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Circumcision in
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New Zealand



Last updated: 13 March 2014, 14:49 UTC



Cultural history and geography

Generally speaking, New Zealanders hate being described in the same breath as Australians. The pre-existing New Zealand Maori population is very different from the Aborigines of Australia in terms of racial group, culture and duration of land tenure before European settlement commenced. Furthermore, the European Settler population has different social origins compared to their Australian counterparts. There are distinctions here that each group proudly maintains; great offence can be caused if “Kiwi” or Maori identity is overlooked and they are treated as Australian.

Map of New Zealand  - Physical Map of New Zealand - Political

Maps of New Zealand - Physical and Political


However, in matters relating to medical care the divide largely vanishes. Most of the professional medical institutions are pan-Australasian, taking in not just Australia and New Zealand but also some of the Pacific Islands. Hence the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and so on.



Circumcision rates in New Zealand

Given the unified structure of the medical profession as between Australia and New Zealand, one might expect that rates of infant circumcision would be the same in both countries. However, our correspondents suggest otherwise. All the following contributions were received before publication of the September 2010 RACP Policy Statement detailed on our Australia page:

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I grew up and was circumcised in New Zealand. Circumcision was never widely supported by society or the medical establishment there in my opinion. Therefore who was or wasn’t depended very much where you were born. NZ had a society that very much did whatever the doctor said. In the small North Island town where I was born no boys born around my time were circumcised at birth. (I was born in 1965). However only five years later all baby boys were done. I can only attribute this to a change in doctor in this small town.

We moved to Auckland and the first circumcised contemporary I saw was at primary school. A boy and his brother were the only ones done. Then at high school, uncut was suddenly the minority. My school drew from the affluent Auckland suburbs.

The greatest point about all of this is that circumcision in NZ has always been highly localised and while boys born in the private hospitals in Auckland may have been almost exclusively circumcised those born at the same time in public or rural hospitals were not.

Stephen

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“...in 1964 in Dunedin, where rates were lower than the national average was, a quarter of all babies born in hospital were circumcised. Three years later in Christchurch, a similar student study showed a rate of 65%. In 1972, half of Wellington boys born in hospital were circumcised, while four years later in Dunedin, the rate had dropped to 5%. By 1977 about a quarter of all Christchurch boys were cut and in the same year in Wellington, the rate was 21.5%. The last comprehensive study was in 1989 in the Waikato [North Island, the area around Hamilton - See right-hand map above - Ed.], which showed a regional rate of 7%, compared with only 1% of male births at Waikato Hospital [in Hamilton].”

Excerpt from The Foreskin’s Lament by Nick Smith
Metro, September 1999.

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It’s consistent with this decline that a GP estimated for me that the rate is now under 1%. In his city, Palmerston North, no doctor will do it. However, the position is radically different for non-Maori Polynesians (Samoans, Tongans and Niueans) where the rate by puberty approaches 100% and a boy who is not circumcised will be grabbed by a "raiding party" of his uncles and taken forcibly to be clipped.

Anon

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In the late 1950s and early 1960s NZ medicine followed the British example and began to move away from routine infant circumcision. Numbers of children receiving RIC have steadily declined and now the situation is that virtually no RIC is performed in public hospitals. Parents have to go private should they wish circumcision for their boys.

There is among the NZ population a sizeable community of Pacific Island peoples from Tonga, Samoa, Nuie and Fiji. These people have circumcision as an important part of their culture. In Auckland there is a clinic which is run by Pacific Island doctors which performs circumcisions for the Pacific community. Many of these are dorsal slit which is the Tongan method although the "American style" is also available. This clinic will also perform circumcision on adults if requested.

Rick



Acknowledgements

The following resources were used in the preparation of this web page:
Globe (2409 bytes) Circlist Website logo (6480 bytes) Circlist Group logo (8847 bytes) Personal testimony of members of the CIRCLIST discussion group.
Logo, RACP Policy Statement CIRCUMCISION OF INFANT MALES, Royal Australasian College of Physicians - September 2010. [Accesssed 10.Oct.2010.]
Thumbnail of map Thumbnail of map Maps courtesy of Kiwi Treasure and Maps of World.




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