Tag Archives: child abuse

Ear piercings, circumcision and child mutilation –oh my!

I’ve had my ears pierced since I can remember. I don’t remember actually getting them pierced, but if I wanted to take them out, I could — and they’d grow back fine. Some parents disagree with piercing a child’s ears because, in their eyes, it’s “mutilation.” However, parents that argue against piercing a child’s ears often seem to have another child who was circumcised.

No female genital mutilation! Graphic from Janie Maitland
No female genital mutilation! Graphic from Janie Maitland

Circumcision is rooted  in religious beliefs for both  males and females. Female circumcision, better known as female genital mutilation(FGM), is typically done in third-world countries. Many small countries in Africa encourage FGM because they believe women are supposed to be pure. FGM essentially paralyzes a woman’s genitals, making pleasurable sensation during sex completely non-existent. This practice also causes many complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Women who have been circumcised often develop scar tissue around their vagina, making natural childbirth extremely painful and, in some cases, impossible. Many women and girls have died or lost a child because of the extreme danger of childbirth after being put through FGM.

Women who are put through FGM are usually at the age of puberty, and can remember the pain. There’s extreme irony in this practice, as some women who have failed to successfully give birth because of FGM have been left in the wilderness alone to be killed by animals. It’s believed that women who cannot successfully reproduce are cursed and will bring bad luck to the village, and are therefore banished. It’s strange to me that this practice would even be considered because it would make it impossible for most women to give birth.

There are absolutely no health benefits to FGM. It’s a cultural and religious practice used to control women and to keep them from desiring “explicit” sexual activities.

So what about the health benefits of male circumcision? There’s some speculation that circumcising baby boys will later prevent health risks such as urinary tract infections, STI’s and even HIV. Although there’s some truth to these speculations, for the most part there are more risks than benefits in male circumcision.

Male circumcision performed on babies can cause scarring, hemorrhaging, infection from the incision.It’s also painful to the baby. Babies can experience difficulty peeing and may develop urinary tract infections immediately after circumcision. The foreskin of the penis is a protective barrier. It can prevent injury, protect the head from germs and other bacteria, and increases sexual pleasure for both male and female partners.

Circumcision also has extreme religious roots. Anyone who’s read the Bible remembers God commanding Abraham to circumcise himself at the age of 99, as well as all of his descendants.  God said, ” You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” In other words, God wanted Abraham to circumcise himself as a symbol of loyalty. Just as women in the Bible were expected to commit their virginity to God before they are married, men were expected to experience less sexual pleasure because, I suppose, God could please them in other ways.

I’m no expert on penises, seeing as I don’t have one. However, it does seem like having scarring around the head of the penis would render some nerves down there completely useless. It also seems funny that God would create men with foreskins and then command them to cut them off. Circumcision can’t be fixed on males or females. Those parents who argue that piercing ears is somehow related to mutilation, but opt to have their child circumcised, are complete hypocrites. I’m glad my mother had my ears pierced when I was little so I don’t remember the pain. Circumcision is a different story, though. Very few men have to be circumcised later in life, and men who grow up curious as to what it’d be like to have had a foreskin can’t undo it. If I grew up angry at my mother for piercing my ears, I could just take them out and let them grow back.

Is raising overly-religious children dangerous?

This summer, a Texas court ruled against a couple who took their kids out of school in 2004 to be home-schooled. A family member had started to notice that the children weren’t being educated, even at home. Instead of teaching them, the parents, Michael and Laura McIntyre, told the nine children that they didn’t need to go to school because they were going to be raptured. Further investigation revealed that the children weren’t being educated properly, according to the states standards. In 2006, one daughter  even took it upon herself to run away so she could go to a real high school.

In 2007, an attendance officer filed complaints against the McIntyre’s, who responded by claiming that their rights to religious freedom were being violated. But alas, they failed. The court found that no religious rights were being violated. It’s simply impossible to home school kids without some regulation.

Personally, I agree with this ruling. I understand that many parents fear that their children will stray from their god and start believing in the blasphemy that is science. (Insert extreme sarcasm here.) But let’s be honest, the reason it’s required for children to go to school is so we don’t have a nation of warped idiots. I’ve met a few perfectly normal home-schooled kids. But I’ve also met a few people who were home-schooled and seemed to be totally brain-washed. I’d say in most cases, the reason parents want their kids to be home-schooled is either for religious purposes or because parents don’t trust the school system.

“I’d say in most cases, the reason parents want their kids to be home-schooled is either for religious purposes or because parents don’t trust the school system.”

Public school systems can be very iffy. Many worry that public school kids aren’t experiencing a wide enough array of subjects, and aren’t being able to explore their interests. I will agree with that reasoning for home-schooling kids, but I don’t agree with home-schooling for the purpose of forcing your kids to be religious. In the documentary “Bible Camp,” (available on Netflix) there’s a scene with a mother home-schooling her child. She explained that she pulled him out of public school because he was being taught evolution and the Big Bang theory. She couldn’t understand why creationism wasn’t taught as a theory and even told her son “science is wrong.” Creationism is such an old idea that has so much evidence stacked up against it, which the reasoning behind it. But to only want your child to believe in one theory, and not allowing them the option to explore others is simply cruel.

Children are naturally curious. In watching my nephew learn about dinosaurs, I’ve always thought it was great to see children being so curious and wanting to learn more. I know that when I have children, I’ll expose them to all sorts of sciences and theories so that they can make their own decisions. I can’t imagine being a parent and not wanting that for your child.

In the last few years, there’ve also been cases where parents have neglected to take their children to the hospital when care is needed because they believe that “God will provide” and somehow their child will be magically cured if they pray hard enough. For example, a couple watched as their daughter died of diabetes. She was in pain because of this chronic condition, yet her parents just watched her deteriorate. It’s so hard for me to imagine being a parent and watching your child die when prayer is obviously not working. I feel like any reasonable parent would go to the ends of the earth to heal their child, even if it could screw them financially. There are so many parents who have put their entire life savings and put themselves in crippling debt to save their children. I don’t understand how anyone could accept their child dying as “God’s will” and just let them go when there are doctors who’ve gone to school for years in order to save people’s lives. I suppose if someone is crazy enough to believe that God will magically intervene and save their child, they probably also believe that doctors are of the devil because they’re trying to “play god.”

Some try to argue that parents should be allowed to make decisions based on their child’s health care, and that calling this “child abuse” is infringing on religious freedoms, but any case where a parent knowingly endangers their child’s life because they’re too proud to admit they’ve been wrong, they should never be allowed to have children again. Keeping your child from basic health care is essentially the same as starving or neglecting them. Prayer may work coincidentally, but if it doesn’t seem to be working, how can anyone just let their child die?

Seeing parents who are so set in their ways that they kill their children’s curiosity, endanger their lives and tell them “science is wrong” makes me worry for the future. The reason our country and states have specific laws and regulations on what kids are taught is so that we won’t have a generation of idiots. Science has provided us with the amazing technologies, medicine and many other amazing applications. Why anyone would deny that, and force their beliefs on their children is beyond me. Why anyone would allow their child to die and accept it as “God’s will” is amazing to me. One can tell that the McIntyre children knew what their parents were doing was wrong, considering one daughter ran away to receive an education. The girl who died of diabetes as her parents prayed over her also begged her parents to take her to a doctor. We need to take it upon ourselves as human beings to make sure every child has the opportunity to receive a real, practical education, and real, practical medical care. Parents are supposed to protect their children, not endanger them with stupidity.