Fathers’ v Mothers’ v Childrens’ Rights

stop male circumcision ukWhose rights should take precedence in law—mum’s rights, dad’s rights or the child’s rights?

The UK Court of Appeal had to consider this question recently when a Malaysian mother sought refuge in the UK in an attempt to prevent her husband—who had converted to Islam—from having their son circumcised.

Protecting boys from medically unnecessary circumcision and improving fathers’ rights to be involved in their children’s live are two areas of concern for many people who come along to the National Conference for Men and Boys.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

The case that the Court of Appeal heard involved a Malaysian mother who was brought up as a Sikh but converted to Roman Catholicism as an adult. In December 2006 she married a Malaysia man of Nigerian origin who was also Roman Catholic. Their son was baptized and brought up Roman Catholic but nt 2010 dad became interested in Islam and expressed his intention to convert.

The mother sought asylum in the UK on several grounds including the fact that she didn’t want her son to be brought up Muslim and circumcised for religious and cultural reasons. The mother’s legal representative submitted that the English courts would be unlikely to bow to the father’s wishes in that respect unless the mother also consented. She submitted that in those circumstances it would not be in the child’s best interests to return him to Malaysia where his father’s wishes would prevail over those of his mother.

According to Lord Justice Moore-Bick who oversaw the case:

“Male circumcision is a widespread religious and cultural practice which has ancient origins. It is usually, though not invariably, carried out at a very young age when the child is unable to understand what is involved or to express any view about it. Although invasive in nature and not commanding universal approval, it is regarded as an acceptable practice among communities of all kinds, provided it is carried out under appropriate conditions. These may include appropriate medical attention and the loving support of parents and close family members.”

Bizarrely, Moore-Bick, also said that male circumcision: “cannot be compared to other cultural or religious practices, such as female genital mutilation, which involve a far more serious violation of the physical integrity of the body and an expression of subservience.”

In truth the female circumcision performed on around 90% of girls in Malaysian is generally less invasive that the male circumcision that the boys are subjected to, as this article by a Muslim Malay woman on female genital cutting explains.

The fact is that male circumcision is different and sometimes worse than female circumcision and is a painful procedure often performed on boys without anaesthetic which can cause damage, disease and in extreme circumstances, death.

Despite this fact, it is perfectly legal for anyone to cut off a boy’s foreskin in the UK. but illegal to perform any kind of genital ritual on girls—including the Malaysian style practices that are generally less invasive than male circumcision. It is also illegal to take a girl based in Britain abroad for such a procedure.

In the case of this 7 year-old Malaysian boy, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that “he would be conforming to the broad expectations of the culture and society in which he would grew up”.

The court decided that it was in the boys’ best interest to be brought up by both parents which could only happen in Malaysian where the fathers’ (and the country’s) religion would take precedent over the mothers’.

So in this case the UK court ruled that the boys’ best interest was best served by putting the fathers’ right to choose his child’s religion and have his son’s foreskin cut off ahead of the mothers’ right to make the same choices and the boys’ right to choose for himself what happens to his penis when he becomes an adult.

It’s a ruling that is likely to anger intactavists (ie people campaigning to end unnecessary male circumcision) and fathers’ rights campaigners alike.

The reason this ruling may anger UK fathers’ rights campaigners is because they will struggle to understand why the court gave precedence to the rights of a Malaysian father in the name of the child’s best interest, when they will  point to cases where family courts fail to support children being brought up by both parents and give precedence to the wishes of the mother.

Both intactavists and fathers’ rights campaigners are welcome to attend the Third National Conference for Men and Boys in September.

To buy your tickets for this year’s event click here to book online now.

To find out more about unnecessary male circumcision in the UK see our post help change the way we think about male circumcision.

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Welsh school boys challenge sexist uniform rules in style

skirts-5134666A group of 17 Welsh teenage boys turned up in skirts to school this week to demand sex equality for boys!

The Year 10 boys at Whitchurch High School were fed up of being forced to wear long trousers in the middle of a heatwave, when the girls can choose to cover or bare their legs.

The brave boys—inspired by Swedish train drivers who made a similar successful protest—don’t particularly want to wear skirts, but they would like the choice of wearing shorts—a choice they see as being equivalent to the choice to wear skirts or trousers that girls are given.

As one of the young gender warriors, 15-year-old Tyrone Evelyn said:

“It’s just appropriate for the weather – we don’t want to be hot and bothered. Girls can wear skirts, so I don’t see why we can’t wear shorts. It’s a reasonable protest.”

A similar campaign was staged by a beskirted 12 year old boy in Cambridge in 2011 and both incidents highlight how men and boys are  systemically forced to conform to rigid stereotypes of masculinity.

When it comes to dress codes, it’s perfectly legal for schools and employers to apply different rules to men and boys such as:

  • You must wear trousers, but women and girls can have a choice of skirt or trousers
  • You can’t have long hair but women and girls can choose any length
  • You can’t wear jewellery (eg ear-rings) but women and girls
  • You must wear a tie, but women and girls don’t have to

The legal rationale for this discrimination, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, is that “employers do not have to impose exactly the same dress code on men and women, if the dress code applies ‘conventional standards of dress and appearance'”.

In 2003 a male employee claimed the Government was sexist over rules insisting that  he wore a tie at work. While his initial claim was successful, the Government fought back and won the right to make male employees wear ties.

These sexist and restrictive rules can also be applied to the way men want to wear their hair and as a result one anonymous campaigner has launched an online petition demanding equality for men to wear their hair long .

This rigid enforcement of gender stereotypes not only discriminates against men, it can exclude transgender employees, according to America’s Human Rights Campaign.

“If an employer has a dress code, it should modify it to avoid gender stereotypes and enforce it consistently,” says the campaigns guidance on workplace dress codes. “Requiring men to wear suits and women to wear skirts or dresses, while legal, is based on gender stereotypes”.

Of course no such rules apply to delegates at the Third National Conference for Men and Boys, you can wear whatever you want so start growing your hair, get something pierced, throw out your ties and buy your ticket for the conference today.

Is internet porn harming men’s chances of having a happy sex life?

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There’s a fascinating article on the changing sexual problems facing men by Steve Biddulph in Australia’s The Age newspaper this week.

We’d love to hear more experts talking about men and sex at the National Conference for Men and Boys this year, so if this is your area of expertise then do get in touch.

And if you want to make sure you get your tickets today then remember you can buy them online now.

Biddulph, who is well known for his books about men and boys, says it’s a “tough balance, to both affirm and yet guard sexuality”.

When he first wrote Raising Boys in 1997, Biddulph says he was acutely conscious of the harm done to men by the prudish and repressive atmosphere around sexuality in the second half on the 20th Century.

Biddulph says he wanted to help achieve better relations between the sexes by restoring a healthy and life-affirming openness, with better information about how our bodies worked and why. He wanted to support parents to raise boys who weren’t repressed and were able to develop “a happy and life-affirming sense” of the joy of a healthy sex life.

“With just a word or two of understanding….parents could let their sons know that they weren’t perverts or sex maniacs for thinking about sex an awful lot of the time,” says Biddulph.

It’s 16 years since Biddulph first published Raising Boys and now he’s concerned about the the lasting harm that internet porn could have on the next generation of boys and girls.

“Porn naturally fascinates because it’s sex and that is wired into all of us,” says Biddulph. “But the subtext of domination, rape, humiliation, hurt or even killing that is now woven into much available pornography, let alone the absence of tenderness or respect in almost all of it, shapes the sexuality of boys in ways that endanger their chances of a happy sex life in the real world.

“My books now carry a really different message,” he adds. “Yes, affirm your teenager as a sexual person, and encourage their privacy and right to feel happy about desire and release. But don’t let mid-teen boys or younger surf the internet in their bedrooms. The chances of getting hooked on uglier and crueller porn, distorting and disturbing their faith in human warmth and lovingness, and becoming disabled around normal healthy girls, is increasingly high.

Read Biddulph’s full article how to raise boys in the era of internet porn

You can find out more Biddulph’s work at the Steve Biddulph website

To come and talk about sex—or whatever else is of interest to you—at the Third National Conference or men and boys—buy your ticket today.