Push to change circumcision laws

Bookmark and Share

Centre Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) politician Jenny Klinge wants to ban circumcision in Norway, or bring the penalty for a boy’s circumcision-related death in line with laws governing female genital mutilation. Health minister Bent Høie criticized Klinge for comparing the two practices on Wednesday, and said while laws are being developed to regulate male circumcision it won’t be outlawed.

Centre Party politician Jenny Klinge wants the government to ban male circumcision, or to apply the same criminal penalties for injury and death in line with female genital mutilation. Health Minister Bent Høie said work is underway on laws to regulate the practice, but it won't be outlawed. Photo: Stortinget

Centre Party politician Jenny Klinge wants the government to ban male circumcision, or to apply the same criminal penalties for injury and death in line with female genital mutilation. Health Minister Bent Høie said work is underway on laws to regulate the practice, but it won’t be outlawed. Photo: Stortinget

“It can not be such that when a boy dies, then it’s not punished at all, while if a girl dies it’s punishable by up to 10 years,” said Klinge, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She wants the act of removing part of the male foreskin banned in Norway, like female circumcision is.

“But if the government doesn’t have enough guts to forbid that, and would rather regulate the practice, then they must go into the legislation and criminal law to find out how they can give the same legal protection to boys in the event of injury or death,” said Klinge. She was also concerned male circumcision is still lawful even when practiced outside the health system.

Klinge’s demands sparked heated debate in parliamentary question time on Wednesday. Health Minister Høie from the Conservative Party (Høyre) slammed Klinge for referring to male and female “circumcision”, because it “creates the impression that female genital mutilation is less serious than it actually is.”

“Female genital mutilation is a serious assault which the World Health Organization describes as a violation of human rights,” Høie told NRK, adding there was international consensus against the practice. “Circumcision of boys is another thing altogether, and it’s a procedure that is performed in large parts of the world.”

Unregulated practice
There are about 2,000 circumcisions carried out each year in Norway, but currently there are no laws governing male circumcision and the practice isn’t performed in hospitals. Klinge cited examples including a 67-year-old man who was charged with aggravated assault in 2008, after he cut the foreskins of two boys with a pair of scissors. He was acquitted on the grounds that the parents initiated the whole thing, and circumcision of boys is not a crime.

In 2012 a two-week-old boy died from complications following a circumcision at a doctor’s surgery in Oslo. The doctors involved were not suspended, and while they received notice of possible sanctions the Health Board (Helsetilsynets) told NRK the case hasn’t been finalized. The police won’t take the matter further before the board makes its recommendations.

Høie said work was underway on a draft bill to regulate circumcision, which will be ready before Easter. But he said the legislation will not fall under criminal law. “Unlike female genital mutilation, circumcision of boys is not illegal,” he said. “It’s not applicable to impose any prohibition against it.”

Klinge told NRK Høie lacked respect for the argument she was making. “Everyone agrees that female circumcision is a horrible practice, but that doesn’t mean we should accept that functional parts of a boy’s healthy genitals should be cut,” she said. “Here we must think of the principle and give children the same legal protection, regardless of gender.”

Klinge said she refers to female circumcision rather than female genital mutilation because both involve the circumcision of healthy genitalia. She said it’s a question of bodily harm against both sexes, but noted the consequences are often far more serious for girls.

Religious reaction
The leader of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, said it’s ethically wrong to compare the ritual circumcision of boys with female genital mutilation. “They are two totally different things,” he told NRK. “We already have laws against being injured during surgery. I think it’s unethical to compare circumcision of male children with genital mutilation, which is illegal in every country. It’s about freedom of religion and human rights.”

Worldwide, the practice is most common among Jewish and Muslim communities, but is also common in Christian and non-religious societies in countries like the United States.

When the former government first released proposals for regulation in 2011, several heavyweight medical bodies including the medical, nursing and children’s associations, human ethics groups, men’s resource centres and the Oslo University medical faculty supported banning male circumcision.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate

  • Brother K

    Circumcision is the worst thing you can do to a child except bash out his brains. “Circumcision is a trauma”… Psychologist Ronald Goldman testified at the historic Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) hearing on January 28, 2014, an unprecedented debate on baby circumcision…. “As a Jew and a psychologist,I understand the stress that religious communities feel in connection with questioning of circumcision… I raise these questions out of deep caring and compassion, for our community generally, and our male infants in particular. We are inflicting, generally, unrecognized harm with circumcision, and the perpetuation of this harm is far greater a concernthan the discomfort that comes from confronting the advisability of this practice. Many Jews who do not circumcise in North America, South America, Europe, and Israel support this view.

    “Circumcision results in long term symptoms that fit the pattern of post-traumatic stress disorder…. Some Jewish mothers who observe their son’s circumcision remain deeply troubled. Miriam Pollackrecalled 15 years after the event, quote, ‘The screams of my baby remain embedded in my bones and haunt my mind.’ … Mothers risk trauma and PTSD symptoms themselves by observing circumcision.” ~Ronald Goldman, PhD, author, “Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma – How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All” – Foreword by Ashley Montagu, Ph.D. 320 pages • 576 references • illustrated • bibliography • index • Vanguard Publications, trade paper ISBN


  • Brandon Kehrer

    “The leader of Oslo’s Jewish community, Ervin Kohn, said it’s ethically wrong to compare the ritual circumcision of boys with female genital mutilation.”

    News flash Ervin. Circumcision by definition is genital mutilation. Just as ritual circumcision preformed on girls is.

    “They are two totally different things,”

    – Wrong again Ervin. It is a myth that they are “totally different things.” Usually bassed on this false idea that that FGM equates to male castration. This of course is false. With scientific studies demonstrating it as such. Such as J Sex Med. 2007:http://tinyurl.com/fgc-orgasmNewScientist News Report:http://tinyurl.com/femcircpleasure

    But like male circumcision, it removes entire sensations for life. And increases sexual problems. And seeing some forms of female circumcision are far less evasive then male circumcision. Yet all forms of female circumcision are illegal and a violation of the girls rights. Including a symbolic pin prick to draw a tiny amount of blood. Truly male circumcision is fare worce. Yet its legal.

    “We already have laws against being injured during surgery.”

    – By definition circumcision is a injury. One that disfigures the child. Yet the laws we have are not protecting them. Are they?

    “I think it’s unethical to compare circumcision of male children with genital mutilation, which is illegal in every country.”

    – It is unethical to compare them? When both have the same effects on their sex lives? Both are violations of human rights. What part is not ethical. Is it because in your mind it is unethical to not be sexist? The fact one is illegal one us not show you are a sexist.

    “It’s about freedom of religion and human rights.”

    – Bingo. And that is why it should not be done to anyone, who can not concet. It violates their human rights. And doing so to thid child ignores their future religious choices that may be different from that of their parents.

  • Frederick Newman

    Denmark and Sweden had the courage to ban male circumcision, on the grounds that the child’s right to keep all of his healthy body parts, is considered more important, than the parents’ right to practice their religion.
    Honestly, how can male circumcision be ethical? What other surgery is allowed, to remove a healthy body part from someone too young to consent?
    Who are we to judge the level of harm it does to a boy, to remove 20,000 nerves?

  • disqus_BNbEfrPmXP

    Circumcision should be a personal choice when
    the person is old enough to decide for themselves.

  • Jackno

    I think the FGM (aka female circumcision) is serious assault and MGM (aka male circumcision) is something less than a serious assault nonsense needs to end. Is female erogenous tissue inherently more valuable than male erogenous tissue? Are the nerve endings and their connection to the brain of girls and women more important than the nerve endings connected to the brains of boys and men?

    I am no longer buying the extent of harm precludes comparison nonsense either. The FGM is so much worse than MGM line of argument is nullified by the FACT that the vast majority of Muslim female circumcision does not involve cutting off the top of the clitoris. It is mostly the cutting or nicking of the clitoral hood (the female prepuce). That does not make it better, but the parts of the male p nis cut off (the male prepuce) are a very inervated part of the male.

    EVERY HUMAN (male and female) has the RIGHT (a human right) to reach adulthood with all of the tissue (particularly all of their erogenous tissue) that THEIR genetic code provides.

  • Doug Lefelhocz

    I agree that that we shouldn’t logically compare female genital mutilation and male genital mutilation. In industrialized countries, female genital mutilation is against the law and even when legal only affects a very small portion of the female population. Male genital mutilation, on the other hand, affects a significant portion of the male population and is legal. Consequently, male genital mutilation is a more serious social issue. There is not much of a meaningful comparison here. There exists very little to compare, and much more to contrast.

  • Circumcision is a euphemism for genital mutilation, and it is absolutely factually incorrect to say that female genital mutilation causes worse problems than male mutilation. Both can least to devastating sexual and other health problems and even death.

    Mutilation CANNOT legally be forced on a child. Shameful.

  • Gary Harryman

    Forced genital mutilation, male or female, infant or adult is a violent violation of fundamental human rights. Who could possibly be against protecting all humans from such violence?

  • Gary Harryman

    I have had two pediatricians tell me that in all their decades of practice they have never seen a medical need for circumcision.

  • Bronwyn Millar

    “It’s about freedom of religion and human rights.” verbatim, from the leader of the jewish community. this is WHY we fight AGAINST circumcision of all minors. because it is a violation of their freedom of religion and human rights! you brand your religion onto the flesh of an innocent baby instead of letting HIM choose it for himself when he is older, when the procedure would be safer, he would be given adequate pain relief and more importantly, be given the right to choose whether he wants to have his own foreskin or not!

    • inquisitor

      Religion is branded onto the minds of innocent children by adults rather than letting the child grow up to determine if there exists an invisible world full of invisible gods.

  • TLCTugger

    The health minister does not dictate to parliament. EVERY circumcision alters sex dramatically. Informed adults can decide for themselves about their own bodies, but all children should be protected from any forced genital cutting.

  • superior2

    Keep fighting Norway! This is all about the human and religious rights of the child to have his or her complete body. No religion has the right to cut or maim any normal body part. Male circumcision is actually worse than most female circumcisions-look at the embryology. It is time for the Jewish and Muslim religions to come up with an exit strategy.

    • Tom Just Olsen

      Agree. But up until then people must do as they like. As long as they pay for it themselves. Circumcision should be regarded as ‘plastic surgery’ and not be covered by the tax payers.

      • superior2

        Adult people can do as they like and pay for it. Children are not able to understand or consent to ‘Plastic Surgery’. This is about protecting children and their rights to bodily autonomy.

        • Tom Just Olsen


  • Cpt_Justice

    It’s lovely how obvious the true impetus behind this measure is: look at the ignorance, lies & hatred in the comments section, right here!

  • Lucius

    It should at the very least be regulated to ensure the consent of the patient undergoing the surgery. So to require an age of consent at the very least would be a positive step in the right direction. I don’t want to see circumcision totally banned as some people do it for religious convictions. But the surgery can wait until they’re old enough to be able to think about it first.