’ with no clear indication of where it should be cut during a circumcision. This means that the amount of foreskin removed from one circumcision to the next can be very different, and no two circumcisions are the same.” (1)

Circumcision destroys nerve endings.

Functions of the Foreskin

  • Ridged Bands. The inner foreskin contains bands of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue. They constitute a primary erogenous zone of the human penis and are important for realizing the fullness and intensity of sexual response.
  • Specialized sensory tissue. In addition to the ‘ridged bands’ mentioned above, thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors (Meissner’s corpuscles) constitute the most important sensory component of the penis. The foreskin contains branches of the dorsal nerve and between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types, which are capable of sensing slight motion and stretch, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations in texture. Thus, up to 20,000 nerve endings are removed by circumcision. Note that the most sensitive part of the penis is the tip of the foreskin (the transitional region from external to internal prepuce). This part is always removed in circumcisions.
  • Protection. The sleeve of tissue (foreskin) normally covers the sensitive glans and protects it from abrasion, drying, callusing (keratinization), and environmental contaminants. The inner lining of the foreskin consists of soft mucosa lubrication layer, like behind one’s eyelids, or the inner lips, thus protecting the sensitive glans from abrasion. The glans (visible in the above illustration after cutting away the foreskin) is intended to be a protected internal organ, like the female clitoris. The internal glans are highly sensitive and has the moist texture of the inside of one’s cheeks, but after circumcision, it begins to lose its sensitivity through abrasion in diaper and underwear. For the first few weeks, it is very painful to the touch of fabric or diaper. It is similar to the human eyeball, which is protected by the eye lids. One would not touch the eyeballs directly but over the eyelids only – it is that sensitive. After circumcision, the exposed glans begins to dry-out and keratinize (builds hardened cell layer on the outside as a defence from environmental contaminants).
  • The Frenulum. A frenulum is a small fold of tissue that secures or restricts the motion of a mobile organ to the body. Frenulums can be found under the tongue and on the inside of the human lips. On the intact human penis, a frenulum connects the mobile foreskin to the glans in order to pull the foreskin over the glans when not aroused for the purpose of protection. The penile frenulum however is a highly nerve-laden web of tissue compared to any other frenulum on the body (more later).
  • Proper blood flow. The foreskin contains several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development.
  • Immunological defense. The soft mucosa of the inner foreskin produces plasma cells, which secrete immunoglobulin antibodies, and antibacterial and antiviral proteins, such as the pathogen-killing enzyme called lysozyme. All of the human mucosa (the linings of the mouth, eyelids, vagina, foreskin and anus) are the body’s first line of defense against disease. This benefit of the foreskin could be one possible explanation why intact men are at lower risk of chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Gliding action during sex. The foreskin is the only moving part of the penis. During any sexual activity, the foreskin and glans work in unison; their mutual interaction creates a complete sexual response. During intercourse, the non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of itself within the vagina facilitates smooth and pleasurable intercourse for both partners. The cut penis cannot glide and makes the penis a static organ. A full study of how male circumcision harms women:
  • Comfort glide throughout the day. The shaft retract and extend inwards and outwards throughout the day in the flaccid state varying with bodily parameters such as temperature. For example, when the body feels cold, the shaft retracts. In the intact penis, the foreskin glides smoothly over the glans as necessary, excess skin gathers ahead of the glans if needed. On a circumcised penis, the cut foreskin buckle and crease against coronal ridge on the shaft as it retracts, preventing the shaft/glans from retracting properly and causing a level of discomfort. The foreskin acts like a spring preventing the retraction of the penis. This push of the buckled foreskin against the corona during retractions through out the day (as well as pull during erection) is unnatural and uncomfortable compared to an intact naturally gliding foreskin-shaft combination. All circumcised males have to again, subconsciously learn to ignore the discomfort. Some circumcised men complain of stinging sensations during adulthood.
  • Proper lymph flow. The foreskin contains lymphatic vessels, which are necessary for proper lymph flow and immunological functioning.
  • Langerhans cells. These specialized epithelial cells are a component of the immune system and may play a role in protecting the penis from sexually transmitted infections such as HIV (AIDS).
  • Dartos Fascia. This is a smooth temperature-sensitive muscle sheath that underlies the scrotum, the entire penis and the tip of the foreskin. It is necessary for proper temperature regulation of the genitals (causing these structures to elongate in the heat and shrink in the cold). Approximately half of the Dartos Fascia is destroyed by circumcision. In circumcised males, the glans can become cold at times due to the missing temperature control mechanism (exposed glans).
  • Sebaceous glands. The oils produced by these glands lubricate and moisturize the foreskin and glans, so that the two structures function together smoothly.
  • Full penis length and circumference. The foreskin creates a visibly longer penis, especially when the foreskin extends beyond the head of the penis. Also, the double-layered tissue of the foreskin engorges with blood during erection and creates a visibly and sensually thicker shaft and glans. When the engorged foreskin retracts behind the coronal ridge of the glans, it often creates a wider and more pronounced “ridge” that many partners find especially stimulating during penetrative intercourse. The circumcised penis appears truncated and thinner than a full-sized intact penis.
  • Risk of death from surgery. Every year in the United States alone, an estimated 100 boys die from the complications of circumcision. Worldwide the figure is much higher, a fact that the American circumcision industry ignores, obscures, or downplays.
  • Delayed or diminished maternal bonding. Circumcision, even if anaesthesia is used, causes unavoidable operative trauma and post-operative pain that has been shown to disrupt bonding with the mother, which in turn interferes with the first developmental task of every human, that of trust (trust in human contact, in personal safety, etc).”
  • Oestrogen Receptors. The presence of estrogen receptors within the foreskin has only recently been discovered. Their purpose is not yet understood and needs further study.
  • Neurological Sexual Communication. Although never studied scientifically, contemporary evidence suggests that a penis without its foreskin lacks the capacity for the subtle neurological “cross-communication” that occurs only during contact between mucous membranes and which contributes to the experience of sexual pleasure. Amputating an infant boy’s multi-functional foreskin is a low-grade neurological castration” [Immerman], which diminishes the intensity of the entire sexual experience for both the circumcised male and his partner).

“The foreskin’s inner lining, which is mucous membrane, continually moisturises the penis head (glans) with a lubricating lenolin-like substance which I suggest we call lanofore. This constant moisturising results in a glans which is giveable and somewhat spongy to the touch, even when erect. The softly-stiff, giveable glans is part of nature’s sexual plan and is what nature intended for a woman to experience during intercourse – it is kind and gentle to the vaginal walls.

In contrast, the head of the circumcised penis is a constantly exposed, external organ. As a result, the glans becomes dried out and abnormally hardened due to lack of moisture, analogous to the way a sponge hardens when water evaporates from it. In order to imagine the significance of this to the man, imagine your tongue hanging outside your mouth, all dried out. You may have experienced this occasionally upon awakening. Now imagine your tongue never being able to return to the protective, moist environment of your mouth – constantly exposed, constantly dried out. Then imagine someone rubbing a coarse fabric across your tongue every waking hour. Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun does it? And yet, for a man denied his foreskin due to circumcision, this is life for his penis head is like, as it is chafed by coarse underwear, bedding and the man’s own wiry pubic hair, day in day out. The glans of the circumcised man never gets to experience what it is like to live as an internal organ, sheltered inside the moist foreskin (like the female vulva stays constantly moist).”

Sex as Nature Intended it: The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Making Love But No One Could Tell You Until Now (2nd Edition) by Kristen O’ Hara.

One of the arguments put forward is that circumcision is done for cleanliness. However, the washing in a shower to keep clean for a man – it takes less time to clean under the foreskin than to brush teeth! Our noses filter the air and need more regular cleaning, we do not simply go and chop it off because we need to clean it. Or take for example, after using the toilet, our anuses require to be cleaned with water – hygiene is part of living and amputation is not a solution.

They cite arguments such as ‘circumcision prevents diseases’. However, only about 20% of the earth’s male population are circumcised, 80% are not (3), do we have an epidemic breaking loose? The answer is ‘no’.

Circumcising” is not a ‘fifteen minutes and done’ job. Some unperceptive people think that the relatively short duration of the operation shows the ‘mildness’ of the surgery. But you can amputate a babies arms off in two minutes flat, therefore time does not mean anything! Some facts we need to consider are as follows. Anaesthesia is often not used on babies. Yet, the injection required for anaesthesia has to be applied to the tip of the penis where it is most sensitive. Even with anaesthesia applied, the procedure is excruciatingly painful as anaesthesia is not always completely affective.

The worst of the pain actually follows immediately after the procedure as the anaesthesia dies out, when the burning of a raw wound begins to be felt. Pain can last for many days and even weeks as the wound takes its duration to heal (not to forget, the life-long disadvantages from that point on). The healing process is not always smooth as imagined either. Every time the baby urinates he will usually cry due to ‘burning’ sensation from the wounded penis. And it is just that, an inflicted ‘wound’ (no matter what method of circumcision is used). There is also the possibility of bleeding and infection occurring post surgery with risk of death. A baby experiences all these sensations even if he cannot articulate his experience to adults.

One of the ill-found mentality of ignorant parents not acquainted with the Qur’an is them thinking baby circumcision is some how more preferable to circumcision on older boys who can talk. Therefore, many parents circumcise their perfectly healthy babies immediately following birth or in his baby days. The fact is, this makes no difference to the baby – the pain coupled with the trauma of arms and legs strapped down against his persistent crying is all experienced by a living soul. The baby will feel these anguishes just like an adult. The fact that he cannot express his pain in words does not make any difference in reality. The only people it benefits are the parents who some how calm themselves by the fact that the baby cannot express his pain – a form of deep ignorance it is. Research done on measurement of baby pain during circumcisions through such tests as heel-stick blood sampling (for cortisol levels), weighing and measuring, behavioural distress, discharge examination, and heart-rate, describe the pain as “Severe and persistent”(8) and “Among the most painful [procedures] performed in neonatal medicine” (9), and that “This level of pain would not be tolerated by older patients.” (10)

The fact that he will not recall his experience as he grows up also means nothing to the baby who will go through the traumatic experience i.e. wiping out memory does not justify inflicting trauma. It has been indicated that even if pain cannot be recalled in adulthood, it can have lasting affects through neurodevelopment problems.

A baby boy put through ‘circumcision’ –  All babies’ arms and legs are strapped down during circumcisions. Doing this on an adult without consent would be considered human rights violations, and can put one in jail.

“Within minutes, three feet of veins, arteries and capillaries, 240 feet of nerves and more than 20,000 nerve endings are destroyed; so are all the muscles, glands, epithelial tissue and sexual sensitivity associated with the foreskin. Finally, what nature intended as an internal organ is irrevocably externalized…”

Fran P. Hosken

“An infant boy is born with a healthy foreskin. Consequently, there are no medical indications for circumcision in the newborn period. Infant circumcision is a painful, stressful, and traumatic procedure that leaves the infant exhausted and debilitated to the extent that some are unable to suckle at the breast.”

‘Female circumcision’ can vary from removal of the clitoral hood, the clitoris it self, to the labia minora or majora. In reality, male circumcision is too an amputation procedure involving significant tissue removal, which destroys the functionality and sexual capability of the male penis to a significant extent (sexual harm discussed later). However, the response to female circumcision (no matter what type) is often starkly different to the male in the western world. The reasons for this prevalent bias and prejudice against males are several folds but primarily that of ‘cultural acceptance’.

The clitoral hood and labia minora in females has the same embryonic origin as the foreskin in males. Only after a specific stage in the development of the embryo do they take their distinctive forms. In females, the clitoral hood protects the clitoris, in males the foreskin protects the glans
( diagram ). The ‘equivalent’ female circumcision to male circumcision is clitoral hood and/or labia minora removal. If this surgery was done on young girls among people who only circumcise young boys, it may well be that they consider it barbaric, cruel and a sexual violation. Yet, the ‘same’ act done on boys does not trigger any emotions. Removal of the foreskin is actually more severe because the male glans, being more externalised and larger, makes it more prone to abrasion. Male circumcision also destroys correct sexual functionality of the penis.

In parts of Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as other parts of the “Muslim” world, it is normal to circumcise girls and they have ‘justifications’ for it too, just as one may have for male circumcision. Words such as ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ or FGM are used by human rights groups. Male “circumcision” too is now being referred to as ‘Male Genital Mutilation’ or MGM.

Circumcised boys and men suffer from continous irritation and discomfort from abrasion of their glans against clothing throughout their entire lives. The brain continuously tries to suppress these feelings. The foreskin is meant to protect the sensitive glans from abrasion.

Male Circumcision Harms Women

The circumcised erect penis looks similar to an intact erect penis except for some critical differences that harms the sexual experience for both the female as well as the male.

Circumcised intercourse frustrates and even angers the primordial subconscious, which somehow knows innately that “real sex ain’t this way.” Each new circumcised experience builds on the negative memory imprints of the past, and over a period of time, the subconscious and the conscious mind become more and more annoyed. After repeated sexual encounters with the same partner, the brain begins to develop negative feelings toward the partner that are ultimately carried far beyond the bedroom door, into the every day relationship.”

Sex as Nature Intended it: The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Making Love But No One Could Tell You Until Now (2nd Edition) by Kristen O’ Hara.

“A woman who has only experienced circumcised sex may know that she in some measure dissatisfied with the experience, but she may not be able to put her finger on exactly what is wrong. She may mistakenly think the discomforts are just something women normally endure during sex. Or she may blame her self, thinking she just doesn’t like sex that much. But if she were to experience the comfort and sensually soft pleasures of natural intercourse, she would soon realise that the two experiences are distinctly different and would be better able to identify how circumcised intercourse causes her to be discomforted.”

Sex as Nature Intended it: The Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Making Love But No One Could Tell You Until Now (2nd Edition) by Kristen O’ Hara.

“A study published in the April 2007 edition of of BJU International (British Journal of Urology) claims that it “conclusively shows that circumcised males have a significant penile sensory deficit as compared with non-circumcised intact men.”





[17] thical_discourse



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