Circumcision debate continues – this time in the children’s playground

Özlem Cekic, a former MP, is hopeful her short story can give kids a better appreciation of how they are different, but not really so different

Everyone is talking about circumcision in Denmark – again!

But now school-children are talking about it as well thanks to a new Oxfam Ibis textbook, ‘LæseRaketten’ (‘The Reading Covenant’), will be distributed to 178,000 pupils this year as part of the campaign ‘Hele Verden i Skole’ (the whole world in school).

The subject is approached in a short story written by Özlem Cekic, a former MP, who wanted to draw attention to the differences between circumcised and uncircumcised boys, so there could be more understanding.

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But in a country where it is reported that 87 percent of the population (or at least those asked in a certain survey) believe the practice should be prohibited, Cekic’s short story is generating fierce debate around the water cooler.

Similarities and differences
In Cekic’s story, a young girl is preparing for her baby brother’s circumcision ceremony. But she is saddened when one of her friends is prevented from coming.  So it’s a little like ‘Bend it like Beckham’, but circumcision instead of women’s football.

“I have written this story because almost all Muslim and Jewish boys are circumcised, but when they go to school, there aren’t any stories that teachers can use as a tool to talk about why they are how they are – a suggestion as to how children can talk about it,” explained Cekic to DR.

“I would like us to focus on the similarities and differences between culture and religion so that traditions can be discussed. It is extremely important that we also discuss the things that the majority of the majority oppose.”

Not like a christening
Cekic, who maintains that “several teachers” asked for such a tool, claims that circumcision is not dangerous – “otherwise Sundhedsstyrelsen [the national board of health] would have banned it”.

Lena Nyhus of Intact Denmark disagrees.

“It’s actually wrong that it’s harmless,” she said. “Lægeforeningen [the medical association] has found that circumcision of healthy children is unethical, harmful and possibly dangerous. Any surgery involves a risk of complications.”

Nyhus also objects to how Cekic compares circumcision to christenings in her story. “Comparing a symbolic act such as baptism with surgery is ridiculous,” she said.

It is believed that Oxfam Ibis spent 1.8 million kroner on producing the textbook with an additional 725,000 kroner of support from Danida.