Are Norwegians’ circumcision concerns unfounded? / News / The Foreigner

Are Norwegians’ circumcision concerns unfounded?. The controversial discussion about male circumcision is once again an issue in the public debate. A medical expert and a writer give The Foreigner their opinions. Current legislation prevents Norwegian public hospital staff performing male circumcisions. Last month, the Ministry of Health and Care sent a legal proposal to allow ritual neo-natal circumcisions at hospitals out for hearing.

malecircumcision, rolfkirschner, leifknutsen, reidarhjermann



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Are Norwegians’ circumcision concerns unfounded?

Published on Thursday, 12th May, 2011 at 23:25 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 13th May 2011 at 20:16.

The controversial discussion about male circumcision is once again an issue in the public debate. A medical expert and a writer give The Foreigner their opinions.

Father talking to son, Vigelandsparken
Father talking to son, Vigelandsparken
Photo: dionhinchcliffe/Flickr


Improvements and complications

Current legislation prevents Norwegian public hospital staff performing male circumcisions.

Last month, the Ministry of Health and Care sent a legal proposal to allow ritual neo-natal circumcisions at hospitals out for hearing.

Specifying the procedure “must only be performed by competent people under the supervision of health personnel and with the aid of an anaesthetic”, the government wants to prevent the practise going underground.

The following week, and unrelated to the proposal, the Children’s Ombudsman, Reidar Hjermann, told the Jewish Community in Oslo he suggested banning it entirely for the under-15s.

This caused the community’s Anne Sender to write a protest letter to FM Jonas Gahr Støre and Minister of Justice Knut Storberget.

“This suggestion will be reported in Jewish media worldwide, confirming the view that Norway is a ‘Jew-hostile’ country. We agree that this will, in practise, once again mean that ‘Jews have no access to the Kingdom’,” Addresseavisen reported.

Writer Leif Knutsen, who has lived in the US, where between 60 and 80 percent of males are circumcised, tells The Foreigner Mr Hjermann “obviously hasn’t taken the trouble to look at the psychological, medical, and cultural point of view.”

“In addition to effectively banning neo-natal circumcision, it sends a signal to Jews and Muslim that their customs are fundamentally not respected. My biggest worry, irrespective of if his recommendation passes or not, is that it is an act of defamation against minority groups.”

Vetoing infant circumcision means older children will have to undergo a more involved medical procedure, and are more prone to complications.

“It will also lead to an increase of so-called ‘back alley’ instances, where possibly also unqualified people will perform the operation illegally, and more parents will take their children abroad,” he says.

Advantages and prejudices

Rolf Kirschner, senior physician at Oslo University Hospital’s women’s clinic, and former head of the Jewish religious community in Oslo, says there is also medical evidence suggesting circumcision is “advantageous from a medical point of view.”

“Circumcised men who are sexually active are less likely to contract HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, there is a much lower rate of genital cancers.”  

Nevertheless, both the subject and act of circumcision are controversial from a Norwegian point of view.

Why is it such a difficult issue?

“You are not supposed to be circumcised according to Norwegian norms. Norway is probably the least heterogeneous of all the European countries. There were virtually no different-looking inhabitants here in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the country had no Muslims until the ‘70s,” says Mr Kirschner.

There are also some 200,000 Muslims in Norway, and the number of Jews is comparatively small.

“It has something to do with the majority of the minority as well.”

According to Leif Knutsen, “circumcision has never been part of the Norwegian culture, historically. People here project a visceral reaction of horror by fearing the procedure will mutilate or deform the genitals. Other people I have spoken with are concerned it reduces sensitivity and make having an erection more difficult.”

Why do Norwegians tend to widen the discussion when talking about circumcision?

“They are trying to rationalise this deep, emotional reaction. People argue you are making a permanent choice for the child for the rest of his life, but parents forget they do this in general anyway. They also claim this makes the child undergo an unnecessary procedure without his consent, but so is removing a birthmark.”

Rolf Kirschner believes “Norwegians tend to mix male with female circumcision, politics, Islamophobia, Palestine, and so on.”

‘Unproblematic’

The government’s and Reidar Hjermann’s recent suggestions mean this is now the second time the circumcision issue has been discussed in less than a year.

Why do you think this is?

“I’m surprised it comes up again and again. It seems to be more prevalent in the summer, when the papers have nothing else to worry about,” Mr Kirschner says, continuing, “the suggestion from the ministry is quite identical to those of a committee working on the matter in 1999.”

“It does tend to be taken up periodically, but this last time it was NRK who made the ‘Brennpunkt’ programme. I am not sure what motivated the report, but it featured horror stories of travelling, untrained people who performed circumcisions on older boys. Growing up without a foreskin has to be one of the least problematic things,” says Leif Knutsen.




Published on Thursday, 12th May, 2011 at 23:25 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 13th May 2011 at 20:16.

This post has the following tags: malecircumcision, rolfkirschner, leifknutsen, reidarhjermann.





  
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