Intactivism News
January - March 2004

More recent news

(More recent items first)


Even consenting adult women...

Access North Georgia
25 March, 2004

Georgia House bans genital piercings for women

The Associated Press - ATLANTA

Genital piercings for women were banned by the Georgia House Wednesday as lawmakers considered a bill outlining punishments for female genital mutilation.

The bill would make such mutilation punishable by two to 20 years in prison. It makes no exception for people who give consent to have the procedure performed on their daughters out of religious or cultural custom.

An amendment adopted without objection added "piercing" to the list of things that may not be done to female genitals. Even adult women would not be allowed to get the procedure. The bill eventually passed 160-0, with no debate.

Amendment sponsor Rep. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, was slack-jawed when told after the vote that some adults seek the piercings.

"What? I've never seen such a thing," Heath said. "I, uh, I wouldn't approve of anyone doing it. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to be doing."

The ban applies only to women, not men. The bill has already been approved by the Senate but now must return to that chamber because of the piercing amendment. Both chambers of the Legislature must agree on a single version of a bill before it can go to the governor for final approval.


"Not tested on animals" - on humans instead!

The Guardian
February 26, 2004

The hunt for another way

Animal testing is so controversial Cambridge was forced to scrap a brain disease lab. Can we develop medicines without vivisection? David Adam investigates

...Of the alternatives that could be developed, most are aimed at eliminating the need for animals in testing toxicity of chemicals and potential medicines.

Using human skin cells taken from breast reduction and circumcision operations, Richard Clothier in Frame's laboratory at Nottingham University has developed a way of testing for negative reactions to exposure to light. Wendy Purcell, at the University of West of England, is developing balls of human cells that can be used to mimic the action of organs. The next problem is convincing other scientists and the regulatory authorities that such models give results as good as, or better than, those from live animals.

[As usual, the ethics of using human skin cells "taken" from circumcision operations are not expored.]


Eastern Cape, February 19, 2004

20 die from circumcision

BISHO - Deaths due to circumcision complications have dropped dramatically since the introduction of the Application of Health Standards Act in the Eastern Cape and indications are that the lives of more initiates will be saved in future.

Before there were 1042 admissions, 34 genital mutilations and 50 deaths; now 84 admissions, seven mutilations and 20 deaths.

[Actually, there were at least 1126 genital mutilations.]


Roger Short is at it again:

Manila Bulletin (Philippines)
Feb 16 - 11:17 am

Australians debate benefits of circumcision

Sydney (dpa) - Circumcision protects men against HIV and reduces the risk of cervical cancer in their partners, a conference in Australia has been told, but some experts strongly disagree.

Melbourne University's Roger Short told doctors meeting in Perth that a study in India [of men attending STD clinics] showed an eightfold reduced risk of HIV in those who had been circumcised [who would probably all have been Muslim, with a very different lifestyle from the intact Hindu men].

He explained that removing the foreskin also removes the receptor sites through which the HIV virus can enter.

He also quoted research in England [no, published in the New England Journal of Medicine] which showed that circumcized men were less likely to contract the human papilloma virus that is responsible for almost all cervical cancer passed on to women.

Circumcision, popular in Australia in previous decades, has now fallen to around one in ten males.

Not everyone in the audience was impressed with Short's paper. ''To believe that undertaking circumcision will prevent HIV infection is irresponsible,'' Stan Wisniewski said. ''It's alarming that statistics taken from regions where men practise unprotected sex, and may have dubious hygiene information, are being used to support the practice of neonatal circumcision.''

Wisniewski, a clinical associate professor at the University of Western Australia in Perth, argued that there is no reason to believe circumcision prevents the distribution of sexually transmitted disease in modern Western societies [or anywhere else].

''There is no scientific evidence that the prophylactic removal of the foreskin sustains any benefit and there is no solid epidemiological evidence to support the theory that circumcision prevents STDs or justifies a policy of involuntary mass circumcision as a public health measure,'' he said.

He argued that, among the benefits of leaving the penis intact, was enhanced sexual activity in adult life.


Adult circumcision "does not adversely affect sexual function"

1: Urology. 2004 Jan;63(1):155-8.

Circumcision in adults: effect on sexual function.

Senkul T, IserI C, sen B, KarademIr K, Saracoglu F, Erden D.

Department of Urology, GATA Haydarpasa Training Hospital, Uskudar, Istanbul, Turkey.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of adult circumcision on sexual function in men circumcised only for religious or cosmetic reasons.
METHODS: The study group consisted of 42 male patients with a median age of 22.3 years (range 19 to 28) referred for circumcision from June 2002 to January 2003. Of the 42 men, 39 desired circumcision for religious reasons. Before circumcision, their sexual performance was evaluated using the Brief Male Sexual Function Inventory (BMSFI) and ejaculatory latency time. The BMSFI evaluation and ejaculatory latency time measurements were repeated after a postoperative interval of at least 12 weeks. The scores in the five main sections of the BMSFI and the ejaculatory latency times before and after circumcision were analyzed.
RESULTS: The differences in the mean BMSFI scores were not statistically significant in any of the five sections. However, the mean ejaculatory latency time was significantly longer after circumcision (P = 0.02).
CONCLUSIONS: Adult circumcision does not adversely affect sexual function. The increase in the ejaculatory latency time can be considered an advantage rather than a complication.

PMID: 14751371 [PubMed - in process]

[By whom "can" it be considered an advantage?]

WebMD© Health (online)
February 2, 2004

Adult Circumcision Affects Sexual Performance
Circumcised Men Take Longer to Reach Ejaculation, but That May Be OK

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
Adult circumcision affects a guy's sexual performance -- but not in a bad way, according to [the opinion of the author of] a new study.

Circumcised men take longer to reach ejaculation, which can be viewed as "an advantage, rather than a complication," writes lead researcher Temucin Senkul, a urologist with GATA Haydarpasa Training Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey. His paper appears in the current issue of the journal Adult Urology.

Circumcision -- the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis -- typically occurs immediately after birth or during childhood, in the Muslim and Jewish tradition. In western countries, too, most boys are circumcised [no, only in the US].

But what about guys who don't get circumcised as babies, who decide on circumcision when they are adults? Can it give them sexual problems they didn't have before? That's what Sekul sought to determine.

In this study, Senkul enrolled 42 men -- all about 22 years old -- who had not been circumcised. All but a few wanted circumcision for religious reasons. All were heterosexual and sexually active, and none was using a medication or device to promote erections.

Before the circumcision, doctors evaluated their sexual performance by asking about sex drive, erection, ejaculation, problems, and overall satisfaction.

The men were also asked to note how long they took to reach ejaculation -- during at least three sessions of sexual intercourse. [Presumably they didn't use stopwatches, so in fact they just guessed]

Twelve weeks after the surgery, the men again answered detailed questions about their sex lives. They reported on how long reaching ejaculation took.

The results: Everything was working smoothly -- except ejaculation, which took "significantly longer" after circumcision.

Adult circumcision may lessen the penis' sensitivity, resulting in a delay to reach ejaculation, Senkul speculates. Or the boost to the guy's self-esteem -- since Muslims consider circumcision to be a "must of manhood" -- might cause the slow down. [This doesn't make sense.]

"We can say with more certainty that adult circumcision does not adversely affect sexual function," writes Senkul. [This does not follow from the data.] The increase in time to reach ejaculation "can be considered an advantage rather than a complication." [Only if the man or his partner considered that he didn't take long enough before circumcision. This study says nothing about whether the amount of time the man took was compatible with the time his partner took.]

"We see lot of adults who want to be circumcised," Chad Ritenour, MD, professor of urology at Emory University School of Medicine, tells WebMD. He agreed to comment on Senkul's study.

"I bet every patient wouldn't tell you that ejaculation time changes," he says. "Also, I don't want anyone to interpret this as a cure for premature ejaculation."

Most adult patients "are fairly motivated," Ritenour says. "I think that's one reason why we don't hear about changes in sexual function. It's not something forced on them. Motivation has a lot to do with how they do afterward."

Men who have a chronic infection -- where there's no alternative but circumcision -- likely experience the most problems afterward, he says. Bad hygiene, especially in underdeveloped countries like Africa, can lead to these serious infections and even penile cancer in uncircumcised adults.

In the U.S., however, "the major reason to get circumcised is cultural," Ritenour tells WebMD. "It's an unwritten custom that whatever the father has, so does the son. In the U.S., there is no obvious medical reason to get circumcised."

Sure, sex will feel different to a newly circumcised adult, he says. "You've just lost skin. You're used to having something there, and it's different when it's gone. That's probably why ejaculation time is different, because it feels different." [Anything but the obvious: cut off 10,000 nerve endings, have less sensitivity, take longer.]

© 2004 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
SOURCES: Senkul, T. Adult Urology, vol 63; pp 155-158. Chad Ritenour, MD, professor of urology, Emory University School of Medicine.


The Independent
13 February 2004

Museum hopes that pain means gain

A torture chair, an iron maiden, a knuckleduster, a tongue extractor, flails. Insufficiently grim? Then watch the video of an amputation, or shudder at the ancient equipment dentists once used to remove teeth.

One might have thought the public would go to great lengths to avoid such reminders of the grisly past, but the Science Museum in London believes otherwise. The instruments of torture and of developing medicine are revealed in their original gruesomeness in a new exhibition on pain, which opened today.

The show - entitled Pain: Passion, Compassion, Sensibility - examines masochism, sadism, torture, amputation, childbirth and circumcision in graphic detail, and comes with a warning that it is unsuitable for unaccompanied children younger than 12.

Organisers have defended the exhibition - which runs until June - as a serious exploration of the history of pain and the methods adopted to tackle it, from quack medicine through to modern drugs.

Ken Arnold, of the Wellcome Trust, the scientific foundation which organised the show in collaboration with the museum, said that it had to be seen "in totality". He said: "We see that scientists over the past 400 years have added a huge amount to our understanding of pain, but we still end up with puzzles. For example, we don't know why some people enjoy pain."

Javier Moscoso, the exhibition's curator, said there were serious themes underlying the exhibits. He said: "There will be people who come and say, 'What a display of horror'. For many visitors, this will be [like] the London Dungeon. My advice to them would be to look more carefully."


Boston Globe
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Doctor joins genital mutilation debate

By Alexandra Salomon, Globe Correspondent, 2/12/2004

FLORENCE -- In his native Somalia, Dr. Omar Abdulcadir recalls, he saw all seven of his sisters undergo the girlhood ritual of genital cutting. Now, in a public hospital in Florence, he is trying to offer an alternative.  

The gynecologist, who runs what he said is Europe's first and only Center for the Treatment and Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation, has found himself in the middle of a heated political and philosophical debate after he requested permission from the local medical board to perform a procedure that he said would maintain the initiation ritual associated with genital cutting but save young girls from mutilation.

Several types of female genital cutting, sometimes called female circumcision, are common in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, and Sudan. In the most extreme form, part or all of the external genitalia is cut off and the vaginal opening stitched closed -- a practice known as infibulation.

Abdulcadir said his alternative is noninvasive and practically painless while still offering the symbolism of the ritual. It involves applying a topical anesthetic, then pricking the clitoris with a needle and drawing a drop or two of blood.

"I hope this practice will be eliminated," Abdulcadir said in a recent interview. "But I was asked by them, by these women, to do something.

"It's difficult for those who are outside these communities to understand, but in many African societies a woman is considered ugly, unmarriageable, and unclean if she hasn't undergone the ritual," he said. "If a woman doesn't undergo the ritual, she risks being rejected not only by her family but by the whole community."

Abdulcadir's proposal has raised broader questions about cultural integration and women's rights throughout Europe. As countries struggle to preserve their national identity by enacting new legislation, waves of immigrants from Africa and Asia with different cultural traditions and values continue to arrive.


"I am against this practice. I'm a doctor, and I respect the law," he said. "But I hope that those who choose to say no [to his proposal] will recognize that the problem exists and is not going away."

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

[This proposal is similar to hatifat dam berit, an accepted alternative to circumcision for Jewish males who can not be circumcised for any reason.

Many opponents of FGM angrily oppose it because it perpetuales the aspect of control over women's bodies, and they want FGM extirpated, root and branch.]

IOL (South Africa)

Can a pinprick spare women's suffering?
February 27 2004 at 02:57PM [Quickwire]

By Frances d'Emilio

..."It is unacceptable to touch or harm, in even the slightest way, the female organ," said Linda Weil-Curiel, a French human rights lawyer and a participant in an international conference on Saturday in Florence on female circumcision that is expected to discuss the doctor's proposal.


CBC News
Last Updated Wed, 11 Feb 2004 18:29:41

B.C. parents lobby against circumcision
[actually, "lobby for better circumcision information"]

PENTICTON, B.C. - The parents of a newborn who died following circumcision surgery are pushing for hospitals to inform patients of the possible dangers associated with the removal of foreskin.

Brent and Tanna McWillis's month-old son Ryleigh died in August 2002 after he suffered severe hemorrhaging two days after he was circumcised at Penticton Regional Hospital. [To the autopsy]

The parents were told that Ryleigh would experience some bleeding, but they didn't realize how much [or rather, how very little] was too much.

Ryleigh's death renewed debate over male circumcision and also caught the attention of a Seattle-based group called Doctor's [sic] Opposing Circumcision.

One of its members, lawyer John Geisheker, wants circumcision banned globally, but in the meantime, he's willing to compromise and has asked infants be kept in hospital for one day following surgery. [He also says the "facts ... collectively establish, on their face, gross ethical lapses and criminal negligence by the medical practitioners involved. "]

"We would like to see there be no outpatient circumcisions, because those are the riskiest ones," said Geisheker. "The parents, although they may be solicitous and loving, are not medically trained."

Written by CBC News Online staff

The Province
Vancouver, B.C.
February 13, 2004

Lack of post-surgery info angers grieving parents
With a baby son dead, they want care after circumcisions clarified

Suzanne Fournier

[Photo]Tanna McWillis and daughter Mackenna.
McWillis's son, Ryan, died from complications following circumcision. CREDIT: Special to The Province

[Photo]Tanna McWillis's son, Ryleigh Roman Bryan McWillis, died in August 2002. CREDIT: Special to The Province

The tragic death of their infant son after a routine circumcision in August 2002 still haunts a Vernon couple -- who say they weren't properly informed about the signs of danger to watch out for in post-operative care.

A coroner's report released this week into the death of one-month-old Ryleigh McWillis notes that the Penticton Regional Hospital where the circumcision was done has significantly improved the information pamphlet it gives out to all parents, and has changed both follow-up care and documentation for all circumcisions.

But Tanna McWillis says she and her husband, Brent, a medical professional who worked at the hospital at the time of his son's death, are disappointed that coroner Chico Newell made no other recommendations.

"The coroner could have recommended that the hospital and doctor clearly tell parents, 'Any bleeding's bad,' and warn us what to look for. I didn't realize a baby can die from losing as little as one ounce of blood," McWillis said. [He could have recommended that hospitals and doctors not offer circumcision, and clearly tell parents, 'Any unnecessary surgery's bad.']

Brent McWillis, a lab technologist, transferred away from the Penticton hospital after the death. The couple, who also have a five-year-old daughter, relocated to Vernon.

"Brent still finds it too painful to talk about," said his 34- year-old wife. "The nurses were our friends and a couple of them who tried so hard to save our baby felt so badly they quit."

The Canadian Pediatric Society takes the position that male circumcision exposes children to risk with no real medical benefits.

Circumcision is no longer covered by medicare in Canada and the numbers of male babies circumcised have been rapidly dropping, down from a decade ago when 60 to 90 per cent of all male babies born in North America [no, only the US] were routinely circumcised shortly after birth.

At B.C. Children's Hospital, only 180 male babies were circumcised of the 3,656 boys born in 2002-03, down from the 274 circumcisions done of 3,544 boys born the previous year, said hospital spokeswoman Marisa Nichini.

Dennis Harrison of the Association for Genital Integrity has asked Amnesty International to protest male circumcision as "unnecessary pain and suffering."

Doctors Against Circumcision has demanded a total ban on circumcision.

But circumcision is required in the Muslim and Jewish faiths, and Jewish mohels use a rapid and safe technique. [Yet Jewish and Muslim babies and children also die. "A rapid and safe technique" would not have saved Ryleigh.]

Tanna McWillis herself says she and her husband would probably circumcise another male child.

"I was told a lot of people opposed to circumcision would grandstand about my son's death, but we would do it again.[This is another reason parents should not be given the decision to make.]

"If I had been better informed on how to look after my baby, it would never have happened." [This is not necessarily true. Modern absorbant diapers can easily soak up the amount of blood Ryleigh lost without showing anything.]

Ryleigh Roman Bryan McWillis, born July 21, 2002, was a healthy, normal baby when his parents decided -- "just because of family history," says Tanna -- to have him circumcised on Aug. 20.

The doctor used a slightly different procedure than the one described in hospital pamphlets, so the McWillis family wasn't given written information to take home.

Ryleigh was still bleeding at the hospital, but was checked by the doctor and sent home.

He was fussy all that day and a diaper that evening was soaked with blood.

"It was pinkish because it was diluted by pee and they hadn't told me what to watch out for," says Tannis.

Tannis sat up all night holding Ryleigh. When Brent got up at 5 a.m., the baby's diaper was full of blood.

Ryleigh's parents rushed him to the Penticton hospital. By noon, he had to be evacuated by air ambulance to B.C. Children's Hospital. Despite transfusions of blood, saline and antibiotics, the tiny baby was limp, pale and failing.

Ryleigh's "prognosis was grim," notes the coroner's report, and his parents were told of the "seriousness of his situation." Despite "massive volume resuscitation," Ryleigh's organs and heart began to shut down.

And, says his mother, "I unplugged his life support at 5 a.m. on the 22nd of August, one month and one day after he was born."

© The Vancouver Province 2004
Saturday, January 10, 2004 Posted: 8:37 AM EST (1337 GMT)

Couple charged with agreeing to circumcise young girls


LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A couple was charged Friday with agreeing to circumcise two young girls in what is believed to be among the first cases filed under a federal law banning female genital mutilation.

Todd Cameron Bertrang, 41, and Robin Faulkinbury, 24, were arrested at their Canyon Country home after an FBI agent posing as a father of an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old contacted Bertrang via e-mail, then met with him to discuss the procedure.

Neither Bertrang nor Faulkinbury are accused of actually circumcising any minors.

During an October 2002 meeting, Bertrang allegedly told the agents that "we have to go into this realizing that to alter a female genitalia, in any fashion, under 18, carries a five-year immediate prison sentence," an arrest affidavit stated.

According to the criminal complaint, Bertrang is not licensed to practice medicine in California. On his Web site, Bertrang says he is an aficionado of body piercing and cutting who has performed body modifications on men and women.

Bertrang boasted to an undercover FBI agent that he had performed more female circumcisions than "anyone else in the Western Hemisphere," according to the affidavit.

Faulkinbury was identified to the agent as Bertrang's "slave" who assisted him in the procedures.

Female circumcision, which may involve the removal of the clitoris or all the external genitalia, is a traditional procedure in some African cultures but has been condemned by the United Nations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Lally said there was no mention made of cultural reasons for the surgeries Bertrang and Faulkinbury agreed to.

Bertrang and Faulkinbury were charged with conspiracy to violate the federal Prohibition of Female Mutilation Act of 1995, which outlaws the removal of certain sexual organs on girls under age 18 unless it is medically necessary and only then if performed by a licensed medical practitioner.

Lally said there never has been a decision or appeal in such a case, and he had not heard of any cases even being filed under the law.

Bertrang and Faulkinbury were held without bail, and their lawyers left the courtroom by a rear entrance and could not be reached for comment.

Each defendant could each face up to five years in prison if convicted. 


IRIN plus news
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ETHIOPIA: Circumcision abandoned to prevent HIV infection

JOHANNESBURG, 16 October (PLUSNEWS) - In an effort to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, some 350 practitioners of ritual circumcision in Ethiopia's Gonder region have agreed to abandon the practice, as well as other forms of genital mutilation.

This follows a warning by local health officials that the HIV/AIDS pandemic was aggravated by such traditional practices, often as a result of instruments not being sterilised.

The head of one of the region's social services centres, Abebaw Gegit, was quoted by the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) as saying: "The circumcisers and those engaged in harmful traditional practices have decided to abandon them after intensive sensitisation work by health officers."

Preparations are currently underway to provide loans for those abandoning the practice, to help them find alternative ways of making a living.



The Times
London, January 18, 2004

Hospital to offer circumcisions

WATERFORD regional hospital, where a one-month-old baby died after a botched home circumcision, is to offer the medical procedure on a monthly basis, writes Dearbhail McDonald.

The service will accommodate requests by asylum seekers, Muslims and Jews who want week-old male infants to be circumcised for cultural, ritual and religious reasons.

Last year Callis Osaghae, a 29-day-old baby who was circumcised at his parents' home, was rushed to the hospital bleeding heavily after an operation was carried out with a razor blade. He died the following day.

Osagie Igbinedion, a Nigerian national, is charged with intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct that created a serious risk of death or harm to the baby.

"Rarely are there medical conditions which require circumcision in childhood or later," said Dr Neville de Souza, a public health specialist who has pioneered the new service in the South Eastern Health Board. "However, we have a responsibility for children in our care. If we do not provide a safe service, it will be sought elsewhere in unsafe conditions, that puts the lives of children at risk."

Micheal Martin, the Minister for Health, has appointed an advisory committee on child circumcision that has not yet met.

Their responsiblity only extends to male children: if anyone proposed to circumcise female infants for "cultural, ritual and religious reasons", their response would be quite the reverse of the above. Why the double standard?

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