A British mother has revealed that an NHS midwife secretly referred her son for a backstreet circumcision, writes Glen Poole.
Speaking outside the annual meeting of British Medical Association (BMA) representatives in Harrogate last month, the mother of two calmly described the shock of coming home to discover her four-week old son’s foreskin had been cut off in her sitting room.
The woman, named only as Emily, told her story to anti-circumcision campaigners from the group Men Do Complain, who were staging a “Stop The Chop” protest to encourage medics to oppose unnecessary circumcision in the UK.
Emily, a trainee GP from Winchester, married a Nigerian man she met working in West Africa. She told campaigners that the birth of her first son created tension between the couple because her husband wanted to follow his tribal tradition by circumcising the boy at seven days old.
Emily took medical guidance from the NHS and spoke to two paediatricians who gave her conflicting advice. The first advised against circumcision while the second, a Nigerian, told her “it’s a bit of skin, it’s no big deal”.
On balance, the trainee medic concluded that that male circumcision is a painful, medically unnecessary procedure that would put her son at undue risk and decided to veto her husband’s request.
When Emily became pregnant again, she hoped for a daughter to avoid having to repeat the process, but gave birth to a second son. In a video made by Men Do Complain, Emily tells the story of how she discovered her son had been circumcised when she came home to feed him after her first day back at medical school.
“The baby was four weeks old,” said Emily, “he wasn’t waking up for a feed, he was just very pale and hadn’t woken up so I decided to change his nappy to try and wake him up so I could feed him. Then I saw that he’d been circumcised and there was a lot of blood in the nappy and he’d had a ring put around the end of his penis. I was really distraught but it’s not illegal in this country so there was really nothing much I could do.”
For the next two years, every time her son cried, Emily worried that the cause of his discomfort was residual pain from the circumcision. She also lived with the fear that she would come home to find her eldest son had also been circumcised.
To this day, the trainee GP still doesn’t know who carried out the circumcision, what training they had or whether they gave her son local anaesthetic. The only information she gleaned from her husband was that the cutter was recommended by an NHS employee. “The person who did it was someone who’d been referred by one of the midwives that my husband had spoken to when I was in labour, working for the NHS,” she said.
Emily has now divorced her husband to protect her eldest son from being subjected to a painful, non-consensual and risky circumcision.
While Emily’s case is unusual, this isn’t the first time a UK midwife has been implicated in the genital mutilation of baby boys in the UK. Last year a midwife who claimed to have conducted hundreds of backstreet circumcisions, was struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council after a boy she circumcised with scissors bled to death in Oldham.
You can see Emily sharing her story at Men Do Complain’s vimeo page.
—Photo Credit: flickr/DFAT
Written by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men.