It happened seventy-six years ago, so I don’t remember exactly how they did it, nor even whether it hurt. I do know that my “mutilation”, as many people rightly call it today, had a result which is permanent and, to a privileged few besides myself, perfectly visible.
The current debate (October 2013) provoked by a recent European decree condemning circumcision may overlook the fact that in the English-speaking world it was a current, routine practice in public and private maternity wards for the greater part of the 20th century. Illusions about masturbation along with pre-Aids medical considerations concerning hygiene were no doubt the accepted reasons for the mutilation. At the time probably no one even thought of the more serious feminine mutilation which is the ablation of the clitoris. For Catholic families like mine, it had no religious relevance whatever, and was never questioned as a standard surgical procedure.
It is a . . . sensitive subject, the very discussion of which is sure to ruffle the feathers of believers but also of many non-believing Jews and Muslims for reasons of cultural identity. Whatever the outcome of the present political controversy, it is a reminder of how influential religious belief and practice have been for millenia.
I have already alluded in an earlier posting on this blog (“Minor Matters : Minors Matter”) to an Australian judge’s ruling condemning a Jehovah Witnesses family for refusing, for religious reasons, a blood transfusion for an adolescent member of the family before his majority. Is this situation different ? As a victim of the mutilation myself, I will simply go on record as saying that though my “condition” has had no undesirable effects, I would have preferred to have been allowed to decide for myself as an adult. But I am neither a Jew nor a Muslim. Just – like them – prepuce-deprived. King Solomon himself might have been hard-pressed to be objective about the pros and cons of circumcision.