THE SUNDAY MAIL, Brisbane, Sunday, 11 August 2002.

Mother's fury as boys circumcised


A MOTHER has spoken of her anguish at discovering her two young sons were circumcised without her knowledge.

The woman, 27, who cannot be identified, said she was devastated to learn her former partner and father of her sons had arranged for the boys, then aged nine and five, to be circumcised at a Bundaberg hospital last October for religious reasons.

The man appeared in Bundaberg Magistrates Court on Thursday facing charges of grievous bodily harm (for the circumcision). The court was told the Muslim man had taken his sons to hospital to have the operations performed while their mother was on holidays and was "sincere in his religious beliefs" that they should be circumcised.

The court was also told the mother objected to the procedure and was involved in a Family Law Court matter central to the prosecution's case. But the charges were dropped when the prosecution revealed missing Family Law Court paperwork meant it was not ready to proceed with the case.

An adjournment request was denied, forcing the police prosecutor to offer no evidence against the man.

Outside court, arresting officer Detective Senior Constable Peter Cormack from the Gold Coast child abuse investigation unit said police would pursue the case and that charges could still be laid.

The boys' mother, who now lives on the Gold Coast, said in a statement she believed her sons had been assaulted. "My sons have a right to grow into adult men with intact bodies and choose their own religious and other beliefs", she said.

"If I had been in this situation with two daughters who were circumcised ... the Australian public would be outraged. Being of indigenous Australian descent, I understand the importance of freedom of personal beliefs in a multicultural society."

Circumcision Information Australia spokesman Shane Peterson said circumcision was a form of mutilation.

"For a long time Australia has had a double standard on male and female circumcision", he said. "Female circumcision is illegal yet male circumcision continues to be unregulated. It's morally wrong. An adult is surgically inflicting their religious, cosmetic or sexual preferences on a child.

"Surgery of any kind is one of the most invasive and high-risk forms of medical intervention possible, and it should always be the last resort. In European countries, the permission of both parents is necessary before a doctor can legally perform a circumcision on boys."

(File prepared 23 August 2002)