Circumcision of baby boys “significantly harms” them, the nation’s top family judge has ruled in a controversial landmark case.
However, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said circumcision was a far cry from the “great evil” of female genital mutilation (FGM).
The courts, he said, were ”prepared to tolerate” non-therapeutic circumcision carried out for religious or cultural reasons. But FGM brought no health benefits, had no religious justification and could never form part of “reasonable parenting”, he ruled.
Sir James was giving his judgment on the case of a three-year-old girl who had been taken into foster care by Leeds City Council. Social workers suspected she had been subjected to FGM by her Muslim parents.
The judge, who cleared them, said the case was the first in which issues relating to FGM had been raised in care proceedings. Turning to the wider issues, Sir James said there was no doubt FGM caused significant harm to girls, adding: “The same must be so of male circumcision”. However, there was a “clear distinction” between male circumcision and FGM, which he described as “a great evil”, adding: “It can never be reasonable parenting to inflict any form of FGM on a child”, he said.
“Society and the law… are prepared to tolerate non-therapeutic male circumcision performed for religious or even for purely cultural or conventional reasons, while no longer being willing to tolerate FGM in any of its forms.
He said: “Male circumcision is seen by some – although opionions are divided – as providing hygienic or prophylactic benefits.”
A Milah UK spokesman said: “Brit milah is a minor procedure, carried out by a trained practitioner in a clean environment which has no recognised negative impact on the child or on the rest of his life. Last month US federal guidelines on circumcision concluded in favour of the practice.”