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Circumcision as a Human Rights Issue in the US


Contemporary society appreciates humanistic values that are cultivated with the primary aim to protect the rights of individuals and guarantee that there are no barriers to their development. Regarding this paradigm, many stereotypes of the past are being reconsidered today. This statement is topical for the healthcare sector. It is one of the central institutions responsible for the promotion of people’s quality of life and their well-being.

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For this reason, practices that have been used for decades are also reconsidered on the regular basis in terms of new research projects and code of ethics peculiar to the modern world. For instance, circumcision can be considered one of the disputable practices that are still used on infants because of outdated believes and issues. However, the procedure remains an act of violence that violates human rights for body integrity and might result in the emergence of multiple health problems.


The roots of circumcision can be traced back to ancient times. It emerged as a religious ritual that had nothing in common with health practices (Svoboda, 2013). However, the decades of its evolution and the lack of knowledge about the appearance of various diseases resulted in the formation of a myth that the given practice helps to prevent the development of many diseases and stop masturbation among boys as one of the root causes of various illnesses (Spense et al., 2017).

In such a way, society created a potent stereotype that preconditioned the extremely high rate of circumcised newborns (about 90% in the second half of the 20th century) (Morris, Bailis, & Wiswell, 2014). However, the growing number of concerns about a rude interference with male infants’ bodies and violation of their rights triggered a new wave of discussions about health benefits and the ethical character of the procedure.

Current State

The relevant research works devoted to the issue refute the idea of a beneficial character of circumcision. On the contrary, investigators emphasize the idea that the glans at birth is an extremely delicate and vulnerable part of the body that can be irritated by urine, feces, and other substances (Svoboda, 2013). In such a way, the natural function of the foreskin is to protect it from various aggressive agents and ensure the healthy development of a baby; after circumcision, this shield is destroyed, and meatus and other parts of the glans can be irritated, infected, or physically damaged (Svoboda, 2013).

It can result in the emergence of serious medical issues such as the inflammation of the meatus, meatal stenosis (Svoboda, 2013). Research emphasizes the fact that uncircumcised male infants never acquire these problems because of the existence of foreskin that protects the glans during the lifespan (Svoboda, 2013). That is why substantial harm can be done by this operation.

Myths About Circumcision

Regardless of the facts provided above, there are still many people who ask for the given procedure for their babies. To a greater degree, it is preconditioned by another popular misbelief that circumcision can prevent the appearance and development of penile cancer (Morris et al., 2016).

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However, the credibility of this statement is doubted as both intact and circumcised men have the risk of acquiring this disease in their 60s and later as the problem is mainly peculiar to elderly individuals (Morris et al., 2016). At the same time, by the research, there are more deaths from the procedure annually than from penile cancer (Spense et al., 2017). In such a way, the positive impact of circumcision on men’s health is a myth that should not be considered while speaking about the surgery.

Furthermore, regarding the significant problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and AIDS, people ask for circumcision as it was called as one of the methods to decrease the risk of acquiring these health problems. However, by the relevant statistics, in the USA, where an epidemic of STD is reported, the bigger part of sexually active men are circumcised (Spense et al., 2017). It means that the foreskin is not the cause of the emergence of the illnesses.

Researchers state that the only way to stop the spread of STD is education and appropriate behaviors, while amputation of some parts of the body is not an option (Spense et al., 2017). The given statement destroys the myth about the significant use of circumcision and the necessity to undergo it in infancy.

Human Right Issue

All arguments suggested above eliminate the medical basis that was used to justified circumcision in newborns. In such a way, today, this disputable question transforms from a medical right to a human right issue. The fact is that before surgery, any patient should give informed consent proving that he/she realizes all consequences and potential threats associated with the removal of the foreskin. Infants are deprived of this opportunity, and parents make this critical decision for them. It means that their rights are infringed. Moreover, every baby as any human being has the right to bodily integrity.

It proves that amputation of healthy tissues can be made only if there is a need for it preconditioned by some medical reasons or indications (Svoboda, 2013). In other cases, having no reasonable grounds, circumcision can be considered a violent and painful act that contradicts the existing humanistic principles and the concept of gentle birth (Svoboda, 2013). Parents should not make such decisions without any critical reasons for them.

Nurse’s Role

Unfortunately, there are still many newborns who had to undergo the given surgery. Under these conditions, a nurse, as one of the main caregivers who remain in contact with families, should be ready to educate individuals about the nature of circumcision, existence of numerous myths related to its beneficial character, emphasize the negative impact of foreskin’s removal on infants’ health, and emphasize the unethical character of the issue (Svoboda, 2013).

The given task can be performed by inviting adults to specific seminars devoted to the issue and aiming at the explanation of medical concerns related. At the same time, a nurse can help to resolve this ethical dilemma by outlining the pernicious impact of circumcision on the quality of men’s lives as they become vulnerable to infections, inflammations, mechanical impact. It can result in the emergence of multiple problems in the future.

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Altogether, multiple research works devoted to circumcision debunks the myth of its positive impact on the health of men. On the contrary, the removal of the foreskin can precondition the emergence of multiple health issues and a decrease in the quality of individuals’ lives. However, regarding the high number of circumcised men, this question becomes a human right issue as infants suffer from the violation of their basic right to bodily integrity. Amputation of healthy tissues does not promote the improvement of their health. Under these conditions, a nurse can help to improve the situation by educating individuals about the negative character of the given surgery and its unethical character.


Morris, B., Bailis, S., & Wiswell, T. (2014). Circumcision rates in the United States: Rising or falling? What effect might the new affirmative pediatric policy statement have? Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 89(5), 677-686. Web.

Morris, B., Wamai, R., Henebeng, E., Tobian, A., Klausner, J., Banerjee, J., & Hankins, C. (2016). Estimation of the country-specific and global prevalence of male circumcision. Population Health Metrics, 14(4), 11. Web.

Spense, J., Meller, J., Abbey, J., Foster, K., Sirri, C., & Naqvi, M. (2017). Why are we cutting? A survey of cultural views on circumcision in the Texas Panhandle. Global Pediatric Health, 4. Web.

Svoboda, J. (2013). Circumcision of male infants as a human rights violation. Journal of Medical Ethics, 39(7), 469-474. Web.

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