Kerre McIvor
Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Spare the children

Your baby is born perfect, so leave him that way. Photo / Thinkstock
Your baby is born perfect, so leave him that way. Photo / Thinkstock

Within minutes of my baby being born, I knew she was absolutely perfect.

It seemed an absolute miracle, given the number of genes that could have mutated or chromosomes that could have been miscounted or any of the other myriad afflictions and abnormalities that could have occurred while she was growing for nine months.

But she was perfect, I felt grateful and I resolved no harm would ever come to her while I could help it. The heel prick test and every vaccination she had in her first year were agony to me - I couldn't bear holding my baby while somebody punctured her perfect skin.

However, I understood it was for a greater good and tried to be as brave as she was.

And so I can't understand how mothers and fathers can choose to have their baby boys circumcised if there is no medical reason for it. A German court ignited a row this week with a controversial decision ruling that circumcision amounts to real bodily harm and that the practice should be outlawed.

The ruling follows a lengthy court battle after a Muslim doctor performed a circumcision at the request of the baby's Muslim parents. When the little boy was still bleeding after four days, his parents took him to hospital and doctors there alerted police, who launched an investigation.

Now the court has ruled that though the doctor did nothing illegal, circumcision should be outlawed, doctors who perform them should be punished and neither parental consent nor religious beliefs warrant altering a child's body irreparably.

Not surprisingly, Jewish and Muslim groups have condemned the decision, calling it insensitive and discriminatory and flying in the face of centuries of religious tradition. They have vowed to continue circumcising their boys, even if it means travelling to other countries to get it done.

Whenever the subject comes up on talkback, it's always hotly debated. Men feel very strongly about their penises, be they circumcised or not. But the old reasons for circumcision don't hold true today. We're not nomadic peoples living miles from running water. Teaching a child personal hygiene is a part of parenting.

And as for the old wives' tale that uncircumcised penises help spread cervical cancer, the study that was done looked at orthodox Jewish couples. I think the fact they were monogamous and had both been virgins when they married had more to do with the lack of cervical cancer than circumcision did.

If, at the age of 16, a young man wants to be circumcised, let him go for it. His choice, his body.

But surely, if your baby is born perfect, wouldn't you leave him that way?

Key to setting goals in their completion

John Key's 10 Better Public Service Result Targets reminds me of the lists Cosmo magazine used to put out.

"10 Sex Positions Every Woman Needs To Know!"; "10 Things You Must Have Achieved Before You Hit the Big 30!"

In fact, his plan is just a flash name for a Cosmo list. It's an aspirational, wouldn't-it-be-nice, if we were a really good government, kind of a to-do list.

Yes, it would be great if the crime rate could be reduced by 15 per cent in five years and even better if reoffending was cut by 25 per cent.

Who could argue that preventing 1000 more incidents of child abuse would be a bad thing?

And getting more than 20,000 people off the unemployment benefit within five years would be marvellous.

My own personal to-do list is just as ambitious. Lose 10 kilos. Pay off the mortgage. Write the great New Zealand novel.

All of us can set goals.

But it's how we achieve them that's the interesting part. Setting targets? Easy. Achieving them? Difficult.

Take the unemployment stats. Being in work is better than being on a benefit but only if people are going into long-term employment with a future. Shoving them off the dole and on to sickness and invalids' benefits was a trick Labour used.

Look at the drop in the numbers of unemployed, they crowed, while conveniently not disclosing the commensurate rise in the number of sickness beneficiaries.

Probably the quickest way to get 22,000 people off the dole is to buy them a ticket to Western Australia.

John Riddell appeared in the NZ Herald last month, begging someone, anyone, for a job. He had a good employment history but after being made redundant in March at the age of 58, he hadn't been able to find a job.

And even after what was, in effect, a full page ad in New Zealand's most popular newspaper, he still hasn't got a job.

The devil's in the detail and I'd love to know where 22,000 jobs are going to come from.

A tip for John Key about lists - it's always more satisfying and less daunting if you put a couple of things on your list that you've already done.

Often, when I'm writing my list for the day, I'll put stack dishwasher, pick up dog poo, hang out washing - when I've already completed those tasks. It gives you the satisfaction of crossing them off.

So if on their list of targets National had included: Push through legislation for partial sell-off of assets, imagine the sense of satisfaction in crossing off one of the goals.

Or: Achieve parity with Australia. Perhaps not. That's been on the list for a long time and it has yet to be ticked off.

Don't get me wrong. Setting goals and being accountable for them is a good thing. But I'm more interested in how these targets will be achieved than I am in the targets themselves.

Just as I was with the Cosmo lists.

- Herald on Sunday

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