Symbolic Dedication instead of Circumcision

Ruth Barnett expresses her views on circumcision

Firstly, I am appalled that female circumcision still exists. Maximum effort from all Social and Human Rights associations should be focused on preventing this horrific mutilation of defenseless vulnerable human beings. To my knowledge it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with male domination and revenge by the formerly violated.

Secondly: in my opinion, circumcision of infant boys is also a violent attack on defenseless, vulnerable human beings who are incapable of giving informed consent. But there is an important religious element, both in Islam and Judaism, that should not be over-ridden from outside by civic law.  All other concrete sacrifices from biblical times have been replaced by symbolic acts of communication with Allah/God. Therefore, male circumcision, in my view, should be replaced by a symbolic act that includes female infants. But I feel strongly that this should not be imposed from outside by civic laws. It should come from inside Islam and Judaism, through consultation and deliberation by religious community leaders. It will also come through individual freedom to make choices – Muslim and Jewish parents deciding to dedicate their infants to their God with a non-violent act. This is already happening ‚behind the scenes‘ and is likely to increase.

As a psychotherapist: circumcision (male or female) is a trauma that registers in the infant’s mind (wordless if the infant has not acquired language yet) as well as its body and will have some effect that is unique to the individual, varying from undiscernible to very severe. Unfortunately, parents and communities tend to under-report or hide the effects of circumcision. They are much more than most people believe.

Ruth Barnett was a refugee from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport in 1939. Marriage and raising three children plus 19 years as a secondary teacher restored her self-confidence and trust in humanity enabling her to train as a psychotherapist at the LCP and Lincoln Institute and supervision at the WPF.  She developed an interest in trauma and issues of persecuted minorities from working with many clients who had suffered early trauma such as during WWII, uprooting and persecution. When the emotional side of the Holocaust began to penetrate into European consciousness in the 1980s and 90s, she began to contribute to Holocaust education in schools and currently is a busy freelance speaker challenging stereotypes and prejudice. She still does some teaching on therapy courses and CPD, particularly on the topics of trauma and ethics. Her first book was the first school text book in Britain for Child Development – „People Making People“. Her second is an autobiography   (with a psychodynamic approach) targeting schools „Person of No Nationality“. Her third, in process, „Jews & Gypsies, Myths & Realities“ challenges stereotypes, prejudice and indifference. She has also contributed articles and chapters to the psychotherapy literature.