Intactivism News

October - December 2009

(More recent items first)

Earlier items


Eyewitness News (South Africa)
December 29, 2009

Police investigate death of initiate (19)

Beaufort West police say they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of an initiate in the area.

Luvuyo Gwegwe (19) died while attending a circumcision school near the town earlier this month.

He is the only initiate who has died in the Western Cape since the beginning of December.

Beaufort Police spokesperson David De Klerk said an inquest docket has been opened.

“At this stage no foul play is suspected. The guy died of unnatural causes but as I said no foul play is suspected at this stage,” he said


The Richmark Sentinal (South Africa)
December 25, 2009

Circumcision is RE-introduced culture

Lyndall Beddy

RE-introduced culture is all the fashion, with the Zulu king originally RE-introducing the killing of the bull, and now RE-introducing circumcision for the Zulus.

It amuses me to hear black South Africans complaining on the radio that we have “Western” not “African” law. What is “Western” law? At the time of the Druids and Stonehenge human sacrifice was legal and trees were worshipped. It was legal to burn witches in Europe for many centuries. During the time of the Roman Empire it was legal to throw Christians to the lions. For most of the last two millennium slavery was legal in Europe, as it was everywhere in the world. Those laws changed, because culture changed and evolved. In fact slavery was banned in Britain as early as the late 1700s, and Western Europe banned the slave trade decades before America, South America, the East and Arabia (where in many cases it is still practiced).

I once read an article by an eminent judge who said that the law usually lags a generation behind the evolution of culture. When people try to reverse cultural evolution and go “back”, it is usually “back” to a totally fictional non-existent mythical past; like the Al Quada suicide bombers and Jihadists who want to go “back” to the original caliphate – which was historically nothing like their mythical imaginations.

Circumcision was RE-introduced into many tribes 100 years ago, NOT by the chiefs, but by the colonial powers. The real chiefs had been deposed, imprisoned or killed. Puppet chiefs were installed who did as the colonial masters said. It was the policy of White leaders of this country deliberately to re-tribalise the Black peoples to keep them subservient to the puppet chiefs they had imposed. All peoples were tribal originally, but cultures evolve. The evolution of the black tribes was deliberately forced into reverse. Their urban and educated leaders were vilified, and their most unsophisticated rural leaders elevated and recognized by the government of 100 years ago, to keep them tribal, and out of competition with the uneducated white Afrikaner who flooded the towns for work after the destruction of the farms in the Anglo Boer War.

Sol Plaatjies, one of the founders of the ANC, at the expense of his health, his finance, and his family, campaigned for the rights of the black people of this country. He spoke four African languages, English, Dutch and German- all fluently. I doubt that the Afrikaner male who would have taken over his civil service job as court interpreter was anywhere as educated or competent. Sol Plaatjies spent years trying to write down and record black culture – but he was violently opposed to what he called re-tribalisation. This is what he wrote, in 1903, in the editorial of his newspaper about circumcision initiation rites:

“In some pity we record that during this, the fourth month of the third year of the twentieth century, the Barolong have revived the ancient circumcision rites which had long since gone down before the silent power of Christian civilization. Scores of young men have during the week been taken away from their profitable occupations into the veld to howl themselves hoarse and submit to severer flogging than is usually inflicted by the Judges of the Supreme Court. The fact that in the year AD1903 the sons of Montshiwa can safely solemnize a custom, the uselessness of which was discerned by their father, and which the rest of Bechuanaland has for years relegated to the despicable relics of past barbarism, shows that someone has not been doing their duty. A startling state of affairs is that there are still to be found such a vast number of youths who……….willingly surrender their contentment and volunteer to expose themselves to all kind of weathers, in the open air, besides the thousands and one other tortures forming part of this ceremony, the nature of which ex-pupils of this weird hedonism are not permitted to tell us””

Maybe the tribes should gather again, urban and rural, to cho[o]se their real leaders – not the ones forced on them by the whites. How else do we undo a hundred years of deliberate re-tribalisation?

Apparently loyalty to fellow initiates must over-ride all other loyalties, which could become a problem if you are a policeman and one of them is a serial criminal.

The deaths in the circumcision season rise every year. Doctors have written that the ritual brutalizes and traumatizes the young boys. Some even become schizophrenic. Maybe it is time to ask what are the positives of this ritual, if there are any.


Is anyone surprised?

Daily Nation (Kenya)
December 22, 2009

Expert raises festive season Aids alert

An Aids expert has warned of an increase in infections this festive season.

Dr Nicholas Muraguri, who is the head of the National Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (Nascop), said thousands of young people are likely to engage in unprotected sex — many for the first time — and, therefore, expose themselves to infection.

He advised the youth to use condoms should they have any sexual encounter.

“If you must have sex, please use a condom. You can get them (condoms) for free from your nearest health centre,” he said.

Drugs and alcohol
Dr Muraguri also warned of more cases of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies, adding that many young people will be exposed to drugs and alcohol.

Speaking to the Nation on phone on Tuesday, Mr Muraguri said that during the Christmas season, many young people, especially in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, will indulge in unbecoming behaviour.

Dr Muraguri also said that most of the youths graduating from initiation will have sex for the first time, especially in rural areas.

Unprotected sex
“Reports from our field officers show that young men fresh from circumcision often indulge in unprotected sex out of curiosity,” he said.

Of these, Dr Muraguri said that only 25 per cent of the first-timers will be using condoms.

According to him, most vulnerable are high school leavers who will be spending their first Christmas holiday after clearing school.

“Many of them will be celebrating Christmas knowing that they will not be going back to school next year,” he said, adding “this will expose them to unsafe and unprotected sex.”


Circumcision doesn't only harm the people it's done to

Daily Nation (Kenya)
December 22, 2009

Man commits suicide over daughter's 'cut'


A 55-year-old man has committed suicide after his underage daughter was circumcised against his wish.

Mr Joseph Kibiwot Chumwar used a rope to hang himself in Endo Kapen Location in Marakwet East District.

... There was no suicide note.

Teach lesson
Grief-stricken relatives said that Mr Chumwar had threatened to take unspecified action to teach a lesson to the people who forcefully circumcised his 12-year-old daughter.


The father of seven was against the circumcision of his children and had given his reasons to elders.

He told them that he did not have enough animals and coupled with this year’s poor harvest, there was hardly enough to from which to host the ceremony and feed his family.

Rite’s costs
Mr Chumwar is also said to have told the elders that with three children in secondary school, he could not afford the costs of the rite.

But his daughter, who sat this year’s KCPE exams, was allegedly accosted and circumcised, on instructions of the elders.

Mr Chumwar is said to have sent the 12-year-old’s elder sister to visit relatives so that she could escape the ‘cut’.


[Clearly, cost was not the only factor.]


Daily Despatch online (South Africa)
December 23, 2009

Summer circumcision season deaths reach 23

THE death toll in the Eastern Cape’s summer circumcision season has risen to 23 following the deaths of another two boys, according to the provincial Health Department.

The first boy died at an initiation school in Maluti near Matatiele at the weekend while the other died yesterday afternoon in Lubisi village in Ngcobo, said spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo. “We don’t know what happened (to the initiate in Lubisi); he just ran out of the initiation school and was discovered dead by initiates and carers who chased after him,” said Kupelo.

An autopsy was to be conducted to establish the cause of death.

Kupelo said the initiation school was legal.

The other boy’s death was reported to the department yesterday. “We are investigating the cause of death and whether the school was legal or illegal,” he said.

The two deaths brought to 80 the total number of boys who have died in Eastern Cape initiation schools since the beginning of the year.

Kupelo said a total of 33 initiates were currently being treated at Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.

The department was recruiting more local people to help in “fighting these illegal circumcision schools”.

“We appeal to parents, community members and initiates to realise that if they don’t go for safer circumcisions they will die.”

[And if they do go for safer circumcision, they may still die.]


The Telegraph (London)
December 16, 2009

South African boys dying to become men through traditional circumcision

The lucky ones survive with mutilated penises and shameful scars for the rest of their lives. Ninety have lost their penises entirely in the last 15 years.

By Sibongile Khumalo, in Libode for AFP

In the Eastern Cape province, the ethnic Xhosa boys graduate to manhood through a sacrosanct ritual of circumcision.

But every year, the custom among the country's second-largest ethnic group sees young initiates die of complications from botched circumcisions by ill-trained traditional surgeons.

Boys still flock to traditional initiation schools in the bush, because the faster and less painful medical method can result in a lifetime of rejection.

"When you are uncircumcised regardless of your age, society will never regard you as a man, you will always be a boy. No one wants to live with that," said Athenkosi Mtirara, who is about to undergo the procedure.

Mtirara says he wanted to follow in the footsteps of all the men in his family who have been through the ritual.

"In my family no one has ever died from a circumcision gone wrong. My older brother has counselled me about things to avoid in order to have a smooth operation," said the 18 year-old.

After completing the circumcision rites, Mtirara will dispose of all his old clothes, a symbol of beginning his new life as man.

But if he fails to complete the course or ends up in hospital, he will live with the stigma of not being man enough.

More than 200 boys have died from botched circumcisions in the last 15 years, and 90 have lost their penises, according to the department of health.

"This is a very large number, given the fact that these deaths are concentrated in one region," said Sizwe Kupelo, spokesman for the Eastern Cape department of health.

As a general policy, South Africa is starting to encourage circumcision for men, which has been shown to halve their risk of contracting HIV - a major goal in the country with more Aids cases than any other.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini announced last week that he wanted to revive the practice among South Africa's largest ethnic group, in order to fight HIV.

The challenge is how to reconcile traditional practices with modern medicine and the law.

Kupelo blames the deaths in the Eastern Cape on uncertified traditional surgeons, particularly in rural areas "who have no idea how to cut the boys and take care of them while they heal".

"Boys are only sent to hospitals when it's too late. There is also pressure to complete the process," said Kupelo.

In June, a 16-year-old boy was admitted to hospital with a rotting penis, after developing an infection which was ignored by his traditional surgeon.

"The majority of the boys who have had their penises amputated usually end up committing suicide. They can't live with the shame," said Kupelo.

Traditional tools are used to cut the foreskin of the boy's manhood, without anaesthetic or sterilising equipment.

The surgeons receive no particular training; it is an "art" passed down within families from generation to generation.

After the skin has been cut, boys spend up to four weeks healing while learning about social values and the responsibilities of being an adult.

With limited access to food and water, health authorities say boys often suffer dehydration and even bleed to death.

Eight years ago, South Africa passed a law that sets the legal age for circumcision at 18. But boys eager to prove their manhood as young as 15 still seek the practice from bogus surgeons who are willing to flout the law.

Fake surgeons charge a fee as little as 100 rand (£8), but a bottle of brandy or a fowl can be accepted as payment.

In his book, A Man Who Is Not a Man, which tackles the pain and stigma that comes with botched circumcision, Thando Mgqolozana describes this secretive ritual as a story of hurt and suffering.

"Some of the survivors get ostracised from their community because they did not complete the rite of passage in the expected way.

"They too, because of their supposed failure, hide in silence, as though silence was a sanctuary," said Mgqolozana, who has gone through the ritual himself.

In November, the health department held a summit to urge traditional leaders in the region to help stop the deaths and mutilation of the initiates, by taking up practices as simple as sterilising knives.

"We tried to make them understand that as government we do not want to take away their custom. All we want is the application of health standards in the process to end deaths," said Kupelo.


News24 (South Africa)
December 17, 2009

21 die at initiation schools

Cape Town - The death toll in the Eastern Cape's summer circumcision season now stands at 21, the provincial health department said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said it had emerged that four more boys died at illegal initiation schools last weekend.

The schools were in the Mthatha area, at Gompo in East London, and at Ndakana outside King William's Town.

He said of the total number of deaths so far, five victims were from the Libode-Ngqeleni area, four from Mthatha, three from Cathcart, three at Lusikisiki, two from Butterworth, and one each from Sterkspruit, Gompo, Whittlesea and Ndakana.

Autopsies would be conducted for all the deaths that happened outside hospitals, Kupelo said.

On Wednesday health department officials had rescued 18 youths from illegal schools in the Maclear area.

The youths, suffering from complaints including dehydration, septicaemia and gangrene, were taken to hospitals in Maclear and Mthatha.

Kupelo said a total of 33 initiates were currently being treated at Mthatha's Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.


IOL News (South Africa)
December 15, 2009

Circumcision death toll mounts

Two more would-be initiates have died in the Eastern Cape, bringing this season's circumcision toll to 17, the provincial health department said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the deaths were reported at the Mpheko and Ngangelizwe villages in the Mthatha area over the weekend.

Both deaths occurred at illegal initiation schools.

The causes of death had yet to be established, he said.

Most initiation fatalities occur as a result of either infected wounds or dehydration.

The provincial health department has been waging a campaign against illegal schools, which are responsible for scores of deaths every year.


IOL News (South Africa)
December 11, 2009

E Cape circumcision toll at 14

Cape Town - The death toll in the Eastern Cape's summer circumcision season has risen to 14, the Eastern Cape health department said on Friday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said a would-be initiate died at an illegal circumcision school at Cradock on Friday morning.

The cause of death was not yet known, but the department would conduct post mortems on all circumcision victims.

Kupelo also said a 17-year-old boy was arrested in Libode, Transkei, on Thursday night after allegedly circumcising two 18-year-olds.

The circumcised youths were being treated at St Barnabas Hospital, and the boy would appear in court probably on Monday. * Initiates assaulted*

He said police were on Friday preparing to arrest a traditional surgeon at Qweqwe village near Mthatha on charges of assaulting initiates and dealing in dagga.

The surgeon had reportedly severely assaulted one youth in his care, and had been forcing initiates to smoke dagga.

His license to practise circumcision, issued under the province's circumcision law, would be revoked, Kupelo said.

Another surgeon, this time running an illegal school, was arrested earlier this week at Mooiplaas near East London.

Kupelo said people had been asked to intervene following the apparent abduction of a youth from Kimberley, who was visiting relatives in the village of St Paul in the Matatiele area.

The youth was taken to a circumcision school, but none of his relatives were consulted.


December 11, 2009

Uganda bans female genital mutilation

Ugandan MPs have voted to outlaw female genital mutilation - also known as female circumcision. Anyone convicted of the practice, which involves cutting off a girl's clitoris, will face 10 years in jail or a life sentence if a victim dies. Rights groups welcomed the move, but urged awareness campaigns to ensure the centuries-old practice stops.

The BBC report that it is not officially condoned but is still practised in several rural areas. The act is still practised by the Sabiny, some Karamojong sub-groups and the Pokot in eastern Uganda and the Nubi people of West Nile.

Genital mutilation is seen in some countries as a way to ensure virginity and to make a woman suitable for marriage.

MP Alice Alaso said the move was "a very significant achievement".

"It's a very bad practice. It's cruel, it traumatises people, it's led children to drop out of school, it's a health hazard," she told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"This is a warning signal - whoever dares practice female genital mutilation will be subject to the law."

Another MP, Lulume Bayiga, said the law would liberate both men and women - who often face being ostracised for shunning the custom.

"Women will start for the first time to enjoy sex and it's going to do away with various diseases," he said.

According to the UN, about three million girls each year in Africa are at risk of genital mutilation, with more than 91 million girls and women living with the consequences of the procedure.

These include bleeding, shock, infections and a higher rate of death for new-born babies.


National Post (Canada)
December 10, 2009

Prosecutors seek jail for dad who botched son's circumcision

VANCOUVER -- A B.C. man who botched the circumcision of his four-year-old son -- a few years after managing to infect his own penis while circumcising himself -- should be jailed for 12 to 24 months, a prosecutor says.

A sentencing hearing began on Thursday for the Lower Mainland man, who called the case against him a "miscarriage of justice."

The man, who can only be identified by the initials D.J.W., was convicted of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after the April 2007 incident.

B.C. Supreme Court Madam Justice Marion Allan found that D.J.W. had given his son honey wine before placing him on some garbage bags on the kitchen floor.

He told his son the circumcision would grant DJ "extra special protection from God" and allow him to eat Passover lamb, ice cream and that the boy could then pick all the movies he wanted for a week.

Wielding a razor blade, the father tried to cut away the foreskin on the boy's penis.

After making several cuts over a cutting board, the father sprinkled an ash-like powder called Wonder Dust on his son. The substance is normally used to treat wounds for race horses and other animals and is not deemed fit for use on humans.

The boy was later taken to hospital for treatment and the circumcision was completed.

On Thursday, the father reacted angrily to questioning by prosecutor Daniel Porte about whether he would be willing to do another circumcision.

"You're just taking advantage of me because I'm poor," said D.J.W. "You're taking advantage of me because I didn't have money to compel rabbis and other experts to come here and testify. What you're doing is rotten and wicked. This is a miscarriage of justice."

D.J.W.'s mother raised him as a Jehovah's Witness, but he left the church. He now follows the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and believes circumcisions are required for religious reasons.

In late 2004 or early 2005, DJW circumcised himself, using Band-Aids, peroxide and a roll of gauze and a clear plastic ring, which he believed would act as an anesthetic. He cut himself with a razor blade. The procedure infected his penis.

The prosecutor is asking for three years probation in addition to the jail term.

Doug Christie, the father's lawyer, said he would be looking for a period of probation with counselling provisions. The judge said she wouldn't rule out a conditional sentence.

The judge said Thursday that a psychiatric report ordered by the court was full of errors and needed to be done again.

The hearing was adjourned to March 25 to allow a new psychiatric report to be prepared.

Earlier story


IOL News (South Africa)
December 9, 2009

Police probe ninth circumcision death

A 21-year-old man died after a botched circumcision in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape police said on Wednesday.

"The boy was found dead at the illegal circumcision school and we have opened an inquest docket and are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death," Captain Mduduzi Godlwana said.

No arrest had been made yet.

The province's health department said the death toll for the current circumcision season, only a week old, was already at nine.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said 20 youths were being treated at the Mthatha General Hospital for circumcisions that had gone wrong, and nine at hospitals in East London.

IOL News (South Africa)
December 8, 2009

Circumcision Act to be amended

Cape Town - Eastern Cape parents who do not properly care for their sons when they are being circumcised will face fines and even jail in future, the province's health department warned on Tuesday.

Amendments to the province's Traditional Circumcision Act would also target would-be initiates themselves, with penalties for attending illegal circumcision schools, spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said.

The changes would be introduced in the legislature early next year, and should be operational by the start of the winter circumcision season in June.

Kupelo was speaking as three boys from the Mqanduli area of Transkei were being rushed to hospital in Mthatha with gangrenous penises following botched circumcisions at an illegal school.

Nine already dead

The death toll for the current season, only a week old, was already nine, he said.

He said 20 youths were already being treated at the Mthatha General Hospital for circumcisions gone wrong, and nine at hospitals in East London.

"We are going to amend the act to give it bite," he said.

"We can not afford to lose lives the way we are doing."

Sometimes, parent waited weeks before reporting that their sons were experiencing problems.

"Only when they see the boy is dying, they call. They even go to the extent of hiding these boys away from the authorities," he said.

Surgeon to lose licence

The new-look act would also clearly define the role of the custodians of the ritual, such as traditional leaders, a role that the department could not be expected to fill.

Kupelo said the department intended to revoke the licence of a traditional surgeon at Fairfield just outside Mthatha, over his poor record.

A number of youths that he circumcised had lost the tips of their penises.

He also appealed to youths undergoing circumcision not to stop taking chronic medication for conditions such as diabetes, tuberculosis or HIV.

"They should not be forced to stop treatment, because that would be very dangerous for their health," he said.

"If they are being forced, they should immediately report that to authorities so we can intervene."

This caution applied to be legal and illegal schools, he said.


The Sowetan
December 8, 2009

2 boys die after ritual

TWO boys died in botched circumcisions in Ngqeleni yesterday while two others were admitted to a local hospital, the Eastern Cape health department said.

The condition of the pair in hospital was unknown.

Since last week there have been eight circumcision-related deaths, with one a suicide.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said health officials had been sent to two areas in the province where reports of botched circumcisions had surfaced.

"One report is of 16 boys losing their genitals in Mthatha and the other is of 100 boys being kept by traditional surgeons in Willowvale."


Daily Nation (Kenya)
December 7, 2009

Pregnant girls circumcised

Two pregnant girls were forcefully circumcised in Pokot Central District as the season for the rite got under way in the North Rift region.

According to Ms Lilian Plapan, the chairperson of Setat Women Organisation, the girls aged 15 and 16 years were circumcised at the weekend in Kaptabuk village in preparation for their marriage.

According to the Pokot community, it is a taboo to marry uncircumcised women and girls who fall pregnant have to be initiated before giving birth.

Mrs Plapan said a Form Three student at Kaibichbich Girls Secondary School ran away from home and sought refuge at a rescue centre for girls escaping from forced circumcision and early marriage in Makutano township, West Pokot District.

Some 140 under-age girls have been circumcised in the larger West Pokot District since the season started last week.

Anti-FGM crusaders have reported that 30 girls have been circumcised in Kapenguria and Kong’elai, 48 in Alale and Kiwawa, and 66 in Chesegon and Sigor.

In Marakwet, three girls were rescued from the rite in Tirap and Embobut.


In a related development, an organisation that fights the practice has written to the United Nations to force the government to intervene and save 350 girls expected to be circumcised in North Rift this season.



The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand)
December 8, 2009

Action may follow botched circumcision

A doctor who botched the circumcision of a wriggling four-year-old, severing an artery in the boy's penis, may face further disciplinary action, after a report by the Health and Disability Commissioner was released today.

The Press would like to speak to the family involved in this story. If you know who they are, or can help, please call 03 9432 827 or email reporters@press.co.nz. The family and boy involved would NOT be named.

The botched operation, which saw the boy require emergency hospitalisation, was performed at an unnamed medical centre in January by a general practitioner, assisted by a doctor unqualified to practice in New Zealand and the doctor's wife.

The commissioner's report recommended the doctor in charge of the operation review which patients he performed operations on _ ''giving particular consideration whether he should undertake circumcisions in boys aged older than six months''. [- leaving boys younger than that at his mercy?]

''This case illustrates what can happen when a doctor is unfamiliar with, or chooses not to follow, recommended guidelines for a surgical procedure. It also highlights why patients (or their parents) need to be provided with adequate information so they can make an informed choice and give their informed consent.''

The case was referred to the commissioners' director of proceedings, to decide whether action should be taken.

Copies of the report were also forwarded to the New Zealand Medical Council, which certifies doctors to practice, and the Ministry of Health.

On arriving at the medical centre, the parents and the young patient were directed to the waiting room, with the doctor busy performing a circumcision on another patient, a 14-year-old boy.

The family were concerned to hear the screams of the older boy.

The clinic's manager, and wife of the operating doctor, told them, although the 14-year-old had been given the maximum dose of morphine, he was ''too sensitive and could not handle the pain'', the report said. [Yes, blame the victim.]

The boy's mother told the commissioner the child was taken into the operating room, was given an injection, then cut into seconds later, before the painkiller had time to take effect.

Seeing her son in pain caused the mother to start crying, at which point she was ordered out of the room by the doctor, apparently for passing her anxiety onto the child and disturbing him. About 10 minutes later, the boy's father was also ejected from the room.

''We could hear our son crying for help and begging us not to leave him there by himself. He kept asking them to let us in but they wouldn't listen,'' she said.

After about an hour, the boy's father walked in to the operating room to see the doctor apparently talking to another doctor on the phone about how he didn't know what was going on. He saw the clinic manager and the unlicensed doctor were holding the boy ''as if they were holding a wild animal'', the report said.

About an hour-and-a-half after the boy went into the operating room, the doctors called an ambulance, due to uncontrollable bleeding.

The doctor, however, said the boy was subdued and calm, while the father complained of dizzy spells and became pale, and was asked to leave the room, lest he collapse during the operation.

He did admit the child became ''extremely difficult to handle'' and, due to the strength of the four-year-old's pelvic muscles, enlisted the aid of two people to hold him still.

''It's really difficult because the pelvic muscles are tough and the forearm muscles are not that strong,'' the doctor said.


IOL News
December 6, 2009

18 rescued from illegal initiation schools

Eighteen initiates, some already ill, were rescued from illegal circumcision schools in Libode, Eastern Cape health said on Sunday.

Spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department's rescue operation followed the deaths of two boys in an initiation school in Butterworth in the past week.

The first group of nine boys was found in Impindweni village and rushed to hospital for treatment following botched circumcisions. The other nine boys were found in Umthombe village also suffering from illnesses following botched circumcisions


"It is a traumatic experience for our health workers when these boys arrive in hospitals, some with their penises falling off, after being butchered. Something needs to be done at community level," Kupelo said.


Meanwhile, a man was beaten to death in an argument while visiting an illegal school in Emfundisweni village over the weekend. Several people were arrested and would appear in the Lusikisiki Magistrate's Court this week on a charge of murder. - Sapa


Evening Standard
December 7, 2009

Circumcision row GP did not meet care standards

A doctor who performed circumcision operations did not provide the standard of care expected of a medical professional, a General Medical Council (GMC) panel said.

The Fitness to Practise panel found aspects of Dr Aziz Chaudry's care did not meet standards but has yet to decide if his fitness to practise is impaired as a consequence.

The panel met in central London to decide if allegations made against Dr Chaudry, based at a private clinic in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, were proved by evidence given earlier in the hearing.

Its conclusions said panel members were satisfied that Dr Chaudry had not adequately explained what the surgery involved to the parents of five patients or that cutting might be involved.

The doctor, who was trained in Pakistan and claimed to have more than 20 years' experience, was said to have provided information about possible complications but not adequate warnings.

The panel concluded Dr Chaudry had not followed GMC guidance to explain the benefits and risks of the circumcision procedure so had not acted in the best interests of the children.

The standard of care was not what was expected of a registered medical practitioner.

Consent forms used for three patients were also criticised for failing to make it clear what information parents had been given and that they had understood the potential risks before signing.

Dr Chaudry was said to have failed to keep full patient records although the lack of notes describing the way a local anaesthetic was administered to three patients was described as a "minor omission".

The doctor was also criticised for failing to inform the GPs of three patients that he had performed a circumcision.

The panel accepted as true an allegation that Dr Chaudry had told the mother of one boy that "it was not possible" that he had an infection but did not agree that his failure to examine the boy was inadequate as the child had seen another doctor.

A claim that in a follow-up examination Dr Chaudry cleared a blood clot from a four-year-old boy's penis without washing his hands or wearing gloves was not contested but the panel said the doctor's claim that he had cleaned his hands with an alcohol gel while still in his car was "not credible".

The allegations against the doctor were made after complaints from the Muslim families of five boys - three of them brothers - between the ages of 22 months and seven years.

Dr Chaudry admitted failures in relation to his note keeping after it emerged he had not written down the dosage of anaesthetics he had administered.

But he denied the remaining allegations of misconduct.

The doctor performed some of the circumcisions using the Plastibell technique which was supposedly a "non-invasive" form of the procedure.

The panel will meet again on August 2 next year to hear further submissions before it decides if Dr Chaudry is fit to practise.

[Don't rush things, guys. 2020 will be soon enough.]

Earlier story


December 6, 2009

Zulus to fight AIDS with circumcision

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The king of South Africa's Zulus wants to revive the practice of circumcision among his people to help fight the spread of AIDS, the Sapa news agency reported Sunday.

A number of studies have shown that circumcising men can halve their chances of contracting the HIV virus and the WHO has recommended including circumcision among anti-AIDS strategies since 2007.

"In the context of the fight against HIV and AIDS I should announce my intention to revive the practice of circumcision amongst young men," King Goodwill Zwelithini said on Saturday during a traditional festival. [We may take it that King Goodwill Zwelithini is an old man...]

Zulus practised ritual circumcision until the start of the 19th century, when the legendary king Shaka put a stop to it because it deprived him of young warriors for months at a time [and sometimes forever].

The authorities in South Africa's north-east KwaZulu-Natal province are now in talks with Zwelithini about the practicalities of reintroducing circumcision.

"Circumcision will assist in the fight against the pandemic, although on its own does not prevent the spread of sexual transmitted diseases," the head of KwaZulu-Natal's regional government, Zweli Mkhize, said.


And this throws claims that circumcision will make a significant dent in HIV infections, into a, um, cocked hat

The Telegraph (London)
November 30, 2009

One in five HIV infections caused by medical staff

By William Payne and Mike Pflanz

One in five HIV sufferers in Africa was infected by medical staff using dirty needles and clinical equipment, new research has found.

Nearly five million new cases annually are caused by erratic health practices, according to the authors of a series of papers in a publication backed by the Royal Society of Medicine.

The findings raise questions the international effort to combat HIV and Aids, which focuses largely on trying to stop virus transmission through unsafe sex or from mothers to their unborn children.

Researchers accused governments of ignoring up the problem so as not undermine existing health schemes.

John Potterat, an epidemiologist and one of the editors of the International Journal of STD and HIV, said: "Governments and international health agencies have deliberately chosen to ignore the evidence.

"The studies now show directly that many Africans are at risk from a wide range of common skin puncturing practices that may involve contaminated instruments and materials.

"By uncritically accepting the orthodox view that HIV is almost exclusively transmitted by sex, public health workers and researchers are complicit in prolonging avoidable suffering."

He and 11 other scientists will publish a series of papers in the journal on Tuesday, to coincide with World Aids Day.

More than 22 million people living in Africa have the HIV virus, which leads to Aids. An estimated 2 million died in 2008.

In one of the studies, patients at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in south eastern Nigeria who contracted HIV were significantly more likely to have had blood tests, vaccinations, blood transfusions or surgical procedures. Half of the patients who received tetanus vaccinations reported seeing needles being reused.

Another study in the journal, published by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, an affiliate organisation of the Royal Society of Medicine, looked at rates of HIV infection among children in Swaziland.

HIV infections there are the highest in the world at 26 per cent of the adult population, reducing the country's average life expectancy to 32 years.

Using data from the Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey, the authors found that one in five Swazi children aged two to 12 who are infected with the virus have HIV-negative mothers.

These children had experienced many more medical injections and vaccinations than their uninfected brothers or sisters. Most of these related to anti-malaria health programmes.

Africans are subject to a much higher proportion of injections and blood tests than patients in the West, according to a 1999 study for the World Health Organisation.

That research found that a wide range of common symptoms such as colds, ear infections, fatigue and tonsillitis were treated with injections rather than oral medication.

The study concluded that at least 50 per cent of these were unsafe, with needles being used repeatedly on one patient after another, without sterilisation.

"HIV priorities have been and continue to be misplaced," said Stuart Brody, a professor at the University of the West of Scotland, in Paisley, who has researched the spread of HIV in Kenya through tetanus vaccinations.

"The mindset is to pretend this is not an issue, perhaps because of the received wisdom or because you don't get funding if you question it, but this does not save lives." But Dr Anna Thomas, head of economic and social development at ActionAid Kenya, said: "The use of unsterilised needles is one of the many issues affecting HIV/Aids in Africa.

"But the vast majority of the spread of HIV/Aids is down to unsafe sex between men and women and that is where we need to continue to focus our efforts." [Well that "vast majority" can now be no more than 80% - less the proportion due to shared IV drug needle use and male-male sex.]


Bizarre beliefs about what circumcision does - so what else is new?

November 30, 2009

Male circumcision helps Africa fight AIDS, but it isn't the sole solution

WAKULA BEACH, Lake Victoria, Kenya — Mfangano Island on Lake Victoria, two hours by motorboat from mainland Kenya, is a popular destination spot for honeymooners on safari: a verdant fishing outpost without electricity or running water. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

By 2007, three random clinical trials [GW1] in sub-Saharan Africa showed that circumcision reduced the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by 50 to 60 percent.

The reason for the lower HIV infection rates for circumcised men is not fully understood. [Shouldn't it be understood before mass circumcision programmes are undertaken?] Some scientists say that the skin around the head of an uncircumcised penis is more porous. Others say that the moist environment under the foreskin invites bacterial infection, which, combined with poor hygiene, can induce lesions through which the virus can pass. Other researchers cite the large number of HIV-susceptible immune cells on the foreskin. [How about, poor hygiene leads to infections that are treated with injections using dirty needles? ]

In 2007 the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized circumcision as a new AIDS prevention measure, opening the floodgates to American funding. That year, $16 million from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) went to circumcision programs in Africa, with $26 million in 2008. Higher numbers are likely on the way. Kenya’s campaign is the most ambitious at an estimated cost of $85 million over the next five years. Already, 50,000 Kenyans have been voluntarily circumcised, most of them fishermen. Researchers estimate that if we were to launch circumcision campaigns across the continent we could save 2.7 million lives over the next 20 years, or roughly the number of Africans who lose their lives to AIDS every 15 months. [... assuming the supposed protection conferred on 73 men in trials in three different African countries can be extraoikated to the whole of the rest of the African population.]

... In Kenya, in particular, circumcision is deeply tied up with male identity. The Luo tribe are the third largest ethnic group in Kenya, estimated to make up 13 percent of the country's 39 million people. The Luos do not traditionally circumcise.


Along Lake Victoria, fishermen contemplating circumcision say that in addition to the health benefits, questions of manhood were very much on their minds. Fishermen said that circumcision had made them "perform better," feel more virile and last longer during sex.

“Some take drugs to have sex, but I just cut the foreskin,” said one 30-year-old fisherman, Julius Soba. “Circumcision is my stimulant!”

[This almost suggests he has no idea what circumcision is - perhaps that he lacerates his own foreskin before each sexual act (stranger things are known), in which case his risk of HIV is vastly increased.]



The Malaysian Insider
December 4, 2009

DAP to host circumcision ceremony to win over Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — In an attempt to win over the support of Muslim voters, the Chinese-dominated DAP will host a circumcision ceremony for 75 Muslim males in Perak this weekend.

"For the first time in history, DAP will host a mass circumcision ceremony at a mosque as a sign or respect to Islam and to prove that the party's struggle goes beyond racial and religious lines," said Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming in a statement today.

The circumcision of young males is a common practice among the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, but here it is often seen as part of Malay culture.


"This is our first time, and 75 young Muslim males will go through the sacred ritual in full tradition," he said.

He said similar event will also be held in Beruas, to be hosted by Perak DAP chairman Ngeh Koo Ham.

The state DAP was part of a coalition that ruled Perak until February this year, without the strong support of the Malay-Muslim community.



December 3, 2009

SOUTH AFRICA: Male circumcision: why the delay?

JOHANNESBURG, 3 December 2009 (PlusNews) - Countries all over Africa are at various stages of developing and implementing policies to roll out mass male circumcision to prevent HIV, but until recently South Africa has done little more than talk about a strategy of its own.

... Prof Rebecca Upton, of the University of Botswana, told "a cautionary tale" based on research she conducted during a national campaign to promote male circumcision for HIV prevention. Many young men she interviewed said being circumcised was a free pass to having unprotected sex, while some young women believed that if their partner was circumcised he was likely to be HIV-negative.

"We have heard that if you get circumcised you will be safe, then you are protected - taking the blanket off is important if you want to be able to have sex. Most girls who want a baby, they also want you to be circumcised now," a 19-year-old male university student told her. ["the blanket" = the foreskin - or the condom?]

"I'm not arguing with science," Upton said. "But we need to keep listening to very important underlying cultural and social factors as we move forward with these male circumcision campaigns."


Star-Tribune (Wyoming)
December 2, 2009


Murder case moves ahead

By WILLIAM BROWNING - Star-Tribune staff writer

Just before noon on Nov. 15, Bethany McGehee went shopping at the Eastridge Mall with her daughter and friend, leaving her two young sons at home with their father.

Preparing the family for a church service later that evening, she pushed her bedroom door open in search of her infant son. What she found was a horrifying scene that has led to her husband, Samuel Eugene McGehee, being charged with the murder of their 9-month-old son, Joseph.

Authorities say Samuel McGehee covered his son's head with a coat after the child wouldn't take a nap after being fed. An autopsy revealed that the boy, who had been left alone in the room for roughly four hours, died from asphyxiation.

... Another disturbing incident involving alleged child abuse in the McGehee household came to light during Tuesday's hearing.

A detective testified that in March 2008, McGehee, concerned about the family's financial state, decided to circumcise his other son at home, using a filet knife.

"There was severe damage to the shaft of the penis," Detective Shawn Jenkins said. "There was a lot of skin removed."

The 3-month-old's scrotum was also lacerated during the procedure, Jenkins said. The child has subsequently endured extensive reconstructive surgeries, and more are expected.

On Tuesday, McGehee was also formally charged with felony child abuse for the 2008 incident.


Botched circumcision

Jenkins also testified Tuesday that on March 29, 2008, he responded to a call from the Wyoming Medical Center about an infant having been circumcised at home.

On that day, McGehee told investigators he had consulted with several doctors who said they wouldn't circumcise the then-3-month-old infant until he was at least 9 months old. The dangers, Jenkins said doctors told McGehee, included excessive bleeding of blood vessels in the penis.

Roughly 30 minutes after trying to carry out the procedure at home using a filet knife, McGehee and his wife took the child to the hospital because he would not stop bleeding, Jenkins said.

Jenkins testified that during his interview with McGehee about the circumcision, he found McGehee "very emotional" and "distraught."

"I didn't see any of that with Joseph," Jenkins said, referring to the other son who died.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Blonigen declined to discuss why McGehee wasn't prosecuted for the circumcision incident when it occurred.

[Perhaps because it's not illegal in the US (unlike South Africa) for anyone to circumcise a boy - as long as they don't pretend to be a doctor.]



IOL News (South Africa)
November 30, 2009

Man held after illegal circumcision

Transkei villagers handed a man over to police after he allegedly illegally circumcised a 19-year-old youth, the Eastern Cape health department said on Monday.

Spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the incident happened on Sunday.

The two had apparently attended a traditional ceremony at the village of Mgcwe in the Ngqamakwe district, where alcohol had been available.

On the way back the man circumcised the youth.

Members of the local community caught the man, tied him up, and called the police.

He will appear in court soon.


IOL News (South Africa)
December 1, 2009

Department flooded with circumcision claims

The Eastern Cape health department says it is being "inundated" with calls about illegal circumcisions.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said on Tuesday that among the calls received from community members was a complaint about the circumcision of five boys at Mthombe in the Libode district.

This was the village where two boys died last year following illegal circumcisions.

In the Mqanduli area south of Mthatha, community members had phoned to report that four boys were circumcised there on Monday.

'This is a recipe for disaster'
It had since been learned that the total was in fact seven. Police were searching for the surgeon who performed the operation, who was on the run.

"This is a recipe for disaster," Kupelo said. "This will bring up the number of deaths.

"We appeal to the community to assist us to put an end to illegal circumcision."

The Eastern Cape suffers dozens of circumcision-related deaths every year, largely from dehydration or infected wounds.


Philadelphia Inquirer
November 27, 2009

New hospice center to serve severely disabled

By Stacey Burling

Elwyn, a Delaware County nonprofit that provides services for people with disabilities, is embarking on its first major new building in 19 years.

The building will have Bruce Wechsler's name on it.

His parents, Alan and Laura Wechsler of Center City, see Bruce Wechsler Hall as a way for their son, who was severely disabled as a child by a staph infection, to be remembered....

Alan and Laura Weschler with their son Bruce (center), for whom the new Media building will be named.

Born healthy, he developed a staph infection after his circumcision. The infection spread through his blood to his brain. He had to have 14 operations, including one that removed half his brain.

His mother estimates that his brain operates at the level of a first grader, but he has far more sophisticated social skills. Alan Wechsler described his son as happy and outgoing.

When he was younger, Bruce Wechsler could run and play basketball. Now 52, he needs a wheelchair and is paralyzed in one arm but is not yet sick enough to move to the building that will bear his name.

"I think that he's going to have to eventually move into that facility," his mother said.

[There is no necessary conntection between Bruce's circumcision and his staph. infection, but it is certainly plausible. Babies get staph infections for other reasons and this might have happened anyway. The fact remains that circumcision is unnecessary, and this might not have happened if he had not been circumcised.]


Someone at last is brave enough to say it!

Daily Telegraph (London)
November 27, 2009

Circumcising boys for religious reasons 'could breach Human Rights Act'

Circumcising boys for religious reasons is akin to pulling out their fingernails and could be a breach of the Human Rights Act, an academic has warned.

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor

Dr David Shaw, lecturer in ethics at Glasgow University, argues that circumcising boys for no medical reason is unethical.

He wrote in the journal Clinical Ethics that any doctor who does perform circumcision without a medical reason could be guilty of negligence and in breach of the Human Rights Act as the child cannot consent to the operation and it can be argued it is not in their best interests.

Dr Shaw wrote: "Imagine a situation where two adherents of a minority religion ask their doctor to pull off their son's thumbnails, as this is part of the religion in which they want to bring up their son.

"The pain will be transient, and the nails will grow back, but the parents claim that it is an important rite of passage. I think it is reasonable to say that the doctor would send them packing.

"In the case of non-therapeutic [or therapeutic] circumcision, the foreskin will not grow back; why should this procedure be treated differently simply because of the weight of religious tradition?"

The controversial view is likely to cause a storm among Jewish populations who routinely circumcise boys when infants.

He said guidance to the medical profession on the issue from the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association are [sic] flawed and should be revised.

He added that the only medical reason for circumsing [sic] men is that there is some evidence it may prevent HIV in countries where cases are very high but that will not be relevant for doctors working in Britain.

To the abstract of Dr Shaw's paper


Daily Gazette (Essex) [includes picture]
November 20, 2009

Clacton circumcision row GP claims ops weren't botched

A GP accused of making mistakes during circumcision operations insisted his practise was “entirely acceptable”.

Five children had to be hospitalised in the space of a week, after urologist Dr Aziz Chaudry allegedly botched the £150 procedures, at his Clacton surgery.

But the doctor claimed there would always be “a degree of pain and discomfort” for the boys.

At a General Medical Council hearing, James Counsel, defending, said: “Dr Chaudry plainly has the necessary skills and experience to perform procedures such as this.

“He used appropriate measures, including the appropriate measure and use of anaesthetic to minimise – the critical word here – the pain and discomfort, not to avoid it altogether.

“There is a degree of pain and discomfort in all operations like this.”

Dr Chaudry faces 33 charges in front of his governing body, and could be thrown out of the profession if he is found guilty of misconduct.

The mother of three boys treated on August 8, 2006, at the surgery, was assured there were “no risks involved”, the GMC was told, and the procedure was not fully explained, it is alleged.

Chaudry told the hearing he explained the operation to the boys’ mother, as the father could not speak English.

Mr Counsel explained: “Dr Chaudry did what was possible.

“He went through the procedures to the mothers perfectly, fully and properly. He left it to the mothers to speak to the fathers, and explain what he told them.

“He could not have done any more.”

The circumcision specialist is also accused of failing to inform the boys’ GPs of the operation, and failing to properly record any aftercare given.

However, the hearing was told Dr Chaudry did not know it was expected, after carrying out such a stand-alone procedure.

However, he did admit a “failure” to keep proper records of follow-up visits, or calls.

Mr Counsel said: “He has, of course, acknowledged his practise fell down, in relation to the failure to make proper records of aftercare visits, and contact from parents. He accepts that.

“But, save in respect of that, my submission is there is nothing in all of the allegations which are said to fall below the standard to be expected, and that his practise is entirely acceptable, or much better than that.”

Dr Chaudry, who is now a GP at the Old Road Surgery, in Clacton, denies inappropriate and inadequate care in each case. The GMC panel has now retired to consider the facts of the case.


IOL News
November 18, 2009

Another E Cape circumcision death

The Eastern Cape has recorded its second death of the summer circumcision season, the province's health department said on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old youth died on Wednesday morning at an illegal intiation school in the Butterworth area of Transkei, spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.

The cause of death was not known yet.

The school had been closed down by health authorities.

Another 19-year-old died of dehydration in the same area earlier this month.

Kupelo said the department would send a team to the area to close down other illegal schools.



The Mirror (London)
November 17, 2009

Ritual [actually, non-therapeutic] circumcisions 'illegal'

Exclusive by Stephen Moyes (stephen.moyes@mirror.co.uk)

DOCTORS performing ritual circumcisions on children face financial ruin, disciplinary action and even jail.

A test-case being brought by a 20-year-old man circumcised as a baby could, if successful, open the floodgates to claimants.

The unnamed man is to sue a GP still practising in Greater London for physical and psychological damage.

He will argue that circumcision on a child without a medical requirement is mutilation.

His father took him to be circumcised shortly after birth in accordance with his own religious beliefs.

Now the father is mortified at the mental and physical state of his adult son, and is supporting the case.

The father has documents that prove which GP carried out the circumcision.

Performing surgery on a person without adequate consent constitutes battery in law, which can be prosecuted in the civil courts.

But given the lack of consent the surgery also constitutes an assault which can be prosecuted under criminal law - meaning a guilty verdict could lead to a prison term.

The test-case is being supported by a legal firm, leading urologist, child protection agency and circumcision awareness body The National Organisation of Restoring Men (Norm). [actually NORM-UK]

Norm spokesman David Smith said: "Surgery is defined as 'manual or instrumental treatment of injuries or disorders of the body'. If no injury or disorder is present, then it can't be surgery.

"Circumcision is a mutilation, which is defined as 'to injure, to make imperfect by the removal of a part'. It is shocking that the NHS is responsible for mutilating children.

"We support a man's right to choose a ritual circumcision for himself, but not for anyone else.

"Adult circumcision is a straight-foward operation which can be undertaken in under 30 minutes under local anaesthetic. There is no excuse for forcing it on children.

"There is growing belief by many people that the only way to make doctors put their scalpels down is to take legal action. This is not about money, it's about protecting the next generation."

Some doctors privately charge up to s350 [sic £350?] for 'forced circumcision' of a baby brought to them by their parents.

Legal action can only be brought when the child reaches 18. There is then a three-year legal window in which they can take action against the GP.

Circumcision is a surgical procedure that can be performed on men and women and is done for a variety of reasons, some of them cultural or religious.

The General Medical Council does not have a public position on the issue of ritual male circumcision on children who cannot give informed consent.

A spokeswoman said: "We do not have general authority to determine public policy on issues that arise within medical practice - these are matters for society as a whole to determine, through the parliamentary process."

Katy Swaine, legal director of Child Rights Alliance for England, told the Mirror: "The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has made clear that female genital mutilation violates childrens rights and this position has been reflected in the banning of such procedures under UK legislation.

"The carrying out of circumcision procedures on young male children must also be examined in the context of childrens rights under the treaty - not least given the requirement for non-discrimination in the application of treaty rights.

"A body of medical opinion has for some time supported the view that most male circumcision procedures do not have a medical basis. As such, given the invasiveness of the procedure and the negative consequences suffered by some individuals, there is a strong argument that it should not be carried out without informed consent from the individual who is to undergo the procedure.

"It is only a matter of time before these issues are raised in the courts by those who have undergone the procedure as children and have suffered negative consequences. In the meantime it behoves the NHS, Department of Health, professional medical bodies and communities to examine this issue seriously, acknowledging and addressing its implications for childrens rights."

The individual bringing the test-case is collating evidence and financial and legal support and will launch it next year.

A solicitor close to the case said: "The action being brought against the doctor is more likely to lead to financial damage rather than prosecution, but it is complicated and nothing can be ruled out.

"Doctors performing 'forced circumcision' on a small minority of children are acting in defiance of general medical council and are effectively medical rebels.

"Most urologists will only perform a circumcision on someone who needs it, just like any form of amputation.

"This is not a straightforward case. Parents have the right to give consent but only when in the best interests of a child. I don't think any act involving cutting off half of a child's penis is in their best interests."


The litigant gave up, reportedly because he could not afford the case; it would have cost £10,000 [$US 15,600] just to do the research and the lawyer held out little hope of success.

A urologist also discouraged him, pointing out that "anything goes with circumcision", so it's hard to prove negligence or botching.



No ethical issues ...

Omaha World Herald
November 15, 2009

A solution on stem cells?

By Rick Ruggles

Scientists during the past three years have made quick progress toward creating cells that eventually could end the controversial research into human embryonic stem cells.

... Researchers are using mouse cells, rat cells and human cells of many sorts — skin, eye, fat, brain, liver and others — to find those that are the most effective to manipulate into embryonic-like stem cells.

... Opponents of embryonic stem cell research applaud the UNMC work on the new kinds of cells as a sign of the demise of human embryonic stem cell research there.

... Japanese researchers in 2006 discovered they could create human embryonic stem cell-like structures by placing certain genes into skin cells.

... Another of the 22 recent grant recipients is a Colorado State University microbiology professor, Dr. Jeffrey Wilusz, who is working with foreskin cells from infant penises. He obtains the tissue from tissue banks. “Essentially, any human cell is fair game. Any mouse cell is fair game,” he said. “The frontier is limitless. ... The potential for iPS cells from a therapeutic perspective is limitless.” ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

Contact the writer: 444-1123, rick.ruggles@owh.com


IOL News (South Africa)
November 12, 2009

Initiate's death blamed on dehydration

An initiate had died in Butterworth, in the Eastern Cape, apparently from dehydration, the police said on Thursday.

Captain Jackson Manatha said that 19-year-old Sonke Foca "is alleged to have dehydrated in his traditional hut on Wednesday".

"It is alleged that the deceased was circumcised by a professional traditional doctor (ingcibi) on Saturday," he said.

He added that a nurse had called an ambulance after she had noticed that he was very weak, but upon its arrival, Foca was already dead.



Today, msnbc.com
November 9, 2009

New debate on circumcision decision

A 3'01" discussion of circumcision that is only slightly biased towards it.

Reporter Tom Costello states unambiguously that most countries do not circumcise baby boys. Joel Stein makes it clear there was no way he would have chosen circumcision for his son if the family were not Jewish. "It's only the Jews and Muslims -- and Americans -- that do this, and everyone else is keeping it real." (Nobody ever wonders why the US is now alone in the developed world in doing this, and the claim that it's because US health care is better rings increasingly hollow.)

Doug Diekema of the AAP sounds neutral. He trots out the UTI and penile cancer arguments, but more weakly than in the past, and mentions risks but not harm.

Actual opposition to circumcision gets 18" of the the 3'01" (10%), in the form of a brief quote from Georgeanne Chapin.

Both female anchors of the show, Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry, admit that they had their sons circumcised. The younger, Curry, said she insisted on being there with her son through the procedure, that it was "so hard on him", and that the decision whether to circumcise was very tough. Vieira looks baffled (You mean it's a choice? And it hurts? "I wasn't there for the actual 'nipping' or whatever you want to call it") but says she thought a big reason parents choose it is that "dads want their son to look the way they look, so the son can identify with the father." Then it is Curry's turn to look skeptical, and say that's "not a good enough reason".


Vos Iz Neias? (New York)
November 9, 2009

Jerusalem - Mohel Sentenced to Community Service for Botched Bris

Jerusalem - The birth of a son to a young couple from Israel’s Central Region turned into a string of nightmares when the mohel who performed the bris made a poor incision, causing severe injuries. As a result of the slip the infant had to undergo some ten operations and still requires further treatments.

During the bris the mohel bandaged the organ too tightly, causing excessive pressure. The infant cried all night and the next day. The worried parents called the mohel, who said he would come the next day, but did not arrive. The parents took the baby to the hospital, where doctors discovered how serious the damage was.

The Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court recently sentenced the mohel to six months’ community service and a fine of NIS 10,000 ($2,650).

“I would have been happy had the outcome been different. The money is not important and obviously this amount does not even cover the medications. But in my opinion they should have given him a jail sentence,” said the baby’s mother.


That's three small steps for cats ...

LA Times
November 7, 2009

California cities act to ban cat declawing

L.A. is among those rushing to prohibit the practice before a state law backed by a group of vets says they can't.

By Maria L. La Ganga and Anne Colby

Reporting from San Francisco and Beverly Hills - The law of unintended consequences has seldom been more clearly illustrated than by the catfight unfolding from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Veterinarians who did not want cities meddling in their business persuaded the state Legislature to bar local governments from banning the practice of declawing cats -- beginning in 2010.

Not wanting to be pushed around themselves, nearly half a dozen cities are rushing to prohibit the controversial procedure before the January deadline, striking a blow for rights both animal and municipal.

This week alone, the score was Cities 3, Vets 0.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 11 to 0 on Friday to ban declawing. Beverly Hills voted 5 to 0 on Thursday, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9 to 2 on Tuesday. The cities must finalize their votes in coming weeks. ...


BBC News
October 26, 2009

Circumcision 'left boys in agony'

A doctor offering £150 [$US230] circumcisions at his private clinic in Essex left young boys in agonising pain, a disciplinary panel has heard.

Dr Aziz Chaudry allegedly did not adequately ensure young boys were fully anaesthetised, The General Medical Council (GMC) was told.

He is also accused of not fully informing the families of the processes involved at his clinic in Clacton.

Dr Chaudry admits failures over notekeeping but denies misconduct.

The hearing was told young boys were restrained in pain.

One boy's family was told he may need plastic surgery to correct damage, the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel was told. Another boy, aged four, was taken to hospital after the operation.

Complaints from families
After one of the operations on a four-year-old in 2006, Dr Chaudry cleared a blood clot from the boy without washing his hands or wearing gloves, it was claimed.

The allegations against the doctor, who claimed to have more than 20 years' experience, were made after complaints from the Muslim families of five boys.

Dr Chaudry allowed two of the patients to leave hospital "when it was inappropriate to do so", the hearing was told.

A mother of three brothers to undergo surgery was told "words to the effect of there were no risks involved...", counsel for the GMC Nimi Bruce said. Yet days afterwards, the woman's 22-month-old was taken to hospital with an infection.

The hearing was told Dr Chaudry was "very dismissive" about the turn of events.

Another child, seven-year-old "Patient E" started to yell with pain in the days after surgery and had a three-day stay in Colchester Hospital.

The hearing continues.


Washington Post
Oct 19, 2009

Intact America's open letter to the Washington Post





American parents trust their pediatricians and rely on them for the best advice in caring for their children. As a matter of ethics, that advice cannot include neonatal male circumcision-a medically unnecessary, potentially risky surgery that no major medical authority in the world recommends.

That is why Intact America is asking the task force charged with reviewing the American Academy of Pediatrics' current neutral position on infant circumcision NOT to revise that position in favor of the surgery. Further, we ask you to take an ethical stand against the removal of a healthy, functioning body part- the prepuce, or foreskin-from non-consenting newborn babies.

The United States is the only western nation today where doctors routinely circumcise infant boys in medical settings. Although the rate has fallen from above 9O percent 30 years ago to below 60 percent today, still, more than one million American babies undergo the surgery every year driving one billion dollars in health-care spending.

Now, based on studies conducted among adults in sub-Saharan Africa that found reduced transmission of HIV from women to men (though not from men to women, nor men to men), some are suggesting that the AAP-meeting this week in Washington-should recommend circumcision for all newborn hoys in the United States.

Doctors have a responsibility to tell parents the truth: circumcision does not prevent disease. Most European nations, with circumcision rates near zero, have lower HIV/AIDS rates than the United States. Circumcision rates in America do not correlate with HIV rates in any ethnic population or geographical region.

Furthermore, circumcision has significant risks, including infection, bleeding, impairment of sexual function, and even death. Earlier this year, an Atlanta family was awarded $2.3 million because a physician accidentally amputated much of their infant son's penis during a "routine" hospital circumcision. A Canadian baby bled to death in 2004, after being circumcised in a British Columbia hospital. In 2008, a baby from South Dakota bled to death, and his parents have filed suit against the hospital where he was circumcised, as well as the doctor who performed the surgery.

Infrequent though complications may be, because the surgery is performed on healthy babies who have no need for it, each injury and each death is utterly indefensible. And even an "uncomplicated" infant circumcision permanently removes healthy functional tissue from a person who did not consent.

Growing numbers of medical professionals and expectant parents are saying "No" to infant circumcision. We urge members of the AAP's circumcision task force, and all pediatricians, to make the same decision on behalf of the babies who are their patients.

The baby, not the parent, is your patient.

intact america www.intactamerica.org

[... and there is nothing the matter with him.]


Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
October 18, 2009

DA refiles charges for Calif. dad who tattooed son


A prosecutor has refiled charges of aggravated mayhem against two men accused of tattooing a gang sign on a 7-year-old boy, raising the possibility again that they could face life in prison if convicted.

The Fresno County district attorney's filing Friday came two weeks after a judge ruled that Enrique Gonzalez and Travis Gorman should face the lesser charge of cruel and inhumane treatment of a child, rather than aggravated mayhem, a charge usually associated with disfiguring beatings, shootings and stabbings.

Prosecutors say Gonzalez, 27, held his son down


Attorneys for Gonzalez and Gorman say the prosecutor is overreaching. In making her decision earlier this month, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Hillary Chittick questioned whether a small tattoo is a permanent and painful disfigurement worthy of a potential life sentence.

"The DA's going to ignore the courts and proceed to a public lynching," said attorney Manuel Nieto, who is representing Gorman.


The prosecutor's motion requires attorneys for the men to show why Chittick was right to dismiss the charge of aggravated mayhem. No new evidence will be introduced.

Earlier story


The Sowetan (Johannesberg)
16 October, 2009

Court ruling brings relief

Sowetan says:

IT MAY have come too late for many youths who were kidnapped and forcibly circumcised but this week’s landmark ruling on circumcision should hopefully change all that.

On Tuesday Bhisho high court judge Yusuf Ebrahim ruled that circumcision without consent was illegal and went against an individual’s constitutional rights.

This follows an action by a young Eastern Cape man who took his father to court after he was forcibly circumcised despite his refusal on the grounds that he had already done so in hospital and that it was against his Christian beliefs.

The ruling holds out far- reaching implications for many communities since it asserts individual rights as enshrined in the Constitution .

That the judge ruled that circumcision without consent is illegal creates a conundrum for the communities who observe this rite since candidates earmarked for it are expected to comply without a murmur of protest.

Most significant is that the ruling interferes with the authority of the custodians of the tradition, such as chiefs, headmen and even parents who arbitrarily decide when and how their sons should be drafted for this rite of passage.

Surprisingly traditional leaders in Eastern Cape have already embraced the judgment, saying they respect each adult’s right of choice. Really?

Our surprise stems from the fact that though this proud tradition has often been marred by kidnappings of youths, traditional leaders have not been known to denounce forced circumcision – just as long as the initiates were drafted to a legal initiation school.

We therefore welcome both the ruling and traditional leaders’ response to it.

Earlier story


Vancouver Sun
October 14, 2009

Man found guilty of negligence in son's home circumcision

By Richard J. Dalton Jr.

A Metro Vancouver man who circumcised his four-year-old son at home with a razor blade and used blood coagulant meant for horses has been found guilty of negligence causing bodily harm.

The man, identified in a court ruling on Wednesday as DJW, admitted that in 2007 he circumcised his son, DJ, who was born at 2.5 pounds and couldn't be circumcised at birth.

The man performed the circumcision just a few years after he circumcised himself.

After he did that, his foreskin bled in nine places, doctors sutured it at hospital and his penis became infected. DJW's lawyer, Doug Christie, said, "He learned from that experience to do things differently."

Justice Marion Allan of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver ruled Wednesday that the negligence charge was warranted but acquitted DJW on charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. [The judge, inexplicably, ruled that the man did not seriously harm the boy and the razor blade was not used as a weapon. If it had been anywhere else but his foreskin ...] Social workers who found out about the circumcision a day after the procedure reported the incident to child-protection services.

Christie said DJ and his sister live with their mother, and DJW is banned from seeing them. DJW initially claimed a circumcision performed with reasonable care would fall under a religious exemption, Christie said. But he dropped the argument based on the judge's ruling.

"Although we don't agree, the judge found it wasn't with reasonable care," Christie said. Christie said DJW is considering an appeal.

DJW is a former Jehovah's Witness who now follows the Old and New TestaMents of the Bible. Here’s what happened, according to a summary of the case in the judge’s ruling: DJW became interested in circumcision after reading the books of Richard Hoskins, who advocates circumcision and claims there are Biblical answers to "all of the problems in society, including the number of abortions and homosexuals, and the national debt," judge wrote.

After DJ's birth, DJW heard a radio show on circumcision, transcribed it and decided to circumcise himself. On the Internet, he found "horrible pictures of what could go wrong," which is "inconsistent with his frequently expressed opinion that circumcision is an obvious and simple procedure," the judge noted.

In late 2004 or early 2005, DJW circumcised himself, using a razor, Band-Aids, peroxide, a roll of gauze and a clear plastic ring that he believed would act as an anaesthetic.

After he cut himself, the bleeding wouldn't stop. DJW then called his mother to tell her he was a heretic and would never go back to her church. She told him to call 911 and hung up. He then called 911 and went to the emergency room of a hospital and was sutured. In 2006, DJW began asking doctors about the circumcision of DJ. A few doctors advised against circumcising a four-year-old boy and refused to help DJW.

One doctor that agreed to do it was too expensive, charging $2,000 to $5,000. DJW decided to do it himself. He bought a blood coagulant used for horses because it was cheaper than a $30 coagulant for people. He told DJ that circumcision might hurt a bit but not for long. DJW told his son the procedure would grant him "extra special protection from God" and allow him to eat Passover lamb, ice cream and pick all the movies he wanted for a week. He also said told DJ it would be difficult to stay together as a family if DJ didn't agree to be circumcised.

DJW then gave DJ a teacup of homemade honey wine with eight to 12 percent alcohol. DJW then became stressed before performing the circumcision, so he left his son at home with his wife and went to Canadian Tire and Home Depot to "look at hardware and relax." When he came home, he laid DJ on clean garbage bags on the kitchen floor and put a towel or diaper under him, then cut the foreskin, sometimes with a sawing motion.

DJ shuddered and cried, and DJW's hand slipped. He told DJ to be still for a second cut. He used paper towels and a veterinary blood coagulant meant for horses, and the bleeding decreased. DJ then had to go to Children's Hospital.

A "beehive coating" of ash was removed from his penis and he was [" ]properly[" ] circumcised by Dr. Afshar.

In court, Afshar called into question DJW's procedure. Among numerous problems: The blades DJW used were neither sharp nor sterile. He said a kitchen cutting board under the boy's penis could have been covered with bacteria from food. And he said the veterinary coagulant was inappropriate and could have led to bleeding, infection and necrosis. Afshar testified that BC law doesn't ban people who have no medical training from performing circumcisions.

To view the court documents click here. [Recommended.]


Dispatch (South Africa)
October 14, 2009

Chiefs apologise to forced initiate

TRADITIONAL leaders have apologised to a teenager forced to undergo traditional circumcision after he took the matter to court, where it was ruled unconstitutional yesterday.

Bhisho High Court judge Yusuf Ebrahim ruled that circumcision without consent was illegal and went against an individual’s constitutional rights.

He made the ruling during the unprecedented court battle between a father and his son.

The son claimed to have been been forced to undergo traditional circumcision against his religious beliefs.

Bonani Yamani, a second year microbiology student at the University of the Free State, was forcefully circumcised after he was abducted by his father Lindile Yamani and 10 other men at his KwaMasele village near King William’s Town on March 3, 2007 .

This was three months after he had returned from East London’s Frere Hospital, where he had been surgically circumcised in November 2006 .

Yamani refused to go with the men, telling them that he had already been circumcised, but the men mocked the circumcision and took him to the bush were they circumcised him again.

Yesterday Ebrahim said that forced circumcision was against the Constitution and it was unfair for anyone to be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

Following an apology from Eastern Cape Contralesa, Yamani gave his consent for a settlement and withdrew his complaint .

The chairperson of Eastern Cape Contralesa, Nkosi Ngubo Mgcotyelwa, apologised to Yamani for remarks made by his predecessor, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, that people such as Yamani, who refused traditional circumcision, should be ostracised by the community.

Earlier story


Whatever happened to "It's only a tiny flap!"?

October 14, 2009

Larger foreskin size increases HIV infection risk

Michael Carter

Larger foreskin size is associated with an increased risk of becoming infected with HIV, investigators from the Rakai circumcision study report in the October edition of AIDS.

“Larger foreskin size is a risk factor for HIV acquisition in uncircumcised men”, comment the investigators.

Several African studies have shown that circumcised men have a lower risk of becoming infected with HIV than uncircumcised men. The Rakai study was one of these studies, and showed that men who underwent circumcision at the beginning of the study had a 48% lower risk of infection than men randomised to remain uncircumcised.

Investigators from the Rakai circumcision study hypothesised that the size of an individual's foreskin may be associated with an increased risk of HIV infection, due to the larger surface area containing cells vulnerable to HIV infection.

They therefore analysed men in the clinical trial who had previously taken part in a cohort study to see if they could find an association between the size of the foreskin measured at the time of circumcision and the risk of HIV acquisition in uncircumcised men prior to the removal of their foreskin.

They conducted the retrospective analysis in men who had intially been recruited to the Rakai community cohort study, tested for HIV at baseline and followed for a median of four years prior to enrolling in the clinical trial and undergoing medical circumcision.

A total of 965 men were included in the study. In the clinical trial they were randomised to be circumcised immediately or to have circumcision delayed for two years.

Foreskin area was measured in centimetres square (cm2) by multiplying the length of the foreskin by the width.

In addition, the foreskin surface areas were categorised into quartiles:

  • Lowest 25% in surface area (7 – 26.3 cm2).
  • 26-50% (26.4-35 cm2).
  • 51-75% (35.1-45.5 cm2).
  • Above 75% (45.6-99.8cm2).

There were 48 new HIV infections. The median foreskin area was larger in those who became in infected with HIV compared with those who did not (41.5 vs. 35 cm2).

Furthermore, the mean foreskin area was significantly higher among those who seroconverted than those who did not (43.3 vs. 36.8 cm2).

[The Rakai study was the only one of the three Random Clinical Tests to use the sleeve procedure, which takes more inner mucosa than the forceps-guided procedure - yet all three studies found about the same reduction in HIV.]

The investigators also noticed than men aged 24 and younger had smaller foreskin areas compared to both men in their late 20s and those in their 30s and 40s.

[That's curious and needs explaining: does the foreskin grow with age? Is foreskin size decreasing?]

HIV incidence was lowest amongst men with foreskin surface areas in the lowest quartile (0.8 per 100 person years), and incidence increased with foreskin surface area, being 2.48 per 100 person years amongst individuals in the upper quartile (p < 0.01 for the trend).

After adjustment for possible confounding factors, the investigators found that individuals with a foreskin area above 45.6 cm2 had a significantly increased risk of becoming infected with HIV compared to men with the smallest foreskin surface area (adjusted risk ratio, 2.37, 95% CI: 1.05-5.31, p = 0.04).

[Did the confounding factors include the fact that men with bigger foreskins would have bigger penises and hence more confidence and more sex - and more problems using condoms?]

Men aged 25 and older (p = 0.01), those with a lower level of education (p = 0.03), and Catholics (p = 0.01) also had a higher risk of HIV seroconversion.

[...indicating that the researchers failed to correct for condom use.]

“We found that the mean foreskin surface area among men who seroconverted to HIV was significantly larger than among men who remained uninfected, and that the risk of HIV acquisition was significantly increased among men with foreskins in the upper quartile of surface area compared with men in the lowest quartile of foreskin area”, write the authors.

They conclude, “a larger foreskin area was associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition”, a finding which they suggest has implications for circumcision providers who “should avoid leaving excess residual foreskin tissue after circumcision.” Although this is a particular problem with the forceps-guided procedure used in the study, because it leaves a margin of mucosal skin of up to 1cm, the invetsigators also note that this remaining mucosal surface is still substantially smaller than that measured in the lowest-risk group in this study.

Reference: Kigozi G et al. Foreskin surface area and HIV acquisition in Rakai, Uganda (size matters). AIDS 23: 2209-13, 2009.

[This also opens up a busy and lucrative opportunity to re-circumcise men already "inadequately" circumcised by traditional means.

These pages are still investigating this study ...]


October 13, 2009

Pediatricians to be Picketed on Circumcision

Intactivists will be protesting what they believe to be an unethical and sexist practice - infant circumcision - at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition (AAP NCE, 2009), Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, October 17-20.

Washington, DC ( PRWEB) October 14, 2009 -- Intactivists will be protesting what they believe to be an unethical and sexist practice-infant circumcision-at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition (AAP NCE, 2009), Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, October 17-20.

This year's AAP convention theme is "Pediatric Heroes: Champions for Children.' Intactivist Dan Strandjord, Chicago, says, "Cutting off the end of a boy's penis is not what a medical "hero" should do. It is a "villainous" practice, there is no medical reason for it. A real super hero would have the courage to "put down their scalpel" and force other doctors to do the same."

Demonstrators will be carrying placards satirizing the conference's cartoon characters of pediatricians as flying super-heroes. It depicts a super-hero protecting a baby boy with the comment: "Real heroes don't cut babies."

Girls are protected from genital cutting, even a pinprick, by federal law, but boys have no protection.

Circumcision is a multi-million dollar income stream for doctors, a source of revenue that is almost doubled in order to repair poorly performed circumcisions.

No medical association in the world, including the AAP, recommends infant circumcision yet the barbaric practice continues.

Originally[medicalized] by doctors in the late 19th century to control masturbation, the practice has become [customary] without ever passing scientific review.



So now cows are better protected than boys ...

Seattle Times
October 12, 2009

Schwarzenegger says Calif. cows can keep tails

California cows are the first in the nation with the legal right to swat flies as nature intended now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill banning the painful practice of tail docking that he once mocked as being a waste of legislators' time.

Associated Press Writer

FRESNO, Calif. —

California cows are the first in the nation with the legal right to swat flies as nature intended now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill banning the painful practice of tail docking that he once mocked as being a waste of legislators' time.


The Humane Society of the United States has vowed to take the fight against tail docking to other large dairy states such as Wisconsin, Vermont and New York.

Dairy officials say the practice of cutting off cow tails to prevent them from slinging manure is practiced on fewer than 15 percent of the state's 1.5 million dairy cows. Docking is usually done without numbing, either with shears or with a tight band that stops the blood flow and causes the tail to die. [...precisely like a Plastibell™]

The governor may have been influenced to vote in favor of the farm-animal legislation by California voters, two-thirds of whom voted for Proposition 2 last November to give egg-laying chickens more space. The governor of Michigan signed similar legislation Monday.


The Times (South Africa)
October 7, 2009

Traditional leader sorry for violent circumcision

By Biénne Huisman

A traditional leader from the Eastern Cape has apologised to 21-year-old Bonani Yamani, who was violently circumcised two years ago.

In a drastic about turn, the chairperson of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa in the province, Nkosi Ngubo Mgcotyelwa, apologised for previous remarks by the congress that men who refuse traditional circumcision should be ostracised.

He also called for an end to forced circumcision.

In a settlement document filed at the Bhisho Equality Court on Monday, Mgcotyelwa said Contralesa accepted that "the Constitution of South Africa gives the right to each adult male individual to choose whether or not he should attend traditional circumcision school according to his religious beliefs.”

[This right cannot be given to adults if it is not first given to babies and children.]

Yamani claimed that, shortly after he turned 18, his father and 10 other men abducted him from his home in Masele township near King William’s Town and subjected him to circumcision against his will – and then forced him to eat the skin cut from his penis.

This, he said in a court affidavit, happened three months after he tried to reach a compromise with local chiefs by having the procedure done at the Frere hospital in East London.

The second-year microbiology student at the University of the Free State became embroiled in a clash between constitutional rights and Xhosa tradition.

He said: “After that experience I decided to do something about it so no other child is put through that.”

With the help of JASA – the Justice Alliance of South Africa, a non-profit legal organization – he challenged the views of his parents and traditional leaders in court.

John Smyth, the director of Jasa, has pushed for forced circumcision to be declared illegal; and for an order forbidding chiefs from encouraging ostracism of a youth who refuses circumcision.

He was pleased with Mgcotyelwa's statements: "It's an extraordinary thing really. I think it's very courageous," he said on Tuesday.

Despite the traditional leader’s apology, Yamanis’ parents are not relenting.

“Bonani’s father continues to maintain through an affidavit sworn by his wife that what he did in arranging for a group of traditional leaders to abduct and forcibly circumcise his son was right,” said Smyth.

Yamani will face his parents in court on Tuesday next week.

Earlier story


"Cruel and inhumane"? OK, then...

October 3, 2009

Dad who tattooed 7-year-old son faces charge of cruel and inhumane treatment

A man facing a life sentence for having a small gang sign tattooed on his 7-year-old son's hip let out a long sigh Friday when a judge said the act was not aggravated mayhem, a charge normally reserved for crippling attacks.

Instead Enrique Gonzalez and his friend Travis Gorman will face the lesser charge of cruel and inhumane treatment of a child in a notorious case that has captured worldwide attention. They now face seven years in prison.
Fresno boy's tattoo

The boy shows his tattoo.

- Fresno Police


During preliminary hearing testimony Monday, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Hillary Chittick questioned whether a small tattoo is a permanent and painful disfigurement worthy of a potential life sentence that comes with a mayhem conviction, then asked to think it over.

The defendants were not charged with the one crime that defense attorneys agreed they deserved: applying a tattoo to a child under 18, which in California is a misdemeanor that carries a six-month sentence.


During questioning Monday of the boy's pediatrician, Nieto raised the issue of other painful and scaring [sic. scarring?] procedures to which parents subject their children, such as ear piercing and circumcision.

On Friday, Chittick, a former public defender, questioned Lacy over the legal definition of mayhem and whether a small tattoo, which is being removed, meets the test.


Outside the courtroom, Gorman's family was eager to tell their side of the story, which supported the defense contention that the boy asked his father for the tattoo, saying: "I want to be like you."

Gorman and Gonzalez are both members of the Fresno Bulldogs, a notorious street gang that has been the focus of intense police action for three years.

... In April, Gonzalez went to Gorman's house to have one applied to his chest and brought his son along.

"They didn't hold him down, he said he wanted it," said Meriah Ramirez, Gorman's girlfriend, who said she saw the encounter.


Earlier story


October 2, 2009

NC dad sentenced to 150 days for circumcising son

A father who admitted he circumcised his infant son with a box cutter was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse and sentenced Friday to 150 days in prison.

Johnny Eric Marlowe, 33, will serve the sentence after serving time for previous crimes, The News-Topic of Lenior reported.

Marlowe had been charged with two felony counts of child abuse after prosecutors said he circumcised two newborn sons without anesthesia when each was just days old in 2005 and in 2006.

But the Caldwell County jury convicted Marlowe with a misdemeanor on one child abuse charge and deadlocked on the second, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on that charge.

Marlowe's ex-wife, Amber, asked Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin to impose the maximum possible sentence.


Amber Marlowe testified that one of the young boys bled for nearly 11 hours after Marlowe performed his circumcision. Marlowe admitted he had no formal training and gained most of his knowledge about the procedure from watching videos on the Internet.


Marlowe, who represented himself at the trial, filed a notice of appeal for Thursday's conviction.


Earlier story


Mystery? What mystery?

WABC News (includes video)
October 2, 2009

Baby death mystery

Bradley Dorcius

BROOKLYN (WABC) -- Shock and sorrow for a mother and father in Brooklyn.

They took their infant son to the hospital for what they thought was routine surgery.

Now, they're planning his funeral.

Seven-month-old Bradley Dorcius died two days after having an operation to correct his urine flow and a circumcision.

In the recovery room at SUNY Downstate Hospital, his mother says Bradley began bleeding from his mouth and nose, and later died.

[As did Amitai Moshe]

His parents are devastated and they're demanding answers.

The hospital spokesperson calls Bradley's death a sad incident and says the hospital is investigating. His parents say he had no allergies and no other known medical conditions.


Parents make many decisions for their children ...

Huffington Post
October 1, 2009

7-Year-Old Tattooed, Judge Considers Life Sentence For Father

FRESNO, Calif. — Enrique Gonzalez wanted his 7-year-old son to have a gang tattoo, like the many that adorn his own body. About that there is no dispute.

The question that a judge says she will decide Friday is whether placing a tattoo on a minor is a permanent and painful disfigurement worthy of the potential life sentence that comes with a mayhem conviction, or is it something less?

Are there other procedures children routinely undergo that are decidedly more painful and permanent?

The tattooing case became international news in April, not just for the quarter-size dog paw print on the right hip of the young boy, but for what the paw represented: Fresno's most notorious criminal street gang, the Bulldogs.


Law enforcement officials threw the book at Gonzalez and Gorman.

But testimony at the preliminary hearing this week to establish which charges the evidence supports gave pause to Fresno County Superior Court Judge Hillary Chittick.

A defense attorney, seeking to undermine the potential mayhem charge, raised the issue of a painful, irreversible, and increasingly controversial medical procedure with the boy's pediatrician, a witness for the prosecution.

"Which is more painful, circumcision or a tattoo?" asked public defender Manuel Nieto about the practice performed on a decreasing number of newborn boys.

"I would guess the circumcision," Dr. Carmela Sosa responded.

"Do you recommend it to your patients?"

"There may be medical reasons that develop, but not on a routine baby."


"It seems to the court," Judge Chittick said as she asked Monday for a few days to think, "that mayhem requires a certain level of bodily injury, and I'm not sure a quarter-sized tattoo meets that."

Disfigurement doesn't have to be permanent to qualify as mayhem, says law professor Laurie Levenson, director of the Center for Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School. Gonzalez could argue that he didn't intend to harm his son, she said, but that won't necessarily take the life sentence off the table either.

"It's an interesting issue," Levenson said. "I don't think kids belong to their parents. You can give a child the haircut you want him to have, but you can't permanently disfigure a child."

Gonzalez granted his son's request for the tattoo because the son begged "I want to be like you," the defense says. But the prosecution says Gonzalez held the boy down while Gorman forcibly applied it.

Either way, says Levenson, "I don't know if children can readily give permission for a tattoo." ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

Earlier story

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