The United States government encourages and funds circumcisions. It shouldn’t, of course, if we’re to adhere to the basic principles of human rights. (We don’t on this.) But it shouldn’t be promoted with lies. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke yesterday at the 2012 International AIDS Conference. (emphasis added)
As of last fall, every agency in the United States Government involved in this effort is working together to get us on that path to an AIDS-free generation. We’re focusing on what we call combination prevention. Our strategy includes condoms, counseling and testing, and places special emphasis on three other interventions: treatment as prevention, voluntary medical [sic] male circumcision, and stopping the transmission of HIV from mothers to children.
Any familiarity with this subject provides a spoiler alert on what voluntary really means. Sure enough, shortly after that paragraph:
On male circumcision, we’ve supported more than 400,000 procedures since last December alone. And I’m pleased to announce that PEPFAR will provide an additional $40 million to support South Africa’s plans to provide voluntary [sic] medical [sic] circumcisions for almost half a million boys and men in the coming year. (Applause.) You know and we want the world to know that this procedure reduces the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60 percent and for the rest of the man’s life, so the impact can be phenomenal.
In Kenya and Tanzania, mothers asked for circumcision campaigns during school vacations so their teenage sons could participate. …
Voluntary circumcision requires the consent of the circumcised. Consent from anyone else for non-therapeutic circumcision is unethical.
And, no, it isn’t “medical” circumcision. It’s medicalized circumcision, which merely indicates that it’s performed in a modern, sterile operating theater. That is condemnable in its limited focus, but it is not enough to render the non-therapeutic surgery ethical. Consent is also necessary. The perceived benefit of a reduced risk of female-to-male HIV transmission is a speculative pursuit and may not be necessary or desired by the individual.