THE AGE, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 7 December 2000.

Conference hears calls for banning of circumcision

Source: AAP|Published: Thursday December 7, 2:21 PM

Male circumcision was a criminal sexual assault that should be banned in Australia in the same way as female genital mutilation, an international conference at Sydney University heard today.

A Queensland psychology professor told the Sixth International Symposium on Genital Integrity that the surgical removal of the foreskin, performed on 12 per cent of Australian infant boys today, could result in a range of psychological and sexual problems in adulthood, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Studies now demonstrate quite clearly that circumcision has long-term adverse consequences, not only physically but also sexually and psychologically," Professor Greg Boyle, of Bond University, said after addressing the conference.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder does occur in a certain percentage of adult men who come to the realisation that they have suffered irreparable damage sexually as a result of circumcision during infancy.

"To amputate a highly erogenous sexual tissue such as the foreskin is quite clearly a criminal sexual assault."

Prof Boyle said circumcision was a violation of a child's human rights and should be considered an offence to be prosecuted through the courts.

He said a precedent had been set by a 1992 High Court ruling that parents could not provide legal consent for an irreversible, non-therapeutic medical procedure performed on an unconsenting minor.

Prof Boyle said he believed Australia was moving down the path of criminalising circumcision, with an increasing tide of litigation against doctors.

In an out-of-court settlement in Perth last December, a 24-year-old man received $360,000 from a doctor who circumcised him as an infant, he said.

Prof Boyle said it was a violation of Australia's anti-discrimination laws to ban female genital mutilation while failing to give boys the same protection.

Australian historian Robert Darby said circumcision began in Australia during the 1890s, when it was seen as a cure for a number of ills, including masturbation, convulsions and diarrhoea. It became almost universal during the 1920s.

However the popularity of the procedure appears to be on the wane, according to Medicare figures, Prof Boyle said.

He said the figures showed almost 95 per cent of Australian baby boys were circumcised during the 1950s and '60s, compared with 12 per cent today. The conference will hear tomorrow about progress made by the federally funded education program on female genital mutilation in Australia.

Six NSW communities, from Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and the Sudan, were being targeted as at risk of female genital mutilation, the program's Juliana Nkrumah said today.

Female genital mutilation is illegal in Australia under laws introduced in 1995.

Cite as:
(File prepared 07 December 2000)

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