[Update: The video of the 90-minute International Men’s Day debate is here. The debate starts at 15:00:45, and Philip Davies’s initial statement on MGM (and FGM) – the transcript of which is below – covers 15:11:10 to 15:14:30.]
Excerpt from the Hansard record of yesterday’s International Men’s Day debate in the House of Commons, from Philip Davies MP’s opening address:
I also want to touch on male circumcision: male genital mutilation. According to a barrister’s opinion, carrying out circumcision on males when there is no medical need—non-therapeutic circumcision—is a crime under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, being at least actual bodily harm if not grievous bodily harm. [J4MB emphasis] In 1983, Lord Hailsham, the then Lord Chancellor, said of female genital mutilation: “in the case of a minor under the age of 16, there is no possibility that consent is any defence at all. A minor under the age of 16 is not able to consent to the commission upon her of a criminal assault. Neither parental consent nor the consent of the minor would be any defence at all, and if the parents did such a thing, or instigated such a thing or participated in such a thing, it would only render them liable to criminal penalties, too.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 April 1983; Vol. 441, c. 677.]
When I put it to the Government in 2016 that female genital mutilation was already illegal before specific laws on the subject were introduced, they agreed that it was. When I then put to them the position regarding boys, they took a different line. They quoted Sir James Munby, who was the president of the Family Division of the High Court, in a case of January 2015: “Whereas it can never be reasonable parenting to inflict any form of FGM on a child, the position is quite different with male circumcision. Society and the law, including family 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.”
As the former barrister who I mentioned earlier also said, it would require a parliamentary override for male circumcision to be legal, and that has never existed. No exemptions to the law of the land are permissible for religious or cultural reasons. [J4MB: our emphasis] The Ministry of Justice went on to say that there was no doubt that female genital mutilation could have a physical and psychological impact on women, and also said that some girls die as a result of the procedure, which is absolutely correct. I do not pretend to be an expert in this field, but I believe that boys have also been reported to have died following a circumcision, and I have seen accounts of the physical and psychological impact of circumcision on men.
I understand that the position of the NHS is that the risks associated with routine circumcision, such as infection and excessive bleeding, outweigh any potential benefits. I am mentioning all this because I believe it should be on the record, not least because of the very different approaches to male and female genital mutilation.
The Government said back in 2016 that they had no current plans to change the law in relation to male circumcision. Given everything I have said, there may be no need to change the law to bring about a change in male circumcisions. However, I would be particularly interested to hear from the Minister on that point.
Now the illegality of MGM is on the official parliamentary record, for the first time. Our thanks to Philip Davies, whose courage knows no bounds.
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