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  1. #1
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    Default What the Tasmanian report actually says

    While there was a healthy exchange of opinions in the Discuss It section, what got a little lost is what the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report actually says. For those without the time and/or patience to read the full report I thought I would summarise its position, on which the recommendations are based. To quote (p54), with my explicating comments in blue:
    1. Uncircumcised adults and capable minors should have the right to determine their own circumcision status, and, generally, the right to determine the circumstances in which their own circumcision is performed. [Almost everyone agrees with this.]
    2. The law ought to accommodate established religious and ethnic circumcising traditions. It should also support measures to encourage individuals associated with these traditions to move away from loosely entrenched and particularly contentious practices. [Mohelim sucking blood from the circumcision wound comes to mind.]
    3. The law ought to condemn the waning tradition of circumcising incapable boys for secular non-ethnicity related social reasons. [To be like Dad or Uncle Jim, aesthetics, hygiene, etc. This violates the central principle of autonomy, while lacking both community support or rational articulation.]
    4. The law ought not to permit the circumcising of incapable minors in Tasmania for prophylactic reasons. [HIV, cancer, STIs, etc. Also violates autonomy for negligible/debatable benefits largely irrelevant to infants.]

    While I support all four points, the second is likely to be controversial among some in this sub-forum. To be clear, I think religious infant circumcision is immoral and I have no compunction about arguing against it, but it does not follow that it should/could be made illegal. On basically pragmatic grounds, I agree with the Institute that strongly entrenched attitudes towards religious circumcision mean that "legal proscription of its most widely accepted aspects [is] unlikely, potentially ineffectual and arguably undesirable."

    Of course, should the Tasmanian parliament actually act (who knows?) and ban the circumcision of incapable minors but with a religious exemption, it will mean boys of Jewish and Muslim parents will lack the legal protection afforded other Tasmanian children -- but that will be the demand of those (small) communities, and in an imperfect world it seems better to protect almost all boys than none at all. In any case, most devout Muslim and Jewish parents already take their infants to the mainland for circumcision (about 1 a year for Jews).

    What do you think?

    (If pro-circ people want to join this discussion of the legal and ethical issues, feel free to join in. I don't get offended by people disagreeing with me.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
    While I support all four points, the second is likely to be controversial among some in this sub-forum. To be clear, I think religious infant circumcision is immoral and I have no compunction about arguing against it, but it does not follow that it should/could be made illegal. On basically pragmatic grounds, I agree with the Institute that strongly entrenched attitudes towards religious circumcision mean that "legal proscription of its most widely accepted aspects [is] unlikely, potentially ineffectual and arguably undesirable."
    I'm just trying to understand what you mean by this paragraph. (My thinky-thing needs an upgrade. ) Do you mean that there should be an exemption for children of Jewish and Muslim parents because it's so strongly entrenched in their practices (ie, it's been normalised) that it would be too problematic to not have such an exemption? If that is the case I don't agree.

    Part of me can't help but wonder if the exemption is there because of the taboos associated with challenging common religious practices and beliefs, not to mention the associated political fall out from it. I'm sure there would be some crying discrimination, persecution of faith etc. I look at it as affording the same protection and observations of bodily autonomy for all children, regardless of the faiths of the parents. Why should boys from Jewish and Muslim parents not have the same protection?

    (John - I think you might need to buy the mods a box of chocs for starting this thread)

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    I don't understand why religious reasons would be considered acceptable yet, say for example, family tradition isn't. All it would do is force parents to take their sons over to Melbourne for the procedure?

    Ah well, we are not called the 'nanny state' for nothin'!

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    It's not that religious reasons are "acceptable", it's more that any legal proscription that covered Jews and Muslims would be unacceptable ie unlikely to be passed or even introduced into parliament.

    The report notes about "family tradition" (and the general notion of a secular tradition), that this is weakly entrenched and disappearing in Australian society. It is virtually gone altogether in Tasmania, with an RIC rate of 2.5%.

    Personally, while I support the report as an important statement of principle on RIC, I am not a big fan of legal measures. Take the example of FGM. We have laws in every state banning the practice, yet no prosecutions despite hundreds of girls still being circumcised every year.

    In the end, such barbarisms on girls and boys will only disappear when parents stop supporting these "traditions". That will probably be never for some Jewish parents, but a surprising number of secular Jews (and "social Muslims") are abandoning circumcision. I'm an optimist that modernity will eventually win out against Iron Age rituals, and a sceptic about the using the blunt instrument of the law.

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    Religion will always be the biggest hurdle in every issue that has been poisoned by it's slimy tentacles.

    Religion doesn't even pretend to be rational, so no amount of reasoning has a chance of having any effect.

    The religious opposition to human rights will only dissolve when humanity as a whole has grown up.

    Until them, generally condemning routine circumcision, with some religious exceptions, will have to do, and is a good start.

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    Default What the Tasmanian report actually says

    I think it is worse to say ok because of their religion, isn't there already enough 'your different because you follow this or that'?!? Sheesh...... Let's get little boys that will already passably be being teased for their beliefs stand out even more in the next 5 years?!?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bubbabailey View Post
    I think it is worse to say ok because of their religion,

    i dont think it is ok because of their religion. I don't even accept that it is their religion. Babies do not have religions.

    If human rights are achieved in steps, then I will take it over never achieving them.

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    Default What the Tasmanian report actually says

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewJ View Post
    i dont think it is ok because of their religion. I don't even accept that it is their religion. Babies do not have religions.

    If human rights are achieved in steps, then I will take it over never achieving them.
    Agreed 100%.

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    Quote Originally Posted by andrewJ View Post
    Religion will always be the biggest hurdle in every issue that has been poisoned by it's slimy tentacles.
    Agreed (... a moment's silence for the late, lamented Christopher Hitchens).

    The problem is that the issue is posed as a "parental right", which creates a collision of ethical principles to which there is no a priori answer. When this is harnessed to deeply felt religious sensibilities you get scenes like this described in the recent Weekend Australian article at the conclusion of a bris:
    The symbolic power of the ritual is evident on the face of Ivan Rubinstein [the father], who is too overcome to speak, and in Rabbi Wolff's impassioned words afterwards: "This ritual has been going on for 4000 years," he says. "It really is embedded in the DNA of Jews. It's a very powerful, mystical ritual."
    Now while there's something inherently weird about a bunch of adults having a "religious experience" centred on cutting off part of an infant's genitals, I don't think a flat denial of the ethical complexities for a liberal democracy gets one very far. It is, as Richard Dawkins would say, a matter of consciousness-raising.

    I commend Andrew for recognising that a degree of pragmatism is called for here (since he is certainly a victim/survivor in this). I'm certain that if we can exterminate "secular" RIC, for which there is no excuse apart from puerile reasons such as "looking like Dad", most religious circumcisions will also wither away.
    Last edited by JohnC; 09-09-2012 at 17:51.


 

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