Friday, 27 December 2013
Liliane Maury Pasquier chairs the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

For the past two months, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has been vilified as “anti-Semitic,” “anti-religious” and “insane” and has been accused of promoting “hate and racist trends in Europe ” for adopting, by overwhelming majority, a resolution on children’s right to physical integrity. As the head of the committee that unanimously approved the draft texts in June — after two parliamentary hearings and several committee discussions — I have been saddened by this reaction, much of which has been characterized by bad faith or ignorance about what we said. So I want to set the record straight.

PACE brings together legislators from 47 countries and speaks for 820 million Europeans. Its reports and campaigns have inspired many laws in its member states and a series of international treaties that have, among other things, pioneered the protection of children’s rights.

But pioneers are seldom liked and applauded, particularly on this issue. Our committee’s resolution on children’s right to physical integrity does not call for a ban on the circumcision of young boys, as many have claimed. The resolution calls on the Council of Europe’s member states to “clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions to be ensured for practices which are today widely carried out in certain religious communities, such as the non-medically justified circumcision of young boys.” Why? Because as Marlene Rupprecht, rapporteur of the assembly, pointed out in a September report, “there is evidence that unprofessional circumcisions may cause infections, organ curvatures, perforated urethra and, finally, additional operations, whilst even wrongly applied bandages can have severe consequences such as necrotic tissue and other irreversible damage. Some of the complications are regularly fatal.” The medical evidence presented in our hearings was clear.

The assembly has been criticized for including the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons in a list of violations of the physical integrity of children. Our resolution noted that “supporters of the procedures tend to present [it] as beneficial to the children themselves, despite clear evidence to the contrary.” This list also included female genital mutilation, early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersex children, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery. All of these interventions permanently alter a child’s body in some form or another, only to very different degrees.

To be clear, the assembly never equated female genital mutilation and the circumcision of young boys. It simply called on member states to “initiate a public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching a large consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity according to human rights standards.” As Rupprecht noted in citing the need to differentiate between procedures: “There is certainly a clear line to be drawn between male circumcision . . . and female genital mutilation (FGM) which . . . is a procedure intended to control the sexual behaviour of girls and women throughout their lives.”

It is a basic tenet of human rights law that one right may well conflict with another. The classic case is the right to privacy vs. the right to free speech. Regarding the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, children’s right to physical integrity conflicts with parents’ right to freedom of religion. As many of its resolutions show, the assembly has been a strong supporter of religious rights. But in this case, when considering the relative weight of the human rights in question, the assembly gave precedence to the rights of children.

There is not, and cannot be, a “right” to circumcise young boys. Children are not mini-beings with mini-human rights. By contrast, in an accompanying recommendation, our assembly invited European governments to consider making “children’s right to physical integrity” a continent-wide standard.

The assembly’s resolution cannot be rescinded or altered. However, as we hoped, debate is underway — though not always in the most focused or productive manner. (What does it say about the quality of opponents’ arguments if calling for a public debate is seen as a precursor to oppression and pogroms?) For our part, we will do our best to take that debate forward: On Jan. 28, my committee will hold a follow-up hearing on circumcision. We hope that Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, as well as medical experts, will come together to discuss this further.

Religious practices deserve the most profound respect — but not when they result in irreversible harm to children.
Source: Washington Post

"What does it say about the quality of opponents’ arguments if calling for a public debate is seen as a precursor to oppression and pogroms?"

The same question could be asked of the Jewish response to my own recent discussion of the Jewish role in promoting immigration, diversity, multiculturalism, the criminalisation of free speech and the use of state power to influence the way people think. Hysteria, moralistic accusations and the paranoid victim mentality kick in immediately. It's hard not to feel contempt for a culture that so consistently produces such unreasoned responses to any attempts at rational debate.


Anonymous said...

The main point should be that the government has no business legislating morality, the others should be health considerations and religious freedom. It's true that there is no need to use irrelevant and sensationalist terms.

There were plenty of valid points made, as well as accusations. I can't look at my family, all the doors slammed in my face for having a different opinion, being disowned by certain relatives for speaking up about an issue, and pretend like I have no idea what hysterical over-reactive tendencies you could possibly be referring to.

Still, there is a very rational basis for a degree of paranoia, considering many leftists, most of the far right, as well as Muslims tend to view the world through the lens of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Anonymous said...

Both circumcision and female genital mutilation are advocated, and have been for centuries, by religious adherents, as a means of controlling what are deemed unacceptable 'sexual urges'. This issue came up in the British press in the past two years following a German court's decision re the circumcision of a Moslem boy in that country. Much is made of the fact that, although FGM is illegal in Britain, there have been no prosecutions. I read readers' comments in the press (always more informative than the media itself): the claims made, particularly from the 19th century onwards, for the supposed medical and psychological benefits of circumcision were absurdly inflated, and always, rather significantly, involved 'curbing' or 'preventing' objectionable 'sexual urges' which is precisely the claim made openly by imams supporting female genital mutilation. And, in the US at least, doctors committing circumcision also admitted to carrying out fgm on female children. The concept of the personal integrity of the human body is one of the cornerstones of Western law and comes to us via Greek and Roman law and Christianity. In the case of Christianity, the first letter of the Christian Church in its first decade to all its faithful was a statement against circumcision because this was seen as part of the old covenant with the Jews which was superceded by Christ. It was very surprising to learn that, due to medical pressure in the 19th and 20th centuries by American doctors, millions of babies, Christian and otherwise, were routinely circumcised for spurious and medically unjustifiable grounds. Because of the strongly Jewish representation in the cj "movement" in the US, and the false charge of 'anti-semitism' whenever this subject is broached, it seems that European bodies are still prepared to ignore the infant or child's needs in order not to 'offend' indefensible 'religious sensitivities.' You cannot defend one form of mutilation whilst attacking another (and circumcision does involve destruction of nerves and trauma for babies, as well as the fatalities mentioned in the article).

Anonymous said...

FGM has no health benefits, and a lot more risk. Also it is cultural more so than religious. Even then, it is still worth asking whether or not it is the government's job to be involved. Busting out the violin and pretending to care about Jewish or Muslim babies doesn't seem like the best argument either, frankly.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ 21:21 Neither circumcision nor female genital mutilation have any health benefits. FGM is extensively committed throughout the Islamic 'world' because it has 'authority' from a Hadith in which Mohamed is asked by an "exciser" (mutilator) who has "migrated" with Mohamed and his followers if she is permitted to continue mutilating and he says she is and then explains how it is to be done. Furthermore, the Sunnah states that "Circumcision is a sunna (tradition) for the men and makruma (honourable deed) for the women".

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