Saturday 10/16/21

Male child circumcision, from prosecution to government guidance

Migri estimates that about 400 boys are circumcised in Finland yearly for non-medical reasons. Read here the guidance that Finnish authorities offer immigrants to carry it out safely

Muslim boy by Amer Mohamed
A Muslim boy. Image by Amer Mohamed

Non-medical boy's circumcision is a widespread practice among members of certain cultures, such as Jewish, Muslim and Tatar. This intervention with cultural and even religious roots, which Finland renounced to regulate by law a few years ago, is allowed as long as it is carried out by a medical professional licensed to practice in Finland. The parents or the guardians of the boy must always pay the costs.

In Finland, the authorities stress that it is not necessary to carry out circumcision except for medical reasons. The fact or not of being circumcised will not affect the rights or the social position that the boy will reach within the Finnish society.

This is what underlines the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) in a brochure on this matter made for immigrants. Migri estimates that about 400 boys are circumcised every year in Finland for non-medical reasons.

While Finnish law classifies female genital mutilation as an aggravated form of assault, no legislation has been passed on the practice concerning boys. In fact, the question has passed in recent years of being seen as a punishable practice to a cultural trait, complicated to accept by the Finns but still tolerated.

From conviction to guidance

More than a decade ago, when the presence of people from other cultures in Finland was still a testimonial phenomenon, the Parliament (Eduskunta) considered regulating this practice by law. At that time, it was common for some medical professionals, local NGOs and police officials to press for this intervention to be prohibited.

In 2006 there was a case in Tampere of a Muslim woman convicted for circumcising her son. The sentence was later overturned by the Finnish Supreme Court. Authorities realised soon that the issue of male circumcision was delicate for some cultures and, after almost seven years trying to draft a bill to regulate it, in 2010 the Ministry of Health and Social Services decided to forget about the matter.

Undoubtedly, the prospect of hundreds of operations that could be carried out in clandestine clinics and in unhealthy conditions weighed in making this decision. In this case, it was decided to guide rather than prohibit.

The work of the experts focused thereafter on developing general guidance on how circumcision should be carried out. The main issues for debate were where these interventions should be carried out and, as usual, in determining who should pay for them.

The guidelines of the Ministry of Health

The result is a series of guidelines summarised in a brochure that the Finnish Immigration Service provides to all foreigners interested in subjecting their sons to this practice.

So if you want your son to be circumcised legally and safely, without unnecessary risks to his health, it is best to follow the instructions of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health:

  1. Only a doctor who has the right to practice medicine in Finland can perform a circumcision. You can find out about doctors who perform this procedure from representatives of your culture or religion living in Finland.
  2. Non-medical circumcisions are not covered by publicly funded health care and are therefore not performed at health centres or public hospitals. If you want your son to be circumcised, you have to arrange it through the private health care system. In Finland, circumcisions for medical reasons are covered by publicly funded health care. For example, a scarred foreskin is considered to be a medical reason.
  3. The doctor should make sure that the procedure is performed in a clean or sterile environment, so that the wound does not become inflamed.
  4. Circumcision will cause your son pain. The doctor performing the procedure should make sure that your son receives enough painkillers before and after the procedure.
  5. A circumcision can sometimes cause side effects. Soon after the procedure, your son may, for example, develop an inflammation. An inflamed wound can bleed and be sore. There is not much information about possible long-term side effects. The doctor must provide you with this information before you give your consent to the procedure. The doctor will give you instructions on what to do after the procedure.
  6. The guardians must give their consent to the circumcision. If the boy has two guardians, the consent of both guardians is required. You have to sign a paper giving your consent to the circumcision of your son.
  7. You must also ask your son to give his consent to the circumcision, if he is at an age when it is possible to discuss this matter. You and the doctor performing the procedure must tell him about the procedure in the best way possible. If the boy is already able to understand the meaning of the procedure and does not want to go through with it, the procedure cannot be performed. From the age of 12, your son should be able to understand the procedure but the ability to understand varies in children of the same age.
  8. As the guardians of the boy, you will pay the costs of the circumcision.

If you want to read Migri's brochure on boys' circumcision, you can find it HERE