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:
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
- 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
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
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.