4 Countries With Rules Regulating Male Circumcision, Now That It's Becoming More Controversial

Ad failed to load

A growing number of anti-circumcision fringe groups known as "intactivists" are growing increasingly noisy, causing parents to question whether a longstanding cultural tradition might not be in the best interests of their sons. If "male genital mutilation," as these groups refer to it, is so harmful, surely there must be several countries where circumcision is banned, right? While such laws have been enacted and later repealed throughout the world, there's currently no nation that outlaws the practice, although there are a handful of local laws regulating it. Most recently, a ban has been suggested in Iceland, according to CNN, but it's too soon to tell if that will actually happen.

Such bans are considered an affront to religious freedom by Islam and Judaism; a joint statement by the Jewish community leaders of Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden points out that no Jewish community currently exists in Iceland, and the law would be an "effective deterrent" against one ever being established.

But religion isn't the only reason that parents choose to circumcise their sons; according to the World Health Organization, circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection by about 60 percent, and it's recommended as a preventive measure in areas with high infection rates. Reduction of HIV infection risk is the most compelling and well-documented benefit of circumcision.

Ad failed to load

In the United States, there's no federal law explicitly banning or legalizing circumcision, but a couple of localities have weighed in. After a circumcision ban nearly made it onto the ballot in San Francisco in 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill preventing local governments from enacting such laws, according to SFGATE. In New York City, an obscure ritual during which mohels suck the blood off of newly circumcised babies' penises has led to several cases of herpes infection, causing the board of health to require consent forms, but that was later repealed, the New York Times reported.

Ad failed to load

There are four countries that have enacted laws governing the who, why, where, and how of circumcision. In Australia, it's banned at public hospitals, but it's legal to have it done privately, according to The Guardian. In Germany, it can be performed by "specially qualified members of religious communities" for boys under 6 months, after which it must be performed by a doctor, according to Der Spiegel. Sweden requires a doctor or nurse to be present during circumcision, and mandates the use of anesthesia, according to the BBC. The most restrictive country is South Africa, which prohibits circumcision for boys under 16 except for religious or medical reasons, and requires consent for boys over 16.

Circumcision opponents argue that non-consensual body modification done for aesthetic or religious reasons violates a child's right to bodily autonomy, like piercing or tattooing an infant would. A baby can't give consent what is a major body modification.

Ad failed to load

However, comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation is akin to comparing apples and appendectomies. Pediatric Bioethics expert Dr. Douglas Diekema told ABC News that "the anatomic female equivalent of the male foreskin is the clitoral hood," and "the male equivalent of [FGM] would be removal of the penis with or without the scrotum." Of course, removing a baby's clitoral hood for personal, non-medical reasons would also be a violation.

Ad failed to load

While some anti-circumcision activists claim that the practice can cause psychological harm or reduce penis sensitivity, a meta-analysis of 36 studies on the subject found that it has "no adverse effect on sexual function, sensitivity, sexual sensation, or satisfaction."

And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, circumcision helps prevent urinary tract infections, penile cancer, several sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, which far outweighs the risk associated with the procedure, and newborns experience far fewer complications following circumcision than older children or adults. Though it's worth noting that penile cancer is incredibly rare in the U.S., so the risk reduction is very low, according to The New York Times. And, circumcision has only been found to reduce the risk of syphilis or chancroid, according to the Times, while its ability to reduce the risk of herpes is less well-documented.

"The procedure is well tolerated when performed by trained professionals under sterile conditions with appropriate pain management," the AAP concluded. Ultimately, the AAP advises parents to make their own informed decisions on the matter, because it all comes down to what your values are, and how you feel after talking about the benefits and the risks with a trusted physician. It doesn't look like U.S. lawmakers will be enacting legislation anytime soon.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

5 Parenting Habits That Increase Your Chances Of Successfully Potty-Training Your Child

From starting solids to learning to walk, every childhood milestone presents its own unique set of challenges — but this is especially true of potty training. Indeed, the very thought strikes fear into the heart of many a toddler parent, particularly…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Getting Pregnant Might Mean Losing The Plus-Size Body I Love

For the last two years, I haven’t been my body’s biggest champion. I’ve gained 50 pounds. The stress of helping a parent get sober, a house purchase, and a new job got the best of me. But now, at 36, with talks between my husband and I about having a…
By Loren Kleinman

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger