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Historic European Circumcision Debate Draws Nearly 300Salem-News.com
Previous Resolution Called Circumcision a Violation of Physical Integrity
(BOSTON) - The growing European debate about circumcision led to the first international interdisciplinary dialogue on the subject recently at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France (video). This major meeting discussed an October non-binding resolution overwhelmingly passed by the Council of Europe, an organization of 47 member States. The resolution called circumcision, among other procedures, a violation of the physical integrity of children according to established human rights standards. It received international media attention and urged member States to raise awareness, provide training, initiate public debate, and promote an interdisciplinary dialogue about the procedures. Circumcision is uncommon in Europe except among Jews and Muslims.
Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., psychologist and executive director of the Circumcision Resource Center, a nonprofit educational organization in Boston, was invited to participate. As the only non-European speaker, Dr. Goldman said, "I was pleased to contribute to this important dialogue and hope the meeting was useful and informative to those on both sides of the issue." He is the author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective.
Other invited speakers included Bernard Lobel, a urologist and representative of the French Jewish community, Selcuk Silay, a urologist and representative of the Muslim community from Turkey, and Wolfram Hartmann, a pediatrician and president of the German Pediatric Association. The pro-circumcision urologists argued that circumcision has potential health benefits. They also said that there are no problems in circumcised men and that circumcision is not painful. Dr. Hartmann refuted the health benefits and spoke of the rights of the child to physical integrity.
Dr. Goldman spoke (at 35:07 in video) about the pain, trauma, behavioral effects on infants, disruption of the mother-child bond, and sexual and psychological harm to men based on studies and surveys. He also described the trauma-like effects on mothers who observed their son’s circumcision, the compulsion to repeat the trauma on children as a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the widespread lack of knowledge about circumcision resulting from avoiding or denying information about harm. Goldman noted that the decades-long search for a safe and effective anesthetic to eliminate circumcision pain continues.
After the guest experts presented, the meeting was opened to hear from Council of Europe members. Seven members used the opportunity to speak, and then eleven audience guests spoke. A large majority of speakers were male, and a large majority of the speakers defending circumcision were Jewish or Muslim. Their arguments referred to history, tradition, denial of harm, freedom of religion, and rights of parents. Speakers who opposed circumcision asserted that children have human rights to physical integrity, it is done by force on those who cannot resist, and circumcision is harmful. Opponents also stated that some circumcised men do complain, and if circumcision had actual benefits, men would volunteer for it.
There was general agreement that public debate is important. Some believe a European country will at least restrict the practice by next year.
The Circumcision Resource Center has the purpose of informing the public and professionals about the practice of male circumcision. Its mission is to raise awareness and facilitate healing. Since 1991, the Center has been a valuable source of male circumcision information for parents and children's advocates; childbirth educators and allied professionals; medical, mental health, and academic people; Jews; and others. Dr. Goldman has participated in over 200 media interviews with local and national radio and television programs, newspapers, and periodicals. He also gives lectures and seminars on circumcision and counsels parents and circumcised men.
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