Is Circumcision a Human Rights Issue?

by Dani Lasher

The Facts

All religious talk aside, medical literature does not support prophylactic circumcision. An intact American male has a 1 in 600 risk of developing penile cancer. By contrast, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, but we aren’t amputating the breasts of newborn girls. Issues that increase one’s risk of penile cancer, such as Lichen Sclerosis and phimosis (a condition in which the foreskin can’t be retracted (pulled back) from around the tip of the penis), are more likely to occur in circumcised men, advancing the argument for not circumcising.

It doesn’t stop there.  Balanitis, adhesion, hemorrhage, erectile dysfunction, keloids, meatal stenosis, urethral fistula, and even a ruptured bladder are all found more commonly in circumcised boys.  Total estimates for these medical complications and more, between 1940 and 1990, exceeded $6.5 million.

The AAP policy statement on circumcision in 1971 emphasized there was no support for this elective surgery. In a similar statement issued again in 1975 found no support. In 1984, an AAP pamphlet highlighted the functions of the foreskin — information that was left out of future editions.  By 2012, the AAP touted circumcision as the choice mom and dad should make. Policy statements need to be reaffirmed every five years or they expire. The 2012 statement has never been reaffirmed. Was this done intentionally to allow the AAP to avoid liability for their previous recommendations?

When the risks outweigh the benefits, why is routine infant circumcision even an option?  Could there be a darker truth about why circumcision is promoted by the medical machine to help drive profit-driven businesses?

Removing Foreskin: Benefit the Baby or the Buyer?

From foreskin facials to the development of essential oils for companies such as doTerra, the foreskin trade is booming. The foreskin has more blood cells and nerve endings than almost any other skin on the body. Infant foreskins are used in insulin production, breathable bandages, and in the cosmetics industry. A 2009 Scientific American article noted:

The fibroblasts in Vavelta [skin creams] are isolated from the foreskins, given several months to grow and multiply in the lab, and then packaged into treatment vials that are shipped to a select group of U.K. physicians. Each vial costs approximately 750 pounds, or $1,000.

Using foreskins for skin creams is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few more examples:

Pushing Circumcision Over Unfounded Fears

While a  review funded by the CDC and Merck touts circumcision as a protective factor against human papillomavirus (HPV), other studies, such as this one, found that circumcision has only a marginal associated with an HPV infection (P=.03) Is this just another fear campaign designed to get parents to circumcise their infant boys in a vain attempt to “protect” from cancer decades later?

An International Journal of Men’s Health study reported that circumcised men “were 4.53 times more likely to use an erectile dysfunction drug.” In 2014, the global market for erectile dysfunction drugs was projected to reach $3.2 billion USD by 2022. Is circumcision another path to drive product sales for Big Pharma?

A 2006 article details the story of Dr. Paul Tinari, the first Canadian man to have a heath-care-funded foreskin restoration. Tinari estimated that between the surgery and the foreskin’s resale value, each foreskin is worth approximately $100,000 CND.  Should the child or his parents benefit from these revenues?  Does the thought of parents selling part of their son’s penis sound repulsive? Should it be legal?  If you don’t think circumcision is a big business, think again.

The Risks to the Individual

Why do physicians believe that baby boys do not experience pain during circumcision? How do we know that they don’t remember this horrific experience?  What does the medical literature say?

  • A Lancet study comparing infant pain scores during vaccination noted a significant increase in pain expression among circumcised babies compared to those who were intact.
  • Clinical Pediatrics study on circumcision noted, “The adrenal cortisol response to the surgery was not significantly reduced by the administration of lidocaine,” meaning, that even if the skin was numbed for the procedure, the infant still experienced significant stress, and perhaps pain.
  • A study published in the British Journal of Urology International notes among pediatric traumas to the penis, 67 percent result from circumcision.
  • The Transactional Analysis Journal reported that adult men experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following circumcision.

And finally, according to the British Journal of Surgery:

“Although hemorrhage and sepsis are the main causes of morbidity, the variety of complications following the surgery are enormous. The literature abounds with reports of morbidity and even death as a result of circumcision.”

The mind and body cannot be separated; what affects one impacts the other. The research on vasectomy and post-surgical depressive disorders is a classic example. How can we acknowledge that a surgical intervention on the reproductive organs of an adult, consenting male can cause psychological disorders and at the same time, brush off any concern for the future mental health of a non-consenting male infant?

Is Circumcision a Human Rights Issue?

It’s not just parents who are questioning the ethics of circumcision. Pediatric associations from more than a dozen European nations, alongside senior pediatricians in Canada, the Czech Republic, France, and Poland have recently expressed dismay for the lack of a renewed AAP policy statement:

“There is growing consensus among physicians, including those in the United States, that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys. 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.”

Systemic Effects on Society

The circumcision of a baby girl is called female genital mutilation. In the United States, it is banned and is considered a crime. Why genital mutilation of one gender outlawed but genital mutilation of another gender not only allowed, but encouraged?

Concern over the possibility of psychologically damaged boys brings attention to the massive numbers of circumcised men who have been wronged. What are the subconscious effects of this birth trauma on males later in life? Is anyone doing research or even asking the question? Are these young men at greater risk of violent crime or marital conflict?  What are the effects that trickle down into the family unit?

The truth is, we don’t know.

Another article in the British Journal of Urology International, an extensive educational site for urologists, affirms that circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the male genitalia. The  International Journal of Epidemiology reports that male circumcision frequently impacts a female partner’s ability to reach orgasm, and may contribute to painful sex for his female partner.

Even if all routine infant circumcisions were stopped today, we’d likely see the effects of the procedure for generations to come due to the epigenetic imprinting of trauma in those who have endured it.

Why is our society intent on emasculating men? Are we causing the potential destruction of the male psyche? Why are seeds planted in the minds of boys that they are born defective? Why are we routinely performing surgery on a boy’s most delicate parts at an age that sends a message they can’t trust their parents? There is no way to paint this into a pretty picture. Circumcision without consent is not ethical and its long term mental and physical effects are unknown.

Certainly, aborted fetal cell lines used to develop vaccines are just as concerning and the foreskins used for commerce and cosmetics. The traumatic effect of stabbing infants with dozens of sharp needles during their first few months of life isn’t the only physical – and psychological harm – we are doing to little boys who have just arrived on earth.


Dani Lasher is a writer, motherhood coach, and health advocate living just outside of Washington, DC. While passionate about informed consent and women’s birthing choices, she’s also slightly obsessed with city living and cooking. You can catch up with Dani at her site, 


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9 Comments on "Is Circumcision a Human Rights Issue?"

  1. I read many of the messages and did not see many “intact” men commenting. But then if there’s a problem being intact they would be less likely to comment on such a personal matter. So, for those who don’t know being intact creates an odor by the end of the day, it’s embarrassing. I have heard multiple times of the “white stuff” that Intact boys collect under their foreskin, I was hearing about a boy who was remembered just for this trait….and it’s smelly. As a guy, I don’t ever recall hearing problems from those who were circumcised.

    And no you can’t “choose” to do it once you are an adult, it is a major deal…and who wants to tell their friends why they are in hospital, and what is wrong with them being intact? It might be easy to say you don’t know what you haven’t got, but I think many intact guys know the problems they do have.

    I think these things go in cycles. Another generation of men who have been told to wash themselves by their wives and we will probably see another wave of circumcised boys. I agree with the basic logic many people are expressing but circumcision was done for a reason and yes God did ordain it for His people for a good reason (not salvation). Modern cultures act as tho their parents had no idea, older cultures listen to their forefathers for knowledge, and the old way is smart. Many soldiers, when they could not wash daily, suffered badly for being intact! Let’s not be so judgemental and assume our own logic MUST be right.

    • Thanks, Ned for your reply. Vaxxter’s article was about the possibility of side effects from the elective surgery, and didn’t talk about challenges with personal hygiene. But you did bring up some good points!

  2. I believe that babies feel pain and experience severe trauma when circumcised. I had a healing teacher years ago who told me baby boys who get circumcised have added sexual trauma to their life when they have to be sexually intimate with others. He personally stated it numbs the baby and affects the teenage and adult male regarding sexual feelings and actions.
    I for one would never rip sensitive skin off a baby’s part, it seems inhumane and cruel.
    How any conscious person could think it causes no pain is astounding and lacks compassion.
    Some follow the bible word for word, but some of it reflects the many men who were writing it well after jesus’s time period. In addition according to Genesis, we are supposed to be
    vegans (and not consume blood–of an animal). namaste’, rachel

  3. A circumcised man has trouble being subtle in intercourse.
    Many important nerve ends are missing or mutilated.

  4. “Why genital mutilation of one gender outlawed but genital mutilation of another gender not only allowed, but encouraged?“

    So, in other words, let’s abrogate or ban what is a religious practice for 2 billion Muslims and 6.5 million Jews in this world or one-fourth (25%) of the world’s population (25% means 1 out of every 4 people you meet in this world)?

    I find it absolutely SICK that the same argument that is used by anti-vaxers to demand the right to NOT be vaccinated (i.e. RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION) should now be used by the same community to demonize male circumscision (which is a mandatory RELIGIOUS PRACTICE in some faiths including Jews and Muslims) as ‘genital mutilation’ and a CRIME – For God’s sake don’t get so carried away with your own delusions and convictions or at least don’t try to make it look like what a HEINOUS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY this is – I understand and totally respect if non-Jewish and non-Muslim parents wish not to get their boys circumcised and there should definitely be PARENTAL CONSENT involved before a decision like this is made, but to deny the Jewish and Muslim community to practice their faith is nothing short of UNETHICAL & UNCONSTITUTIONAL. So be careful where you are going with this because on one hand you want ‘religious exemption’ to serve your ends (give you protection from mandatory vaccination) and yet on the other hand you want the religious exemption stripped for Jews & Muslims because it interferes with your own beliefs (which is fine if you have your own beliefs but why would you not allow other faiths to practice what they believe or are we set to launch a 21st century version of the CRUSADES here?) – Why the paradox / self-contradictions? Can we hope for and have some CONSISTENCY here?

    • Dani Lasher | 08/20/2019 at 9:44 am | Reply

      Hi David,

      Thank you for the feedback. In response to the comparison of banning female genital mutilation but not male circumcision, it was meant to highlight a potential bias toward the male gender, not to slight any religious group or suggest banning of religious practice. The medical practice of circumcision is encouraged in the United States regardless of one’s faith. So, my response to that is within the same vein.

      There are indeed religions that are in favor of circumcision, and I have still seen followers of those faiths opt out due to the medical risk it imposes. For example, many in the Jewish community opt for Brit Shalom as an alternative. I apologize if the direction of the article was unclear. Circumcision is a complex topic that is difficult to tackle in a single article. The purpose of this piece was to address the medical effects of circumcision and its potential impact on society. Those effects remain even when it is carried out because of religious preference.


  5. Felicity Logan | 08/18/2019 at 5:08 pm | Reply

    I did read, years ago, that in cultures where circumcision is practiced there’s a much lower incidence of female cervical cancer (I wonder if that is still the case). It appeared to be a religious and hygiene practice that had in the western world gone out of fashion. One generation wasn’t ‘done’ so the next wasn’t, in order for a boy not to look different. It was an eye-opener to read that since a foreskin can now be sold for other purposes, the practice might be pushed for reasons other than religious tradition and hygiene.

    • Dani Lasher | 08/20/2019 at 10:00 am | Reply

      Hi Felicity,

      There are studies noting a correlation between decreased rates of HPV in female partners of circumcised men. I do believe their controls are lacking a bit and hope there will be more research on the topic. I would also question what the trade-off could be though — if a man would be trading that sense of security for other complications. Nonetheless, I still strongly believe if it is ever conclusively determined to carry benefits, that the procedure should be offered to adult males who can make the decision on their own, versus choosing for newborn boys who are not engaging in sexual behaviors and cannot consent for themselves.

      Thanks for bringing this up! On the flip side, it is interesting that many parents today who are choosing to keep their sons intact often struggle initially with the question of dad and son needing to “match.” I see that position often countered with “Will you perform cosmetic surgery on a daughter to make sure she matches her mother?” It really draws our attention to how important it is that we focus on the evidence-based risks and benefits versus societal beliefs passed down over generations when making medical decisions for our children.

      Thanks for the feedback,

  6. Deanna Tullison | 08/18/2019 at 8:19 am | Reply

    Dear Dr Sherri… have to understand what he covenant was about between the Marriage of YASHAUH HAMASHIAC and between Abraham Isaac, and Jacob. This was not about committing a senseless act upon a male infant , but about the spiritual connection to Yashuah and what the BLOOD SHED ACTUALLY REPRESENTS. It is done on the 8th day to represent NO MORE DEATH….ETERNAL LIFE AS A SPIRIT BEING. Also on the 8th day the prothrombin/thrombin clotting factors ARE HIGHEST ON the male child. Just like other nations have a tradition to serve their Gods…this is just one way to show your OBEDIENCE to the MOST HIGH and his son Hamasahic.

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Written by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, DO. Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.