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:
- 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.]
- 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.]
- 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.]
- 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.)