PACE: Open Letter regarding Motion for Resolution | Doc. 13364

Dear Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe!

We address you as representatives of men who have been negatively affected by foreskin amputation in childhood.

On January 27th you will be deciding whether to further discuss a resolution that seems to be intended as a reaction to your earlier resolution 1952 “Children’s rights to bodily integrity”, accepted on Oct 1st, 2013. The passed resolution argued, amongst other issues, for recognition of “circumcision” of boys to be assessed as a violation of the child’s right to bodily integrity. It also urged the member states to define medical minimum standards for “circumcisions” and called for a discussion about legal solutions that make the affected’s ability to consent a prerequisite for such surgery.

PACE Resolution 1952/2013 was developed over the course of 15 months, and it appears that a plan may be in the works to toss it out it with haste, under a considerable amount of outside pressure.

First and foremost, it needs to be stated that foreskin amputation is a surgical procedure, in which a functional body part is irreversibly removed. This carries with it the compelling loss of numerous functions and has life-long consequences; not to mention the risks involved in the surgery itself, which also depend on the circumstances of the operation as well as on the person performing it. Therefore, the discussion of legal regulation must be engaged primarily from a human- and children’s-rights point of view, supported with evidence- and observation-based medical expertise.

The new resolution presented to you states that “Claims that circumcision harms the health and body of young boys do not rest on scientific evidence.” This astonishing claim is refuted by declarations from all European paediatric organizations, the latest being the paper authored by 38 prominent paediatricians from 16 countries in March 2013: url{https://tinyurl.com/european-circumcision-study} .

It comes to the following conclusion: “There is growing consensus among physicians, including those in the United States, that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys because nontherapeutic circumcision of underage boys in Western societies has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm.”

We, the negatively affected, know the described consequences first-hand. At the age at which a foreskin-amputation typically is performed, no boy can be properly educated about the possible life-long consequences of the removal of an average of 50% of the penile skin and up to 70% of its erogenous tissue, since these only come into effect at an age of sexual maturity.

These consequences include:

  • the destruction of the natural physiology of the penis, consisting of inner and outer tissue: the highly sensitive inner tissue is largely removed (foreskin) along with much of the outer skin, whilst the distal remainder (glans) is now bereft of is natural protection and left to dry out, which in the long-term invariably causes keratinization of the mucosa and thereby desensitizes the glans.

  • loss of the natural gliding mechanism of the penile skin, unique to the penis, which reduces comfort in intercourse and can lead to pain for the partner due to increased friction.

  • drastic loss of sexual sensitivity: the foreskin comprises far more nerve endings then the glans, as well as highly sensitive tactile corpuscles that the glans lacks.

  • painless masturbation is often impossible without additives (there are already lubricating creams, gels and oils for circumcised penises being marketed).

Additionally, we experience several psychological long-term effects, such as perceived loss of control over our own body, inferiority complexes, inability to engage in relationships, avoidance of sexual relations, shame and depression over having been genitally altered.

With these possible consequences, we, the negatively affected, are left completely alone in adulthood. In statistics that show complications, only those cases are included that have a temporally immediate connection to the surgery – the effects later in life, however, are not recorded. Due to a lack of awareness for the problems, many affected men do not even realize the cause of their suffering – not to mention the lack of qualified medical and psychological assistance.

Considering the wide range of possible risks and later effects of foreskin amputation mentioned here, the decision about this kind of surgery has to be the exclusive right of the affected person, who must bear said consequences for the rest of his life. This implies a consent requirement of age of maturity, including thorough education about the risks and consequences.

We know that you, the members of the Assembly, are bound only to your own conscience. We appeal to your responsibility toward the protection of society’s weakest members – who cannot defend or organize themselves. Please muster the courage to proceed as do the prestigious European paediatric organizations, the child ombudspersons of the Nordic countries and many women’s- and human-rights groups:

Judge and decide from the perspective of the child – it is about his body and his right to live with the entire body he was born with.

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