The protection of children is a universal characteristic in a civilised society. We recognise the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of a child as one of the most serious crimes and make strenuous efforts to identify and severely punish perpetrators. And yet one crime is repeated day after day, year after year but goes unrecognised, that crime is genital mutilation for the purpose of religious identity. Just as the Jewish and other victims of the Nazi regime in Germany were tattooed with identification numbers so tens of thousands of infants are routinely mutilated in order to satisfy the “obligation” of religious faith.
The practice of FGM “cutting” out the sexual organs of young girls has finally been recognised as grotesque but the removal of the foreskin of infant boys is no less an abuse albeit without some of the more profound consequences. Male circumcision is sometimes necessary for medical reasons but for the vast majority it is done as part of religious ritual. There can be no moral justification for this practice; it is simply part of the grand scheme that serves to perpetuate a particular religious faith. It is a cruel irony that the primary instigators of male circumcision, Judaism and Islam are in almost continuous conflict with each other.
So called scholars of either faith will offer religious justification for the practice and also claim other benefits like improved hygiene which has proved to be utterly false. In a secular society the rights of all faiths and none should be equally respected but this should never allow the human rights of individuals, especially children, to be ignored in the pursuit of religious faith, there should be no exemptions from our laws on account of religious belief or cultural practice. There are of course large numbers of people who subscribe to these faiths and governments in the developed world are afraid of challenging religious belief and ritual which some will also share personally but until they do we cannot call ourselves a civilised society.