Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Half a million UK boys at risk of forced circumcision

We estimate that more than  half a million boys currently living in the UK will be subjected to Unnecessary Male Circumcision before their 16th birthday.

This figure comprises:
  • 485,000 Muslim boys
  • 25,000 Jewish boys
  • 220,000 boys non-muslim and non-Jewish boys

This post outlines how we have arrived at this estimate.

Jewish Boys

According to an analysis by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research - “Jews in Britain: a snapshot from the 2001 Census” – the Jewish population in the UK is around 270,000 and 16.1% of the population are under 14.

From this data we estimated that around 18.4% of the population are under 16 and work on the assumption that half of these are male. According to Manchester University’s Centre for Jewish Studies the population has risen since the 2001 Census to 280,000 in 2008.

Using the figures as the basis for our estimate the number of Jewish boys under 16 in the UK who are circumcised or at risk of Unnecessary Male Circumcision is around 25,760.

Muslim Boys 

According to an analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain published on its website and drawn from the Office of National Statistics and the General Register Office, Scotland – there are 1.6 million Muslims in the UK

The Muslim Council of Britain also states that 33.8 of Muslims are aged 0-15 years compared with the national average is 20.2%) and we work on the assumption that around half of these under 16s are male.

The Muslim Council of Britain reports that since the 2001 census the UK Muslim population has risen to 1.8 million according to Professor M Anwar, Head of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick (quoted in the Financial Times in January 2002).

The Muslim population has continued to grow in the past decade and subsequent research by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in 2010 estimated that there are now 2,869,000 in Britain.

Using these figures as the basis for our estimate the number of Muslim boys under 16 in the UK who are circumcised or at risk of Unnecessary Male Circumcision is around 484,861

Other Ritual Circumcisions

Circumcision is practiced ritually in a number of tribal cultures, particularly across Africa. We do not currently have an estimate for the number of UK boys who have been ritually circumcised or are at risk of ritual circumcision outside of the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Non-Therapeutic Circumcision in medical settings

In some countries such as USA and South Korea, Non-Therapeutic Circumcision is carried out extensively in hospital settings. While such services are not available on the NHS in the UK, such procedures can be carried out in private clinics. We do not currently have an estimate for how many such procedures are carried out in the UK.

“Therapeutic” Circumcision

According to research published in the British Medical Journal in 2000 - Towards evidence based circumcision of English boys: survey of trends in practice – 3.8% of boys in the general population will be circumcised for “therapeutic” reasons by their 15 he birthday.

Research has show that as many s 91% of these circumcisions could have been avoided with less invasive treatment – an some surgeons say that circumcision is never necessary and that conditions currently treated by circumcision be treated surgically without removing the foreskin.

Working on current estimates for the UK population (62,218,761) – we have estimated the number of boys under 16 who may have been circumcised unnecessarily for ‘therapeutic” reasons.

We know that the percentage of the population under 16 is 20.2% and assume half of these are male. We also remove 2.08 million people from our calculations as we have already accounted for the Jewish population (280,000) and the Muslim population (2.9m).

Taking this into account, the number of boys under 16 who may have been circumcised unnecessarily or are at risk of being circumcised unnecessarily for ‘therapeutic” reasons could be as high as 220,000.  

Table: Estimates of UK Boys under 16 at risk of circumcision before their 16th birthday 

62.22 m
% u16
Tot u16
Boys U16
Risk Circ
Boys at risk


  1. I salute your dedication Glen. We live in a sick world, which I fear will not change as long as there are humans in it. We are supposedly the most intelligent life form on the planet and yet we are the ones that are prone to selfishness, avarice, prejudice, bigotry, jealousy, etc. etc. The big elephant in the room for me however is hypocrisy. The so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a total joke and always has been. Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We do not treat animals with the contempt that millions of infant boys are routinely and forcibly subjected to, and these are our own flesh and blood. Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. So why is it that there are laws to protect females from genital mutilation and not boys? So much for being a member of a modern civilised society.

  2. Thanks for your comments Patrick and for your personal commitment to the cause

  3. I don't think it's realistic to expect all Jews to stop circumcising their boys. They've been practicing their religion for a long time and it's something they will have to address in their own communities, although there are more Jews against it now than in the past. It's similar for the Muslim communities. But in the case of the Muslims, since the lawmakers and medical community allowed them to continue the practice of male circumcision when they immigrated to Britain and did not prohibit it, I don't see how it can be stopped anytime soon. There are also now more Christian boys being circumcised in Britain than was the case a decade ago. Because of the large demand for Muslim circumcisions, there are now many circumcision clinics in the UK, particularly in London. Many Christian parents are now being attracted to these clinics and having their boys circumcised. You can find many of these clinics that have websites online.

  4. When the Gardner report came down against non-therapeutic circumcision back in 1949, a great opportunity for a ban was missed. At that time, there were very few Muslims in Britain, and it would have been easier to enforce. Bearing in mind that girls are protected by law, but it still happens, a similar punishment for mutilators of boys is way overdue. The 1861 Offences against the Person Act must be made to cover genital mutilation of Minors, if we can persuade the legislators to show some backbone. Men who suffer from diminished sexuallity, myself included, must come forward and be counted.

  5. Unless it is to extend my life, no one has the right to cut me before I can have a veto, the same goes for the modern cult of tatto, you should not be able to alter your childs body until age of 18 or 21 when they can have influence / yes no decision themselves.

    The very idea of cutting a boy or girl for any reason before they have a say in the matter at circa 18-20 is totally abhorant.