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Circumcision in Finland

Location, political and cultural history

Finland (“Suomi” in the Finnish language) is today a peaceful and prosperous nation, despite its troubled past. Wholly absorbed into Sweden in medieval times, it was invaded by Czarist Russian forces in 1714 and again in 1742. A third Russian invasion in 1809 resulted in Finland becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire, a situation that continued until 1917. The rise of the Bolsheviks and their threatened take-over of Finland precipitated a civil war between ‘Whites’, supported by Imperial Germany and the ‘Reds’, supported by Bolshevist Russia. The victory of the Whites led to subsequent poor relations with the Soviet Union.

The complexity of Finland’s relationships within Europe increased during the Second World War; at different times they fought against both sides. In all, about 93,000 Finnish soldiers were killed; by proportion this was the third-highest national loss rate in World War Two. Finnish troops allied with Germans during the siege of Leningrad, subsequently fighting to a standstill a Russian attempt to invade Finland in the summer of 1944. But Finland also faced invasion by Germany, who towards the end of the Second World War attempted to invade Finland through Lappland. Fortunately for small children everywhere, both Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - traditional occupants of Lappland - survived.

War reparations cost Finland dearly; they were obliged to cede ten percent of their land area and, in consequence, twenty percent of their industrial capacity, to Russia. The most notable loss was Finnish Karelia, the province immortalised by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) in The Karelia Suite, Op. 11. The civilian population deserted the ceded lands en masse, in many instances leaving the Russians to occupy ghost towns. This was one of the great under-reported migrations following the Second World War (another being East Prussia), occurring whilst the eyes of the world were turned towards the newly-formed state of Israel.

Despite all, and without the benefit of aid through the Marshall Plan, by the late 1980s Finland had built a robust economy and one of the world’s most extensive welfare systems, guaranteeing decent living conditions for all Finns. Since then social security has been cut back somewhat, but the system remains one of the most comprehensive in the world.

Location of Finland (36,694 bytes) Map of Finland (19,529 bytes)
The map above shows Finland in relation to other member states of the European Union. Finland joined the EU in January 1995 and the Euro Currency Zone in 2002.

The map to the right shows the boundaries of Finland itself.

The indigenous people of Finland, Saami or Lapps, are one of the few indigenous peoples accorded special status in Europe. Their territory includes the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and part of Russia. In spite of legal safeguards, they are still heavily discriminated against. In Finland they are entitled to childcare, education in their native language and all the other advantages of the Finnish welfare state, but unfortunately these services are not, in practice, provided in Saami regions.

So far as we know, none of the peoples making up present day Finland have a tradition of circumcision. Circumcision today is a product of three influnences - perception of its health advantages, and the Jewish and Muslim religions.

Legal issues in Finland

In 2008 the Supreme Court of Finland delivered a judgement that makes it abundantly clear that male circumcision, including child circumcision on parental initiative, is wholly legal in Finland provided that it is properly done. According to the judgement, banning all circumcisions would violate the constitutional guarantee of privacy in family life and freedom of religion. That constitutional guarantee derives from Finland’s membership of the Council of Europe and consequent adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgement therefore has the makings of a precedent applicable in all 47 member countries.

The Finnish broadcaster YLE reported the case as follows:

Finland’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a Muslim mother did not commit a crime when she had her son circumcised.

The Court said that the circumcision, carried out for religious and social reasons and in a medical manner, did not have the earmarks of a criminal offence. It pointed out in its ruling that the circumcision of Muslim boys is an established tradition and a integral part of the identity of Muslim men.

The Turku Appeals Court had previously ruled that the mother charged in the case was not guilty of assault. The Tampere District Court had ruled that the mother had broken the law, but dismissed the charges. - YLE
A further case has been reported by YLE, relating to the circumcision in 2008 of a Jewish infant. On that occasion, hospitalisation was needed on account of excessive bleeding. Why such bleeding occurred is unreported.
The Helsinki Court of Appeal on Wednesday [30.Mar.2011] dismissed charges in a case involving the circumcision of a male infant that led to medical complications requiring hospitalization. A lower court had convicted the child’s parents of incitement to assault and battery.

The Court of Appeal struck down the lower court ruling and the fine that has been imposed on the child’s parents. Also, following the decision, they are not required to pay compensation to their son for pain and discomfort, as ordered by the District Court.

According to Wednesday’s decision, it has been difficult for the parents to perceive their behaviour as assault and battery or incitement because circumcisions have been long permitted, and their legal status has been unclear.

Finland has no legislation on male circumcision. The Helsinki Court of Appeal noted that at the time of the events under review, there was not even a precedent concerning legal proceedings concerning circumcision. Circumcisions have had a sort of approval by customary law as a long established tradition.

In this case, the circumcision was performed on the premises of Helsinki’s Jewish congregation in the spring of 2008 by an English rabbi who was not a licensed medical practitioner in Finland. The week-old infant was hospitalized for treatment of excessive bleeding following the procedure.

This was apparently the first time that charges of assault and battery were filed in Finland in regard to the circumcision of a Jewish boy.

The Helsinki District Court’s verdict was that the hallmarks of assault and battery had been fulfilled since no pain relief was used during the procedure. The actions of the parents were classed as incitement as they did not carry out the procedure themselves.

In the autumn of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that a medically performed circumcision carried out for religious or social reasons is not a crime. In the case that led to that ruling, the procedure had been performed by a medical doctor and an anaesthetic was administered before the operation - YLE

That wasn't the end of it.

In 2011, the District Court of Helsinki found an Iranian-Turkish person guilty of assault for performing circumcisions on two school-aged Muslim boys. In addition, the court convicted the boys' parents of incitement to assault but, deeming the act forgiveable, opted not to impose penalties on them.

The person who performed the operations with a cautery in the homes of the boys has performed several circumcisions in both Turkey and Iran. The incision of one of the boys, however, became infected, forcing the boy to miss school and seek medical attention.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that, if performed in an appropriate manner, a circumcision performed on a boy for religious reasons does not constitute an offence. However, citing the subsequent ratification of the Council of Europe's Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine as justification, the district court deemed the circumcisions unlawful.
Both sides appealed the decision.
In its ruling, the Helsinki Court of Appeal then concluded that the convention cited by the district court in sentencing applies only to organ transplants, not to circumcisions. (!) The appeals court also referred to judicial practices elsewhere in Europe, pointing out that boys' circumcisions have not been banned by any European country on grounds of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.

In addition, the court viewed that Finnish laws do not prescribe that circumcisions must be performed by licensed medical practitioners and that the person who performed the operations had acted with due diligence.

The surgical site infection in one of the boys, the court elaborated, had been caused by insufficient after-care rather than the operation. The person who performed the circumcision used surgical gloves, sterilised the instrument used, applied local anaesthesia and provided the parents with instructions for after-care, the court added. Accordingly, in addition to acquitting them of charges, the appeals court relieved the person who performed the circumcision from liability for damages. Similarly, the briefcase and instruments used in the operation were returned to the defendant.
The court also suggested that the parliament should legislate to make the situation clearer. However, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health stated that no changes were planned in the near future. Source The Helsinki Times12th December, 2013.

Recently the nationalist, anti-immigration, Finns Party (formerly True Finn, Perussuomalaiset) has been campaigning for a ban on circumcision. Although they have representation in Parliament they split into two in 2017, with only the breakaway group, Blue Reform, remaining in the governing coalition. Nothing is likely to come of it.

Personal accounts from Finland

These accounts, from different dates, offer widely varying views on the extent of circumcision in Finland. It may well be on the increase.

Flag of the Åland Islands   Circumcised at age 42
I am a man from the Åland Islands, an archipeligo between Finland and Sweden that belongs to Finland. I had my circumcision done 2 years ago at the age of 42 years. I had been thinking about it for some years. It is not usual that men are circumcised here in the North. It will only be done for medical reasons. But I wanted that because I think its looks much better without the foreskin , and I have never regretted it. The only thing is that the circumcision was quite loosely done so I am thinking about having it redone, tight with no loose foreskin at all. The circumcision was made at the local hospital; I said that I have had some problems with tight foreskin and some irritating skinbreaks and there was no problem to get the circumcision done. I went to the hospital in the morning and went home in the afternoon. The operation was done using self-dissolving sutures and after a week some has disappeared but some were still left so I cut them away by myself; the healing went much faster once the sutures were gone. I can only say that my cut penis looks much better now after the circumcision then it did with the foreskin, it feels so right for me so I can highly recommend it for all guys who are considering it. Above all, hygiene is much easier and there is no smegma any more.

Flag of Finland    Circumcised at age 23, contemplating recircumcision
I live in Finland, where circumcision is a rarity. No more than one percent of guys get clipped here, most of them for medical reasons. In the gay community and also in Helsinki (the capital) where I live now, the percent may be a bit higher, but the fact remains that a circumcised male is a curiosity in Finland.

So why did I get interested in all this? When I was fifteen, I used to hang out with a guy that soon became my best friend. He was really well hung and that is the other reason why I fell in love with him. Unfortunately, the feeling was not mutual, he was straight as hell. After loving him secretly for a half year, I finally told him about my feelings and identity. He didn’t care about my sexuality, as long as I didn’t bring the subject up. Somehow I managed to cool my feelings down towards him, knowing that there would be no response.

Anyway, next summer (he was 16 by then) we both attended a congregation youth camp. The summer was hot, the lake water was warm, and we used to go swimming and sauna-bathing every day. It was in that sauna dressing room where I saw that something had happened to this well-endowed friend of mine. He had been circumcised!

It was my first encounter with a circumcised member. The operation had been done only a few weeks ago, probably in the beginning of the school summer break. The glans was so totally and beautifully exposed. It still had its thin, tender, purplish skin that was soon to be thickened. The circumcision scar was fresh and dark, almost black, and very visible. And the whole beauty was hanging in the end of that long shaft that I had so often dreamed about. It was the sexiest and most exciting moment of my life!

At the age of 23, I went to see a student doctor, who was convinced about my "phimosis" (which I didn’t have, quite the opposite, in fact) that he sent me to a hospital to get things fixed. Unfortunately, the surgeon didn’t remove more than was medically necessary, so I still have half of my foreskin left. That is why I am considering a recirc - and this time I want it done properly: no loose skin allowed!

Flag of Finland   A teenager's view
This report is compiled from several posts, the most recent one being in February 2018, in the Virtual Teen discussion group. The writer is aged 14, and among his peers circumcision is not so rare. Thanks to JH for forwarding it.

Where I live in Finland its like 15% are cut so as cut boy I am in minority. But for some reason in my class its like 30% cut. I am cut at birth cause its family tradition and because of health benefits. Someone mentioned how it reduces pleasure was it -----? I can still get pleasure when I wank while it may take little longer compared to uncut boy. This based on what I have heard so far. For uncut boy it takes about 10 min and for me about 20-30 min. Also uncuts dont seem to use lube. But it also must have something to do with how person was circed like is it loose or dead-tight like mine. I am very happy to be circed.

The following resources were used in the preparation of this web page:
Circlist Group logo (8847 bytes) Personal testimony of our correspondents.
Logo Wikipedia
Logo of YLE (8875 bytes) The first legal report on the website of the Finnish broadcaster YLE has been deleted. (Accessed 20.Oct.2010).
Second legal report: Website of YLE  (accessed 12.Mar.2014).
Thumbnail Maps courtesy of www.youreuropemap.com and the US Central Intelligence Agency.

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