The harm is real – Sexpo´s letter to the Council of Europe

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

On 27th of January 2014 you will be discussing the issue concerning ritual male circumcision, which can be better defined as male genital mutilation if we want to avoid using misleading pseudonyms. We are sending this letter to you as a reminder of what we think should be known by everyone who participates in the discussion and decision making around this subject. As you represent those in our society who are not yet able to express their own opinion and defend themselves against acts of violence, we are counting on you so that the weakest members of our society, regardless of their gender, will be protected from all forms of violence and abuse, including ritual circumcisions. We hope that you trust the widely accepted conventions and statements on human rights and children´s rights and the fact based scientific data when you make decisions over whether a forced, painful, traumatic ritual which has lifelong consequences can continue to be accepted in our modern society. We hope that you will continue to follow the path you already have chosen – the path of opposing and eliminating harmful practices affecting children.

The harm is real

 Cutting of healthy, functional tissue from a baby boy without an imperative medical reason and without the permission of the individual is a clear violation of human rights, children´s rights and sexual rights. Furthermore we know from research, that there is a plethora of immediate complications directly linked to circumcision – even if the procedure is performed in the best clinical settings. These complications include, among others, hemorrhage, infections (from minor to life threatening), loss of the glans or the entire penis and sometimes even death of the circumcised boy. Circumcision also causes a variety of long term damage to the circumcised boy. It adversely affects the sexuality as it removes the only movable part of the penis and the most sensitive part of the male genitalia. Circumcision can also have a deep emotional and/ or psychological impact on the person. Both the physical and psychological damage are easy to understand when one studies and understands the role of the foreskin in the male body. Genital mutilation is a human tragedy.

Knowledge changes attitudes 

For the last three years, Sexpo Foundation in Finland has been coordinating Project INTACT, funded by the Finland´s Slot Machine Association. This project has gathered information, educated both the laymen and the professionals on the risks, harms and ethical problems of male circumcision and has kept the public debate alive. This work has been done with one clearly defined goal in mind – to reduce the number of ritual circumcisions of male minors, which we regard as nothing short of genital mutilation.

We hope that the above mentioned will be given a thought when you make decisions over all children´s rights to bodily integrity, which is their fundamental birth right.


With appreciation,


Tommi Paalanen

Executive Director

Sexpo Foundation, Finland