Intactivism News

April - June 2011

To more recent news

(More recent items first)

Earlier items


Post-gazette (Pittsburgh)
June 29, 2011

Its not just about circumcision

[Actually, it is.]


By Dr Steven L Jones

The citizens of San Francisco will decide in November whether to ban circumcision, a practice that dates from antiquity and is embraced by at least three of the world's major religions. [Three? Islam, Judaism, and ...?]

Now, the fact that something stretches far back into human history is by no means a guarantee that it has social value. Slavery, human sacrifice and arranged marriages for adolescents also have long histories, but, thankfully, are no longer accepted by Western societies. The question is whether circumcision belongs on this list.

It doesn't. [As an imposition on non-consenting people, it does.]

The Centers for Disease Control reports that circumcision has numerous health benefits. Circumcised infants have fewer urinary tract infections, a blessing to any young family already stretched by numerous doctor visits. ["Fewer" is a slippery word. The number of circumcisions required to prevent one UTI is at least 100, probably many more.]

International studies from Africa, Asia and the United States also have found that circumcision lowers the likelihood of HIV infection and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases. [Again, "reduces the risk" is meaningless without context, the claim is debatable and of limited applicability - only to female-to-male transmission - and "a host" is an exaggeration.] And the CDC report makes clear that this is not just attributable to behavioral or lifestyle issues that may be correlated with circumcision. The procedure itself results in lower rates of STD infection and may lower the risk for certain types of cancer, too.

[None of these is urgent enough to require doing it within days of birth.]

Why, then, the proposed ban? [Not a ban, an age-restriction] Advocates claim it is in the best interests of the child. [It is circumcision advocates who say circumcision is in his best interests. Proponents of the age-restriction say he is the best person to determine his own best interests, when he is old enough, and an age-restriction protects his interests until then.]

This seems a curious rationale for at least two reasons. First, the health benefits are well documented. There are, of course, risks associated with any surgical procedure, but these are minor. Other than short-term discomfort and bleeding, there are few side effects reported by the CDC. [Well if the CDC doesn't report the finite risk of death, loss of the penis, etc. etc. it's not doing its job]

Second, it is surely odd that political advocacy groups would be in a better position to evaluate the best interests of the child than the child's own parents, clergy and, not least of all, doctors. [... but the man he becomes is in a better position to evaluate his own best interests than any of those.] The real issue, then, is what advocates of the ban mean by "best interests." [Insofar as proponents of the age-restriction have ever used that expression, they mean his right to dermine his own best interests.] The root issues are not medical, but political. [Thus writing "ethical" out of the equation.]

Lloyd Schofield, proponent of the ban and author of the legislation, has likened circumcision to female genital mutilation, not because the two are medically or culturally similar (they aren't [they are ethically and medically similar, different anatomically and sometimes in severity] ) but because he hopes to stoke outrage by connecting circumcision to the violent manipulations of young girls who have this practice forced upon them. [And Dr Jones knows what Lloyd Schofield really thinks, how?] In his view, circumcision should be a matter of "choice" [Why the scare-quotes? Choice is what it would be] exercised at the age of 18, or later.

In San Francisco the issue may be "forced" circumcision [Why the scare-quotes? Forced is what it is] and the supposed limitation on an individual male's future freedom and right to control his own body [Why "supposed"? What else is it?], but this logic has implications for other religious practices, as well.

In the minds of the faithful, circumcision is not just an act performed on a given day; it is an initiation into a community and a way of life. And it is not the only such practice. [But the baby is not yet among the "faithful" and may later choose not to be. In fact, some men have been driven away from Judaism by their circumcision.] Faith-based schooling, for example, is designed to instill and nurture faithful observance by religious adherents and is often chosen not by the child but by the parents.

[Got that? Male genital cutting is not comparable with female genital cutting, but it is comparable with faith-based schooling. Talk about swallowing a gnat and straining out a camel!]

Of course, critics of the practice have argued that religious schools (or religiously motivated home-schooling) may render a child incapable of exercising truly free choice when they come of age. [They have? Reduced their ability to, perhaps, but many people do shake off faith-based education.] How, they wonder, can children who have been indoctrinated from birth with a particular view of the good life actually be free to make their own decisions?

While some such concerns may be valid, there are significant legal and sociological problems with this sort of reasoning.

[So it's debatable whether adults can shake off faith-based schooling. What's NOT debatable is whether men can shake off circumcision - which is the key point at issue. Jones has just shot down his own analogy.]

Legally, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that parents have a right, even a duty, to bring up their children to be more than just members of the state. In many of the world's religions, it is a fundamental obligation to raise one's child in the faith. For San Francisco, or any locality, to disallow the exercise of this solemn duty in the name of individual choice is to radically undermine the very sense of obligation and commitment at the heart of religious practice.

[See the slippage? Because parents should be free to indoctrinate their children - and he admits that is debatable - they should also be free to cut their (male) children's genitals. He assumes and asserts without logic or evidence that cutting part off genitals is essential to "raising one's childen in the faith".]

It is on the sociological level, however, that the problems with San Francisco's proposed ban are most evident.

At bottom, advocates of the ban believe they are protecting human rights and freedom. For them, freedom exists only if a person is untied from any sort of binding practice or communal obligation. [No, people can be free to bind themselves to a community and its obligations.] Once something has been done to individuals, rather than by them, they are no longer free. [This is, in general, true - especially where they are things they did not, or would not, choose to have done to themselves.] Thus, things like circumcision, or the decision to restrict exposure to alternative viewpoints in an effort to inculcate a particular set of religious truths, if forced on the child by the parents, renders true freedom impossible.

[Again, simple equation of two diverse practices with no analysis of their logical or ethical similarities or dissimilarities.]

The problem with this reasoning is both simple and profound. It is simply not who we are. Humans are not free-floating individuals unconnected from the communities that surround them. We are social beings who thrive most when we have thick ties to kindred spirits, when we are nurtured in institutions and relationships that connect us to something larger than ourselves.

[Yes, but infant circumcision is perhaps the only case where "connecting us to something larger than ourselves" involves us having part involuntarily cut off our bodies. Nor is it clear how the latter is supposed to effect the former.]

Curtailing the rights of parents to initiate those relationships is a social experiment risking dire consequences [Which are?] -- which would be felt not by proponents of the ban, but by the very children they seek to help.

[More and more men, including many Jews, are coming forward to complain about having this done to them. Most recently the lead singer of Blood Sweat & Tears. Is Dr Jones suggesting parents or the community would fail to bond with children who had not had parts cut off their bodies? That is not the experience of those parents who have chosen to do just that. So is he suggesting that any resentment parents feel at not being allowed to cut parts off their (male) children will be taken out on those children? That would suggest he has a poor view of human nature.]

Dr. Steven L. Jones is associate professor of sociology at Grove City College and a fellow for character and ethics[!] with the college's Center for Vision & Values (sljones@gcc.edu).


SF Weekly
June 28, 2011

Foreskin Activist Glen Callender Talks Circumcision and Performs Astounding Feats With Fruit

By Titania Kumeh

Everybody loves an incredible dick trick, especially one performed for a political cause. That's just what Glen Callender, the founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project (CAN-FAP!) presented over San Francisco Pride weekend at Civic Center.

In case you missed it, Callender was the guy dressed in a white lab coat guiding groups of UN Plaza passers-by inside his foreskin demonstration booth, a white tent adorned with red and white Canadian flags and a banner declaring "Foreskin is Fabulous!" ...


June 28, 2011

Foreskin Man #3 out

Foreskin Man #3 is out, and this time the hooded rescuer flies to Kenya to help Vulva Girl to save two children from husband and wife circumcisers. But Foreskin man is in grave danger....


June 26, 2011

San Francisco Pride Parade 2011: Circumcision Ban, Stop Male Genital Mutilation

By kevinsyoza


Times LIVE (Johannesburg)
June 27, 2011

Initiate flees circumcision camp

By Kathryn Kimberley

An Initiate escaped what he says was "11 days of hell" by fleeing from a circumcision camp and crawling to a roadside, from where a traffic officer rushed him to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital.

Sinethemba Gineto, 23, from Johannesburg, relived the nightmare following his botched circumcision, done against his will.

He said he had visited his mom in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, on June 16 when his uncle and a group of men allegedly "forced" him to undergo circumcision. ['He said...allegedly "forced"' Why three levels of disbelief? Is there any reason to suggest he was willing?]

He said prescribed initiation procedures were not followed and [the circumcisor] was not even registered with the Department of Health.

Provincial health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said situations such as Gineto's were a "huge concern" at this time of the year. In 2009, the Bisho High Court ruled that circumcision without consent was illegal.

IOL News, June 29, 2011

He said last week, 200 Bizana initiates were admitted to hospital due to allegedly botched circumcisions.


June 23, 2011

South African medical ethics committee agrees infant circumcision unethical

The National Organisation of Circumcision Information Resource Centres of South Africa (NOCIRC-SA) wrote to the Kwa-Zulu Natal Health Department appealing to them not to proceed with a mass circumcision campaign in February, and sent a copy to the Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee of the South African Medical Association. The committe has replied as follows:


The matter was discussed by the members of the Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee at their previous meeting and they agreed with the content of the letter by NOCIRC SA. The Committee stated that it was unethical and illegal to perform circumcision on infant boys in this instance. In particular, the Committee expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information. The Committee reiterated its view that it did not support circumcision to prevent HIV transmission."


June 27, 2011

Debate circumcision ethics call

By John Sudworth

Sign: No diisease, No injury, No treatment

A group of circumcised men is calling on British doctors to debate the ethics of the procedure at the British Medical Association conference this week.

NORM-UK is a support group for men who say they have been harmed.

It has held its first public demonstration in the UK, lobbying delegates in Cardiff.

It wants British doctors to recognise circumcision as major, irreversible surgery that should not be carried out on new-born babies.

There are no accurate figures, but an estimated 30,000 boys are circumcised in the UK every year. The majority of them as a result of their parents' religious faith.

Islamic, Jewish and some Christian communities circumcise male children as a matter of course.


Dr Antony Lempert, a GP and chairman of the British Secular Medical Forum, has submitted a motion to the BMA conference calling for doctors to stop performing "irreversible, clinically unnecessary surgery on the genitalia of non-consenting minors."

The medical establishment, including the General Medical Council, refers to the procedure when carried out on children as "Non Therapeutic Circumcision", seemingly recognising that there is little benefit.

Some NHS trusts have decided not to carry out circumcisions requested for religious reasons.

Some doctors who support the practice have argued that research shows circumcised heterosexual men to have a reduced risk of HIV infection.

While Dr Lempert believes that adults should be free to act on this research if they wish, he believes there is no justification for carrying out the procedure on children.

"To cut off a functioning part of a boys body for no therapeutic reason, simply because the parents have a particular belief, is anathema to normal medical practice, it's an extraordinary exception," he said.


In addition, Dr Lempert points out, circumcision carries risks; both the immediate danger of haemorrhage and infection, and the long term risk of impaired sexual function.

"The available evidence shows that the foreskin contains 20 to 30 thousand nerve endings and has a very important function in lubrication... circumcision gets rid of one of the most sensitive areas of the penis," he said.

It is not just here in the UK that campaigners are trying to force the issue into the public domain.

Later this year, San Francisco is due to become the first American city to vote on whether to ban circumcision, although Jewish and Muslim groups are challenging the vote as unconstitutional.

There are, of course, many men who see circumcision as an important part of their religious and cultural identity and who report no adverse side effects at all.

But that is not the point, according to NORM-UK.

The group argues that circumcision can have side-effects and they want the medical profession to stop viewing the procedure as minor and inconsequential, not just for children but for adults too.

Dan from London, another member of Norm-UK, had his circumcision three years ago, offered as an easy fix for the condition phimosis, a tightening of the foreskin.

He says no one told him just how much of an impact it could have on his sex life.

"Imagine having your tongue but not being able to taste," he says.

"You'd still be able to use your tongue, but if you weren't able to taste certain foods, or taste anything at all, you know, I liken it to that."


Swazi Observer
June 27, 2011

Women want forced circumcision

MKHIWENI Constituency women are advocating for a law that will make it compulsory for men to be circumcised in the country.

They say chiefs should be the ones making sure that they law was followed and people who refuse to be circumcised be fined.

This matter was raised during a meeting at the constituency where the issue of circumcision was the main issue discussed.

The discussions and lectures were organised by the ministry of health ...

The women said having all men circumcised would not only help them (men), but the nation at large in that the risks of their wives contracting sexually transmitted diseases would decrease.



HIV Rates:

Circumcised men


Intact men


Source: www.measuredhs.com


Jerusalem Post
June 26, 2011

Anti-circumcision call gets London Jewish rep. fired

By Jonny Paul

LONDON – A London synagogue representative on the Board of Deputies of British Jews has been removed from her position after advocating a ban on circumcision.

The New West End Synagogue, a modern-Orthodox synagogue in west London, rescinded Rebecca Steinfeld’s position as the Under-35 Observer on the Board of Deputies, after referring to circumcision as “male genital mutilation” in an article in the Guardian last week.

“If we oppose female genital mutilation, has the time not come for us also to oppose male-genital mutilation?” she asked in the article.

Under-35 observers were introduced by the Board two years ago in order to encourage younger people to get involved in community politics.


Earlier story


Herald Sun (Melbourne)
June 24, 2011

Indonesia urged to ban female circumcision

RIGHTS groups including Amnesty International urged Indonesia to revoke a regulation which they say legalises female circumcision in the mainly Muslim country.

Women's rights activists called on the government to withdraw a decree issued by the health ministry in November authorising certain medical professionals to carry out the procedure on baby girls.

"We are very disappointed with the minister's decision. Circumcision is a form of abuse of women," said Aditiana Dewi Eridani of the Islam and Women's Rights Information Centre today.

"This is a backward step for women's rights protection in this country."

The practice is encouraged by some Islamic leaders and is common in the mainly Muslim country, especially in more conservative rural communities.

Amnesty said the decree violated several Indonesian laws on human rights, child protection and discrimination against women.

"Female genital mutilation constitutes a form of violence against women which should be eradicated," it said in a statement.

It said the practice "inflicts pain and suffering on women and girls, and hence violates the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment".

"Female genital mutilation also encourages discriminatory stereotypes about women's sexuality," Amnesty added.

Health ministry director of mothers' health, Ina Hernawati, told the Jakarta Globe newspaper the decree did not legitimise female circumcision.

"We do not condone the practice. If parents come to midwives, we ask the midwives to explain that medically female circumcision is useless," she was quoted as saying.

But she said many parents wanted their baby girls circumcised for religious reasons and in such cases it was better if it was done by a "trained health worker rather than some random shaman".

She also rejected the idea that female circumcision was a form of genital mutilation.

"Circumcising is merely scratching a piece of skin," she said.


Jakarta Post
June 25, 2011

Stop female genital circumcision, activists say

must not remove any part of the genitalia, but only incise the surface skin of the clitoris. ...


Amnesty said Indonesian parents typically wanted their girls circumcised for religious or health reasons, or to suppress their daughters' sexuality in adulthood.

[The proposed "circumcision" is very similar to the token, ritual nick, "much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting", that the American Academy of Pediatrics flirted with allowing to be done to girls in April 2010. It was howled down within a month.]


The New Age (South Africa)
June 24 , 2011

Seven initiates die

By Sithandiwe Velaphi

The number of initiates who died during circumcision rites since the start of the month has risen to seven, while 226 others were rescued by traditional leaders at an illegal initiation school in Flagstaff this week.


Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa provincial secretary Nkosi Xolile Ndevu, who was dispatched to Pondoland where most of the initiate deaths occurred, said the deaths initiates was attributed to profit-driven traditional surgeons who did not perform the ritual properly.


Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo agreed


The health department has set aside a total of R14.3m in a bid to stop the deaths of initiates, B[o]tched initiations claimed 62 lives in the province last year.

Kupelo said the money was also aimed at increasing awareness about HIV/Aids in relation to circumcision.

“Research tells us that chances of being infected with HIV are decreased when you have been circumcised,” said Kupelo

[But no warning not to rely on that factoid...]


Of the 62 initiates who died last year, 41 died in June and 21 in December, while 23 lost their genitals.


June 15, 2011

Crouching tiger, hidden surgeon

By Daniel K Sokol, honorary senior lecturer in medical ethics, Imperial College London

Why in surgery is there such a neglect of training in ethics?

Cast your eye down the list of delegates at any course in medical ethics. You will find represented a wide range of specialties: the usual batch of general practitioners and anaesthetists, intensivists, psychiatrists, oncologists, junior doctors, and even the occasional radiologist and pathologist. Yet there is one species of doctor that is as rare as the Siberian tiger: the surgeon. I must confess that my eyes light up when I see a surgeon on the list, and I scan the room hoping to catch a glimpse of the rare animal. When I see one in the flesh, he (for it usually is) tends, surprisingly, to be shy, crouching towards the back of the classroom or lecture theatre. More often than not he is an older creature. Without his tools and instruments, without his mask, exposed and alone, the surgeon in the ethics course has ventured into a foreign habitat.

The Royal College of Surgeons offers an extensive menu of training courses, from the cheerful “drawing for surgeons” to the bone chilling course on the Ilizarov method . Although a course exists on legal issues in surgery, there is no course on surgical ethics. ...


Health Policy Solutions
June 21, 2011

Unkindest cut: Medicaid won't cover circumcision in Colorado

By Diane Carman

Effective July 1, Colorado will join 17 other states in dropping coverage for routine circumcisions under Medicaid. The move was part of a series of budget cuts approved by lawmakers during the recent legislative session.

The decision will save the state’s general fund an estimated $186,500 annually, but it also will nudge Colorado closer toward a debate that has been growing in intensity across the country. In Massachusetts, a bill banning routine circumcision was introduced in the state legislature last year. Bans also have been proposed in Santa Monica, Calif., and San Francisco, where voters will decide in November whether to make the procedure a crime.

Gillian Longley, a registered nurse in Louisville, looks at the change in Medicaid policy as a critical moment for public education surrounding the issue. A member of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), Longley said that until recently, new parents were remarkably ill-informed of the pros and cons of circumcision.

“Doctors were not giving them the information they needed to make a decision,” she said. “The usual ethical requirements for informed consent were overlooked. Circumcision was a cultural habit that was accepted as normal.”

Circumcision is the most common medical procedure performed on children in the United States, but is far less common around the world. According to data from the World Health Organization, 75 percent of men in the U.S. have been circumcised compared to 30 percent in Canada and 6 percent in the United Kingdom.

As states have dropped coverage for the procedure under Medicaid, circumcision rates have dropped. Researchers from UCLA studied 16 states where circumcision is not covered and found that the rate dropped 24 percent below rates in states where Medicaid covers the cost. ...

No medical justification
Colorado lawmakers had to cut hundreds of millions from state spending to balance the budget this year. Halting Medicaid coverage for circumcision is increasingly common across the country and is a relatively easy choice because there is no medical justification for the procedure.

“The medical reasons are not convincing either way,” said Dr. Susan Pharo, director of Medicaid and External Pediatric

Research has found a “tiny” benefit in terms of circumcision reducing the frequency of urinary tract infections in the first year of life, Pharo said, “but the numbers are so low it’s not significant.”

Some research has found a slight decrease in the transmission of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases among circumcised men in sub-Saharan Africa, “but that’s not really applicable here,” Pharo said, “and the evidence is not strong either way.”

The risks of the procedure include relatively rare incidence of complications such as bleeding and infection and, more commonly, “poor cosmetic effect,” said Dr. Sarah Pilarowski, pediatrician at Cherry Creek Pediatrics.

We do have a lot of baby boys going in later for revisions,” she said.

The No. 1 risk is pain. “We try to minimize it,” Pilarowski said, but penile nerve blocks don’t always work and numbing creams “are not 100 percent.”


“When asked by a family whether a circumcision should be done, most pediatricians say unless there is some special reason in the family, they don’t recommend it as a general policy,” said Dr. Donald Schiff, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

For some families, however, the procedure is a cherished tradition.

Scott Levin, director of the Mountain States Region Anti-Defamation League, said that circumcision is “among the most sacred of obligations that Jews have” and proposed bans are an extreme affront.

“This is really about the free exercise of religion, something that is guaranteed to everyone in the United States under the First Amendment,” Levin said. [including the person on the other end of the penis]

An effort to place a circumcision ban on the ballot in Santa Monica resulted in charges of anti-Semitism from Jewish groups. The author of the measure, Matthew Hess, refers to circumcision as “male genital mutilation” and ridicules the procedure in his online comic “Foreskin Man.”

The ADL issued a statement criticizing Hess’ tactics.

“This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low,” it said in a written statement. “This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible. … ‘Foreskin Man,’ with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive.”

Hess, who is founder and president of MGMbill.org, said the ADL is “just trying to redirect the argument.

“Any time you challenge a tradition that is thousands of years old and this entrenched, you’re going to stir up fierce opposition,” he said. “Rather than address the human rights abuse of forced circumcision, they have attacked me. It’s pretty standard tactics.”

Ban written for Colorado
Hess said a bill outlawing circumcision in Colorado has been written and is awaiting a legislative sponsor. The measure would amend the existing law outlawing female genital mutilation, extending the same protections to males.

Longley said Colorado’s NOCIRC activists are not associated with Hess.

“One benefit we see in putting these measures on the ballot is that it results in a lot of public discourse about circumcision,” said Longley. “Our culture is ignorant and blind on this issue.”

In arguing against routine circumcision, Longley compared it to laws outlawing female genital mutilation. “Boys need equal protection,” she said. “We consider this a human rights issue.”

She cites the value of the foreskin in its role in male sexual function and female satisfaction. “We’ve lost the knowledge and the value of normalcy in our culture,” she said.

Schiff said evidence on the role of foreskin in sexual function is scarce and “very anecdotal. There’s nothing objective about that kind of research.”

Hess insists that male and female circumcision are [ethically ] exactly the same.

“You can argue about which one is more damaging or traumatizing, but the bottom line is both practices remove healthy functioning sexual tissue from an unconsenting minor.”


Dr. Pharo said she has seen no evidence of a decline in support for circumcision in Colorado in her three decades as a pediatrician. “I don’t think as a society our culture has really changed very much.”

That’s not surprising to Dr. Pilarowski. Outside of religious traditions, she said, the overriding factor influencing parents’ decisions about circumcision is whether the father was circumcised.

Men want their little boys to look like them. They say, ‘I don’t know how to care for it. I don’t know how to counsel them,’” she said. “There’s a comfort level in the father and son being alike.”

If it was up to the mothers, the pediatricians said, far fewer newborn boys would be circumcised because the moms would rather not subject their new babies to unnecessary pain and risk.

Real savings questioned
Some pediatricians and family practice physicians are concerned that the Medicaid cut will result in pressure on doctors to perform circumcisions on baby boys later when the procedure is more complicated and costly. [And they will be unable to refuse?] Parents who feel strongly that their sons should be circumcised could try to urge physicians to claim that it is a medical necessity at six months in order to have the procedure qualify for Medicaid reimbursement. [And doctors can't resist patients wanting to make fraudulent claims?]

If even 30 or 40 such cases occurred in a year, the savings to the state would likely be obliterated.

Another concern is that with every cut in Medicaid reimbursements, more physicians reduce the number of Medicaid patients they will accept into their practices.

Pilarowski speculates that the changes in Medicaid policies will spark changes in private insurance coverage.

“Everyone is looking to cut costs,” she said. “It’s very possible other insurance companies will follow suit.”

That would be considered a victory for the anti-circumcision activists.

“This is a normal body part,” said Longley. “We are doing our sons a favor to support them to stay whole.”


ABC local TV KGO (San Francisco)
June 23, 2011

Opponents of SF circumcision ban file lawsuit

By Carolyn Tyler

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A controversial proposal to ban circumcision in San Francisco is being challenge[d] in a lawsuit that could keep the measure from reaching the voters in November.

Leticia Preza is one out of several who are suing the city of San Francisco over the ballot measure that would ban circumcisions for baby boys.

"For me, as a Muslim, anything that would impede my practice is something I would have to stand up against," Preza said. [Existing Federal law already "impedes the practice" of many devout Muslims of cutting their daughers' genitals, no matter how minimally - and a good thing too.]

For Preza and other Muslim and Jewish plaintiffs who gathered at the superior court today, the proposed ban is a matter of religious freedom, but for doctors, there is another issue entirely.

"Clearly it affects physicians -- the proposed ban -- is suggesting physicians be jailed for performing what's a routine, commonplace medical procedure," said Dr. Brian McBeth.

The crux of the lawsuit argues that state law prohibits local governments like San Francisco from restricting medical procedures, and therefore the proposal should not be allowed to go to voters.

"By relying on this state statute, we are making it clear to both parents and doctors (that) the law protects you," [at the expense of your sons] said attorney Michael Jacobs, who is representing several plaintiffs in the case.

Those behind the circumcision ban initiative don't see things that way.

"This is not so much regulating medical procedures as it is restricting cosmetic surgery from being forced onto minors," said circumcision ban supporter Jonathan Conte.

Conte helped collect enough signatures to put the proposed ban on the ballot. Conte calls circumcision painful, risky and harmful and believes the lawsuit filed today could actually influence the court of public opinion.

"Anything that helps people bring up the topic of circumcision and discuss it, I think, is a positive effect of whatever the outcome is," said Conte. "This is something that has flown under the radar for far too long in this country, and people need to discuss it."



SurveyUSA (The full results)
June 14, 2011

San Francisco circumcision poll

A telephone poll held in San Francisco early in June found a 4.5:1 majority of respondents do not support a restriction of male genital cutting to adults. [This should surprise no-one.]

Overall, 17% of registered voters supported the MGM Bill, 76% opposed it, and 7% were undecided. Men (21%) supported it more than women (12%). 5% of those giving their religion as Jewish supported the Bill.

The poll asked if voters were circumcised. Of those who answered, 27% of those identifying as not circumcised supported the bill, compared with 21% of those identifying as circumcised.

Oddly, those without pierced ears were twice as likely to support a ban (22%) as those with (11%), while those with other piercings were more likely (21%) than those without (16%). (This may just reflect gender difference in piercings.)

Respondents were invited to choose one of four opinions about circumcision: a harmless tradition (26%), a medical procedure where the health benefits outweigh the health risks (47%), where the health risks outweigh the health benefits (8%) and mutilation (9%). [It would have been interesting if they had been offered the option "a human rights issue, for the person being circumcised to decide"]

The third question was: "Regardless of your views on circumcision, should the government be involved in deciding who can have a circumcision? Or should the government stay out of it? " 83% thought it should stay out. [A question phrased in terms of the human rights of the person having the operation, and the operation described in terms of the removal of part of his genitals, might have had a different outcome. It was apparently assumed that everyone knew what circumcision is.]

The final question was whether respondents would have a baby circumcised today? 36% (46% of men, 82% of those identifying as not circumcised, 13% of those identifying as Jewish) would not.


IOL News
June 18, 2011

Teen dies after circumcision ceremony

A 19-year-old man has died after an initiation ceremony, Eastern Cape police said on Saturday.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said the boy had tried to make his way to hospital in Fort Gale, Mthatha, on foot but died during the night on Friday.

He had been covered in numerous bruises and scratches which indicated that he may have been assaulted.

Community members found his body along a footpath.


Jewish Circumcision Resource Center
June 20, 2011

A Message to Jewish Americans on Circumcision

Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
Executive Director

The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center of Boston supports Jews who believe that circumcision is unethical and that it is not a necessity for full engagement in Jewish life. We seek to encourage critical thinking about circumcision and dispel various cultural misunderstandings about the practice.

We have learned much from Jewish Americans who have contributed books, films, and research to raise awareness about the history of circumcision in this country, about foreskin anatomy and physiology, and about the serious harm caused by foreskin removal. Consequently, a growing number of Jews in the U.S., South America, Europe, and Israel are making the decision not to circumcise their infants.

Our essential message is that all Jews do have a choice; we can be fully identified and affiliated as Jews, and fully engaged spiritually in a Jewish context, without circumcising our infants. Some families have chosen brit shalom, a beautiful welcoming ceremony for infant boys and girls without genital cutting. We acknowledge the profound place that circumcision has in Jewish tradition and practice. However, we are compelled to question genital cutting out of deep caring and compassion for all infants and children.

Unfortunately, there may be statements and tactics by individuals opposed to circumcision that are insensitive and even offensive to many Jews. We regret this and absolutely reject all statements or actions, often based on ignorance, that are disrespectful of any religion or ethnic group.

Our core principles are simple and unambiguous: infants are people; their bodies belong to them alone. Every person should have the right to make an informed decision about the removal or alteration of any normal, healthy, functioning body part when he or she is older. We advocate preservation of normal, healthy, functioning body parts for all infants and children, male and female, regardless of the culture, religion, or personal beliefs of parents or other adults.

While it may make Jews uncomfortable to question circumcision, the general silence around circumcision leaves some Jews with continuing intellectual, emotional, ethical, and spiritual conflicts about the practice. Some mothers reveal great distress about permitting and watching the circumcision of their sons. Recent information supports their feelings. Studies show that infants experience significant pain and trauma during and after circumcision (lack of crying indicates trauma-induced withdrawal), and behavioral and neurological changes in infants have been observed.

Some dissatisfied men report wide-ranging physical, sexual, and psychological consequences of circumcision, partly because the foreskin has significant physiological and sexual functions. These crucial facts, along with frequently ignored issues such as the various surgical risks of circumcision and its disrupting effects on the mother-infant bond, are changing many Jewish Americans' attitudes toward circumcision.

We ask that our fellow Jewish Americans, whatever their beliefs and attitudes regarding other Jewish traditions, join us in asking these questions: Has removal of infant foreskins really promoted commitment to Jewish identity in America? Are there not other less problematic and potentially much more effective approaches to ensuring that our children, male and female, will grow up to become proud contributing participants in Jewish life in America?

Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
Executive Director of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center
Author of Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective and Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma


Leonard B. Glick, M.D., Ph.D.
Cultural anthropologist
Author of Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America

Lisa Braver Moss
Author of The Measure of His Grief
Writer specializing in health, family, and parenting issues

Miriam Pollack
Author of Circumcision: A Jewish Feminist Perspective and Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power
Writer and speaker

Mark Reiss, M.D.
Executive Vice President of Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Creator and administrator of Celebrants of Brit Shalom

Rebecca Wald, J.D.
Founder of the Beyond the Bris project

Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH Maternal Child Health Epidemiologist

Moshe Rothenberg, MSW
Certified teacher and social worker, Brit Shalom ceremony leader

© Jewish Circumcision Resource Center. All rights reserved.


Examiner (Washington, DC)
June 17, 2011

New study: male circumcision and sexual difficulties for men and female partners

By Ryan McAllister

The first European study to examine sexual side-effects from circumcision revealed a surprising number of conditions and ailments associated with the surgery.

This new study in Denmark revealed that circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in men and with a variety of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, difficulty with penetration, painful intercourse, and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fullfilment.

Male circumcision has previously been associated in the medical literature and in statements from pediatric urologists in DC and elsewhere with a number of complications and the loss of the most sensitive tissue of the penis.

More reasons to refrain from circumcsi[ng] male children

To the abstract of the study.


Graph from Danish circumcision study

[Graphic based on the study results.]


New York Times
June 15, 2011

Piercing Cats Is Cruelty, Judges Rule

By John Schwartz

Piercing kittens to give them a “goth” appearance is cruel, a panel of Pennsylvania judges has ruled.

Three judges of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on Monday affirmed a lower court conviction for animal cruelty of a dog groomer who had offered “gothic” kittens on eBay.

The groomer, Holly Crawford of Sweet Valley, Pa., offered the kittens for $100; Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote in a 19-page opinion that “metal protruded from the kittens’ small bodies, pierced through their ears and necks, and at least one of these kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail, an attempt at docking, which is a procedure to stem the blood flow so that the tail eventually falls off.”


Judge Elliott wrote, “Appellant’s claims center on her premise that a person of normal intelligence would not know whether piercing a kitten’s ears or banding its tail is maiming, mutilating, torturing or disfiguring an animal.”

The judge added, “We disagree.”

Earlier story


First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you ...

Jewish Journal
June 14, 2011

Rep. Brad Sherman will introduce bill outlawing city circumcision bans

By Jonah Lowenfeld

Reacting to recent efforts to advance ballot measures banning circumcision of underage males in California cities, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is set to introduce a bill that would prevent municipalities nationwide from prohibiting the procedure.

“Religious freedom is a federal issue, and medical practice is a state issue, maybe a federal issue as well,” Sherman said today. “Neither of them is in the proper realm of cities.”

The exact language of Sherman’s bill, the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011, hadn’t been released as of press time, but Sherman said the bill would be presented to the House Judiciary Committee today or tomorrow. Sherman also said that he was gathering co-sponsors. “One of note is Keith Ellison,” Sherman said, referring to the Minnesota Democrat, the first Muslim American to be elected to Congress.

[It will be interesting to know how they can possibly word their bill to allow circumcision, but not other religious practices that are currently illegal, such as

  • female genital cutting
  • polygamy
  • castration
  • human sacrifice
- and how it can fail to breach the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution, in terms of the person being circumcised's freedom to practise the religion of his choice and from discrimination on the basis of sex.]

A proposition banning circumcision in San Francisco will appear on that city’s ballot in November. An effort to put an identical proposition before voters in Santa Monica was abandoned by its proponent on June 6.

Sherman did not coordinate his legislative efforts with the local organizing effort to defeat the San Francisco ballot proposition, which is being led by the Jewish Community Relations Council. He said he does not expect the measure to pass in San Francisco, nor does he expect any state to enact such legislation. Nevertheless, he was moved to act by the anti-Semitic comic book “Foreskin Man,” penned by Matthew Hess, an anti-circumcision movement leader.

Asked about the precedent for using federal legislation to restrict the types of laws that may be enacted by cities, Sherman cited a 2000 law that prevented cities from enacting zoning laws that would inhibit the construction of houses of worship. “Even when it is a city issue, such as zoning, the federal government steps in when we think cities are unduly burdening First Amendment rights,” Sherman said.

Ultimately, Sherman said, the decision over whether to circumcise “should be left up to the parents. I’m not going to propose a mandatory circumcision bill.” [We should be grateful for small mercies....]


The Guardian (UK)
June 14, 2011

Time to ban male circumcision?

By Neil Howard and Rebecca Steinfeld

If passed, article 50 will ban genital cutting for boys in San Francisco, with profound religious implications for Jews and Muslims. But isn't it time to oppose all circumcision?

San Francisco voters will decide later this year whether, like its female counterpart, male infant circumcision should be outlawed. If passed, article 50 — the "Genital Cutting of Male Minors" — would make it unlawful to circumcise, cut, or mutilate the foreskin, testicles, or penis of another person aged under 18. The bill includes an exemption for cases of medical necessity, but not for custom or ritual, which has profound implications for the many Jews and Muslims who consider it an essential part of their religious or cultural practice.

Unsurprisingly, the bill has attracted considerable controversy. Some regard it as a modern manifestation of western antisemitism, while certain feminist groups consider the idea of comparing male and female genital cutting to be both offensive and unsubstantiated.

Neither the World Health Organisation nor the UN oppose male circumcision, and given that the procedure is so unquestioned that 33% of American boys still undergo it, one might think that they have a point. But is it really so simple? And are the differences between male and female circumcision really so straightforward?

According to research, the sexual damage caused by female and male genital cutting can be extensive. Female genital cutting, which can involve removal of the clitoris, may reduce the likelihood of orgasm and cause complications during childbirth. Similarly, male circumcision can result in excruciating pain, nerve destruction, infection, disfigurement and sometimes death. Like the clitoris, the foreskin serves a sexual purpose, and it protects the "head" of the penis from outside elements.

Both male and female genital cutting can have profound psychological consequences. Circumcised women often experience trauma, stress and anxiety, and can have relationship problems. Some circumcised men describe feelings of loss, anger, distrust, and grief, while others have reported problems with subsequent intimacy, long-term post-traumatic stress disorder, and a sense of powerlessness.

With female genital cutting, the desire to control female sexuality remains key: believed to reduce a woman's libido, the practice is said to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts, thus aiding the maintenance of premarital virginity and marital fidelity.

Male circumcision has similarly been associated with managing sexuality. Maimonedes, the great Jewish sage, believed it counteracted "excessive lust", while as a secular practice in the US, it was first promoted as a means of preventing "harmful" masturbation. Now, the discourse of cleanliness is crucial – and one frequently hears that "a cut man is a cleaner man".

In Judaism, male circumcision, carried out eight days after birth, is essential, according to religious law; male circumcision is also practised in Islam, though the necessity of female genital cutting is contested among Muslims.

Clearly, significant similarities exist between male and female genital cutting, and the question asked by those behind article 50 is: why the legal difference between boys and girls?

What about the health argument, that male circumcision is "cleaner" and prevents HIV transmission? There is a body of research that claims a correlation between circumcision and reduced transmission rates, and this is not to be taken lightly, since it represents the strongest case for male genital cutting – at least in Aids-ravaged regions. But such research is heavily contested. A 2007 study by Dowsett and Couch asserted that insufficient evidence exists to believe that circumcision does reduce transmission, while Gregorio et al's later analysis cast doubt on correlations between circumcision and transmission of HIV and STI's more generally.

Wouldn't a mass information campaign represent better public health policy than widespread pre-emptive circumcision? If we favour removal of body parts to reduce risk of disease, why not remove breasts to prevent breast cancer? Or pull teeth, in the name of cleanliness, to ward off plaque? Though health and hygiene are important, less intrusive and equally successful means clearly exist to ensure them.

What about religious freedom? Certainly, the ability to freely practise one's religion remains a vital component of any liberal democracy. But should this trump an individual's right to their bodily integrity? And shouldn't such a principle be extended to all those who, by virtue of their age, are too young to decide on which body parts they would or would not like to keep?

Some may point to state overreach here, suggesting that a ban on child ear-piercing will be next. But it is the irreversibility of circumcision that invalidates such comparisons. Instead of dismissing article 50 as either antisemitic or anti-feminist, therefore, we suggest that it should perhaps be considered as no more than the consistent application of legal principles to both sexes.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights outlaws the kind of "harm" that circumcision can cause; article 14 forbids the discrimination that prevents baby boys from enjoying the same protection of their genitalia as baby girls. In the 21st century, it is time to remember that men, too, can be victims of unjust hegemonic systems tolerated in the name of tradition, culture or religion. If we oppose female genital mutilation, has the time not come for us also to oppose male genital mutiliation?

Neil Howard and Rebecca Steinfeld are doctoral students at Oxford University, specialising on issues related to gender in West Africa and the Middle East respectively


New York Times
June 11, 2011

Russell Crowe apologizes for calling circumcision 'barbaric' after actor is labeled anti-Semitic

By Shari Weiss

In case you were wondering, Russell Crowe's sons probably aren't circumcised. [Quite possibly, neither is he.]

The Australian [New Zealand]-born star voiced his thoughts on the topic through his Twitter account Thursday night, quickly embroiling himself in a firestorm as his comments spread Friday morning.

"Circumcision is barbaric and stupid," Crowe declared. "Who are you to correct nature? Is it real that GOD requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect."

As followers began to tweet Crowe with reasons in favor of the medical procedure, he strongly stood by his opinions, calling one tweeter a "moron" and telling another to "sew up your a--."

Crowe, 47, insisted he was taking a "stand for the perfection of babies."

"I will always believe in God," he tweeted, "not man's interpretation of what God requires."

But things escalated even further when the actor was later accused of anti-Semitism for a tweet he sent to actor-director Eli Roth.

"I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats but stop cutting yr babies @eliroth," he wrote.

Roth, 39, jokingly replied, "You didn't seem to be complaining when I was recutting you this afternoon…"

The filmmaker [Roth] later lashed out at media outlets on Twitter for taking the exchange seriously and labeling Crowe an anti-Semite.

"We are FRIENDS. Friends joke and tease each other," Roth tweeted. "This is SICK."

"Russell Crowe is a great person," he continued. "People are taking a joke to ME on twitter and are using it as an excuse to vilify a good man."

Roth said that "the whole fun of twitter is to have a real, open exchange with fans," and complained that "NOT ONE MEDIA OUTLET CONTACTED EITHER OF US to see if it was a joke."

Crowe later deleted his controversial tweets, which also included his take on abortion ("Abortion should always be a woman's choice, there is no benefit to 'forced' motherhood") and offered an apology.

"This is a great forum for communication," he began. "Like any human have my opinions and you all have yours, thank you for trusting me with them."

"I have a deep and abiding love for all people of all nationalities," he continued in another tweet. "I'm very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress."

"My personal beliefs aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others," he concluded. "I am very sorry."

Crowe initially stood by his statements, however, saying he "wasn't intending offense" and "certainly wasn't intending to provide fodder for lazy journalists."

"I can't apologize for my heartfelt belief," he said.

[And it turns out the woman who initially asked if she should have her son "circumstanced" was just making a play on words. We hope she hasn't been ostracised.]


June 10, 2011

The "Anti-Semite" Card No Longer Washes

As predicted, the current bid to ban circumcision in San Francisco is causing commotion. And, as predicted, religious groups, particularly Jewish organizations, are working hard to condemn the measure as anti-Semitic. It seems circumcision advocates have found the perfect scapegoat, however, and they're milking it for everything it's worth.

The scapegoat in question is the latest issue of "Foreskin Man," a comic book that portrays a hero who saves defenseless babies from crazed maniacs intent on circumcising them. The villain in the latest issue happens to be a mohel, and the author's portrayal of him isn't exactly kosher. The imagery of the villain, or "Monster Mohel" as he is called, are very disturbing, because to some, it recalls Nazi German anti-Semitist propaganda.

Perhaps the creation of this comic wouldn't have garnered so much attention, if it weren't for the fact that the creator, Matthew Hess, also happens to be the president of MGM Bill, which is an organization working to enact legislation that would ban the circumcision of minors unless it is medically necessary. The comic book has become a lightning rod for criticism of not only the proposed ballot measure in San Francisco, but also for the entire intactivist movement as a whole. Opponents to the measure are waving it around as "proof" that intactivists are all anti-Semites, and now, instead of the issues, intactivists are fending off accusations of anti-Semitism.

Is "Monster Mohel" Really the Problem?
It's easy to see why the comic book is causing outrage. In the past, grotesque imagery was used to mischaracterize Jews, and to justify the horrific actions inflicted upon them during the Holocaust. It's easy to see why the imagery used in the latest edition of "Foreskin Man" can be insulting and offensive. I wonder, however, if "Monster Mohel" is really the problem?

The fact of the matter is that circumcision is a very important part of Jewish culture, one that is controversial, ethically problematic, and that they've historically fought to preserve. The San Francisco circumcision ban proposal is a direct challenge to this old and heavily defended tradition. Would there have been a better way to portray a villain mohel in a way that was not going to piss Jewish groups off?

It is inescapeable; "Monster Mohel" is most definitely depicted as evil and sinister. However, the same is also true of "Dr. Mutilator," the gentile, non-Jewish doctor in the issue before. But aren't all villains in comic books portrayed this way?

Monster Mohel & Dr Mutilator

To the left is "Monster Mohel." To the right is "Dr. Mutilator," who wasn't drawn any less grotesque.

Scarface & Clayface

These characters are from the "Batman" universe. On the left is "The Scarecrow," on the right is "Clayface."

[Here is a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis lobbying Mayor Bloomberg of New York to allow metzitzah b'peh in 2006.

Orthodox mohelim]

Is it really the portrayal of "Monster Mohel" that's the problem? Or is it the fact that a very old, historically contentious tradition is being challenged, and Jewish groups were going to find some other way to paint backers of the bill as Nazis anyway?

A Red Herring
I'm not going to lie; Hess' decision to publish his latest edition of the "Foreskin Man" comic book was a dumb move. It's distracting from the main issues. Instead of talking about the reasons why intactivists believe circumcision should be banned, we're busy trying to divorce ourselves from "Foreskin Man" and fending off accusations of anti-Semitism. "Foreskin Man" shoots our movement in the foot and it is gumming up our efforts to educate the public; Hess should have NEVER published that comic book.

Here's the fact of the matter though; comic or no comic, Jewish groups will call anybody "anti-Semite" for challenging circumcision. ["Dr" Laura did years ago.] Even without the comic book, advocates of circumcision would have tried to find other ways to distract from the issues that we as intactivists are trying to bring attention to. The comic has provided the perfect scapegoat to distract from the issues, but the accusations of "anti-Semitism" would have been made, even without it, directing attention away from the crux of the argument.

Which brings us to the namesake of this blog post. Does pulling out the "anti-Semite" card even work anymore? The depiction of "Monster Mohel" certainly smacks of older anti-Semite propaganda, and Hess' motives for publishing the latest edition of his comic book are certainly questionable. But can "anti-Semite" apply to the intactivist movement as a whole?

The "Anti-Semite" Trump Card in the Past
In the past, one of the greatest obstacles in questioning circumcision was the fact that it also happens to be a religious ritual practiced by a very vocal minority. When circumcision was openly challenged, one mention of the word "anti-Semite," and all of a sudden, people challenging circumcision were worse than Hitler. Nothing was more effective at silencing any discourse on a cosmetic, non-medical surgery that is mostly practiced on gentile, non-Jewish children in hospitals in our country, than by insinuating that people against circumcision were equivalent to, or worse than Nazi Germans. But can circumcision advocates still expect their opponents to feel guilty because they're challenging a tradition practiced by survivors of the Holocaust?

The answer is, not anymore.


The "anti-Semite" label may have held water, IF the intactivist movement targeted only Jewish circumcision. Let's not forget that in this country, of all circumcision, only 3% comprises of Jewish brisim. The rest of the 97% are secular circumcisions that happen at hospitals. And, as I have shown, circumcision is not universal among Jews. Some of the most outspoken members of the intactivist movement also happen to be Jewish. Intactivists believe that circumcision, when practiced on healhty, non-consenting minors, is a violation of basic human rights, regardless of religion, race, age, or sex.


[In addition, real antisemites - the KKK and the American Nazi Party - take no interest in circumcision. Nor did Hitler - except as a way of identifying Jews - or Henry Ford in his notorious "The International Jew"]


Dorf on Law
June 7, 2011

Proposed Circumcision Ban Could Lead to Important Religious Freedom Ruling in California

By Mike Dorf

According to this NY Times story, it appears that efforts to ban circumcision are meeting with greater success than in the past, at least in two California cities. If such a ban is enacted, it could lead to a ruling on an important question about religious freedom. I'll use the possible ban as a "teachable moment," here a moment to teach about the incredibly complicated law of religious freedom.

In 1990, in the Smith case, the Supreme Court held that there is no infringement on religious freedom if a state law that applies to everybody happens to impose a greater burden on people whose interest in engaging in the forbidden conduct (or refraining from the required conduct) is driven by a sense of religious obligation. The particular case involved peyote: Oregon forbade peyote use by everyone, and the Court ruled that the Free Exercise Clause wasn't even implicated when Oregon applied that general prohibition to Native Americans who wanted to use peyote in their worship service.

The Smith rule says there are no religious exemptions from religion-neutral laws, but the Court itself soon made clear in the Lukumi case--which involved a local ordinance that forbade ritual animal sacrifice but targeted practitioners of Santeria--that the Smith rule does not apply when a law that is neutral on its face is in fact aimed at religion. A law banning the wearing of yarmulkes wold violate Smith because it is not neutral on its face, but even a law banning the public wearing of head-coverings would be invalid under Lukumi if it could be shown that it was adopted for the purpose of targeting observant Jewish and Sikh men, and Muslim women. The Lukumi test is tricky because it sometimes turns on subjective purpose, and for that reason, Justice Scalia, writing separately in Lukumi, expressed discomfort with this aspect of the rule, but even though the portion of Justice Kennedy's opinion in Lukumi that adopted a subjective test did not get 5 votes, I think that it probably is the law nonetheless--in light of equal protection cases that take the same perspective. I'll return to Lukumi below.

Meanwhile, in 1993 a nearly-unanimous Congress responded to Smith by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which "restored" the previous rule: RFRA said that whenever a federal, state or local law imposes a "substantial burden" on religious practice, the courts are authorized to grant an exemption from the law, unless the application of the law satisfies the demanding strict scrutiny test: the law must be the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest.



Jewish Journal
June 6, 2011

Santa Monica Circumcision Ban Ballot Measure Withdrawn

By Jonah Lowenfeld

The proponent of a proposition aimed at banning circumcision in Santa Monica has informed the Jewish Journal that she is abandoning her effort to put the question to voters in the beachfront city before beginning to collect any signatures.

Jena Troutman, a lactation consultant and self-described “children’s rights advocate,” said Monday afternoon that she has decided not to move forward with the petition because of what she called the media’s misrepresentation of her efforts as an attack on religious freedom.

“It shouldn’t have been about religion in the first place,” Troutman said in an interview. “Ninety-five percent of people aren’t doing it for religious reasons, and with everyone from the New York Times to Glenn Beck focusing on the religious issue, it’s closing Americans down to the conversation.”

Troutman was featured prominently in an article in the New York Times on Sunday about attempts to ban circumcision in two California cities. A mother of two, Troutman runs the website wholebabyrevolution.com, which she describes as an educational resource for parents considering circumcision.


Earlier story


June 5, 2011

Tallahassee icon Van Lewis is facing the end

By Gerald Ensley

Tallahassee soon won't have Van Lewis to call wacko anymore. Or maybe not. ...

But the curtain is dropping on this act. Lewis, 68, has advanced pancreatic cancer, a notoriously fatal cancer, which usually claims its victims within six to nine months of diagnosis. Lewis was diagnosed in February.


For more than 40 years, he has been an implacable foe of male circumcision. In 1970, he was arrested for picketing Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, carrying a sign that called physicians who perform circumcisions "Sex Criminals for Hire." He has harangued city, county and state lawmakers. He has written letters to the editor.

Talking about circumcision sends him into spittle-flying, lectern-pounding, top-of-the-lungs fury. His vehemence sometimes scares people — especially on a seemingly arcane topic few ever ponder. Hence, the crazy tag.

But those who know him say it's an unfair perception that ignores his reality away from the soapbox.

... Lewis considers circumcision to be genital mutilation, which causes trauma that prevents men from bonding with their mothers and leaves them forever psychologically scarred. He ascribes "being a madman" in his mid-20s to his own circumcision. He asserts hundreds of babies are killed every year by infection caused by circumcision. And he has done everything he can to rid the world of the practice, from attending annual rallies in Washington, D.C., to helping persuade Florida legislators in 2003 to stop state Medicaid funding for circumcision.

"It's personal with me," Lewis said. "There is no competent medical claim that it is medically necessary. It is a fundamental violation of human rights. Nobody has the right to cut off your nose because they think you'll look better. The only reason physicians get away with it is because medicine is a business, not a profession."

It is a crusade for which he will be remembered in Tallahassee. [And far, far beyond.] And maybe not warmly. But his wife praises him for fighting for what he believes.

"Van is a person who cares deeply about babies, and to take a knife to a baby bothered him on a scientific level and a human level," she said. "The more he learned, the more compelled he felt to have people look at the issue, even if it caused him embarrassment, harassment or discomfort.


[Van Lewis died on Monday, June 6, 2011. He was 68.]


June 2, 2011

JCRC launches campaign to defeat S.F. circumcision ban

By dan pine

The battle is on to keep circumcision legal in San Francisco.

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council has begun partnering with religious, legal and medical organizations and individuals to map out a strategy for the November election. Their goal: to defeat a ballot measure that, if passed, would criminalize circumcisions.

Last month, the so-called Male Genital Mutilation Bill qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot. It would ban circumcision in San Francisco, with no religious exemptions allowed.

Parents, doctors and mohels authorizing or performing circumcisions would be liable for a $1,000 fine and/or a year in prison. [A smaller penalty than that imposed by federal law for making the most token ritual nick to a baby girl.]

JCRC’s strategy includes fundraising, voter education and, eventually, ads, bumper stickers and all the trappings of a political campaign.

So far, JCRC has established the Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom, and brought in the political polling firm Tulchin Research as consultants. The campaign has launched a website: http://www.stopcircban.com.

“We’ve got 86 coalition members on board,” said JCRC Associate Director Abby Michelson Porth. “They are coming in faster than we can process them all. These are medical authorities, civil liberties scholars, national Muslim and Jewish organizations, HIV researchers, infectious disease specialists, rabbis and imams.”

The measure, which has drawn national attention, is seen as a frontal attack on a central tenet of Judaism.

“The stakes are very high,” said Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs. “Circumcision is a fundamental aspect of Jewish ritual practice and Jewish identity. While we certainly hope the prospect of [a law] being enacted is remote, the precedent it would set and the message it would send would be terrible, not just in the United States but around the world.

“We don’t just want it defeated,” he added, “we want it defeated soundly.”

In addition to Jewish organizations such as the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the national arms of Jewish denominations, many non-Jewish groups have lent their names to the coalition.

They include the Muslim American Society, the S.F. Interfaith Council, the Islamic Networks Group, and prominent religious leaders, such as Catholic Archbishop George Niederauer of the S.F. Archdiocese.

Niederauer condemned the initiative in a May 23 letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Although the issue does not concern Christians directly, as a religious leader I can only view with alarm the prospect that this misguided initiative would make it illegal for Jews and Muslims who practice their religion to live in San Francisco — for that is what the passage of such a law would mean,” he wrote in the letter.

“Apart from the religious aspect, the citizens of San Francisco should be outraged at the prospect of city government dictating to parents in such a sensitive matter regarding the health and hygiene of their children.” [How about some outrage regarding children's genitals being meddled with in such a sensitive matter?]

Political figures also have endorsed the campaign, among them five sitting and former members of the S.F. Board of Supervisors and state Sen. Mark Leno.

“On its face it is clearly unconstitutional,” Leno said of the measure. “Every legal assessment I have seen confirms that. Unfortunately, our initiative process allows for unconstitutional measures to be put before voters.”

Porth said the themes of the campaign will include defending religious liberties, parental rights and health benefits of circumcision, which proponents say are proven.

“To criminalize a procedure that reduces the transmission of HIV, penile cancer, urinary tract infections and even cervical cancer seems to be an affront to science,” Porth said. “San Francisco is at its best when we unite against efforts to curtail our civil liberties. This measure seeks to place the government between doctor and moms and dads, and between faith traditions and their adherents.”

Added Leno, “Having lived now 30 years through the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a gay man in San Francisco, I am well aware that circumcision is a frontline defense against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.”

The fight against the San Francisco ballot measure has brought a number of Muslim organizations into the JCRC-led coalition.

“Circumcision is required for Muslim males [and females] in emulation of the Prophet Abraham,” said Maha El Genaidi, executive director of the Islamic Networks Group. “A ban that specifically targets a religious practice of Muslims and that has been proven to be medically beneficial is a violation of First Amendment rights that guarantee all Americans the right to religious freedom.”

Zahra Billoo, the Bay Area director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, noted that her group rarely finds itself on the same political side as groups such as the Orthodox Union, adding that the measure is an assault on the freedoms of both religions.

“The civil rights of Jews and Muslims are being impacted,” she told JTA. “We don’t agree on all things all the time, but we do find common cause in many areas. An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions.” [Except when one religion attacks another, of course.]


May 6, 2011

Gates, U.S. Army Give Millions USD To HIV Vaccine Development

Who knew that a vaccine was possible for the defense against HIV and AIDS? Well the scientists at the University of Maryland (Turtles) have been working on one for decades and now the school has been granted millions of dollars in grants from the Gates' Foundation and the United States Army to keep pushing for a solution to one of the world's most deadly mutating diseases.

Scientists have long been frustrated by the AIDS virus' ability to mutate. The virus constantly changes the makeup of the proteins on its surface, making it hard for antibodies to attack the disease. Vaccines developed to battle the disease have proved too weak to meet the task.

Previous research has been tested on monkeys but this new funding will enable the IHV vaccine to move from preclinical work to Phase I and II clinical trials that would include humans.

Some students since the 1990s have been fortunate enough to learn about the replication mechanism of this virus in school. HIV will use your own functioning cells against you, by mimicking your own DNA while destroying your bodily functions. The IHV vaccine contains a protein that is normally hidden within the AIDS virus but exposes itself when the virus attaches to a cell before attacking it. The protein doesn't change, unlike the proteins on the outer coat of the virus.

Basically, here is how it breaks down:
1. Fusion of the HIV cell to the host cell surface.
2. HIV RNA, reverse transcriptase, integrase, and other viral proteins enter the host cell.
3. Viral DNA is formed by reverse transcription.
4. Viral DNA is transported across the nucleus and integrates into the host DNA.
5. New viral RNA is used as genomic RNA and to make viral proteins.
6. New viral RNA and proteins move to cell surface and a new, immature, HIV virus forms.
7. The virus matures by protease releasing individual HIV proteins.

The new Maryland vaccine being researched would neutralize many different strains of HIV. The researchers say previous vaccine candidates responded only to single strains or narrow ranges of the disease.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have donated $16.8 million to the research, while the Army's Military HIV Research Program has given $2.2 million. The National Institutes of Health and others also have contributed funds. The foundation also awarded the IHV $15 million in 2007 to go toward developing the HIV/AIDS vaccine.

Col. Peter Weina, deputy commander of the Military HIV Research Program stated:

"No one institution is able to do everything well, but by collaborating we can develop the synergies to make a breakthrough we might not be able to do by ourselves."

The researchers will also look at how long the vaccine will last in humans. Researchers have said they're closer than they have ever been to developing a vaccine.

Medications now enable people living with AIDS to manage the disease and survive for many years. But the drugs are expensive and don't cure people. People with HIV also have a much higher risk of developing certain cancers, such as those of the lung, liver, head and neck.


There's money in circumcision!

The Standard (Kenya)
May 30, 2011

Firms rush to cash in from Sh2b male cut

By Elizabeth Mwai

A number of foreign medical device companies are scrambling for a piece of Sh2 billion [$US 23,378,000] business opportunity brought about by an ongoing male circumcision drive.

An estimated 860,000 Kenyans are to be circumcised in the race against time to avert the spread of new HIV infections, which health officials want to put under control in the next 15 years.

Research has, however, shown that to meet the target and realise the benefits of timely intervention, there is need for the sector to procure circumcision devices to speed up the process—as is done internationally.

Male circumcision is said to be one of the oldest and most common surgical procedures and is normally undertaken for varied reasons including religion, cultural, social and medical.

But the latest surge in demand is informed by the need by the Government to save billions of shillings in the cost for Aids programmes over the next 15 years. This it hopes can be achieved by scaling up the voluntary male circumcision programme.

The savings would result from the circumcision of up to 80 per cent of adult and newborn males.

Supported by research findings, circumcised men are said to have a significantly lower risk of becoming infected with HIV and Aids, hence the growing demand for safe and affordable circumcision.

It is this opportunity that 20 foreign medical devices firms, including one from China and Turkey, have set up shop to woo the Government to licence their devices for use in the exercise.

Early this month, the battle rose a notch higher with the release of a research finding on one of the devices.

The device, AlisKlamp, was found to be of high levels of acceptability and ensures safety.

Another circumcision device namely Tara Klamp, however, fell off the race when it exhibited numerous side effects like excessive bleeding and gaping wounds.

[Ali's Clamp is very similar to the Tara KLamp]

The principal lead investigator Pius Musau said the two-and-a-half-month study commissioned by the Government revealed that the devise has no malfunction and has minimal adverse effect of 1.7 per cent.


Recent work in mathematical modeling has shown that large benefits can be reaped with every one HIV infection being averted through circumcision.

The mathematical model estimates that with 80 per cent male circumcision uptake in Nyanza Province over the next ten years, female HIV prevalence would decrease from 22 to 10 per cent and for males, from 17 to seven per cent.

[The apparently ignores the work of Wawer et al. which suggests that circumcising men may increase the risk to women.]



They're not buying it.

May 30, 2011

Africa at forefront of Aids war


MBABANE - Mfanzile Nxumalo averts his eyes and screws up his face while his foreskin is sliced off, but he declares his mettle as the nurse stitches him up. He's joining in a push by Swaziland to curb HIV infections with male circumcisions.

“I am the bravest man alive!” he declares from the hospital trolley. “I’ve tested negative - that’s what motivates me.”

As a 29-year-old Swazi, Nxumalo has a nearly one in two chance of being infected with HIV in the small mountainous kingdom which has the world's highest prevalence rate and lowest life expectancy, 32 years.

After trials suggested circumcision could reduce HIV infection risk to men by up to two-thirds, Swaziland decided to revive a tradition that had been abandoned in the 19th century.

[If "could" became "might", the true uncertainly of the claim would be even clearer.]

“Everybody seems to want to use a condom in the research we've done,” said Derek von Wissel, who heads Swaziland's emergency response council on Aids.

“But often they are too drunk to use a condom. Or round one they use a condom, round two they don’t.”

The ambitious, US-funded campaign hopes to reach one in eight Swazi men, but has had disappointing results so far.

The clinic performing Mfanzile’s procedure is geared to see 80 patients a day. At best 15 trickle in - fewer than even before the campaign began in February.

Adverts urging men to “circumcise and conquer” are everywhere but organisers now admit they may not reach their targets as quickly as hoped.

["...and conquer" what? HIV or multiple partners? Which would men like to think?]



BBC World Service
May 27, 2011

Debate between Lloyd Schofield and Rabbi Eric Weiss

(Move slider to 44')

Rabbi Weiss (51:30): "When we use the language of choice, and consent and human rights, we all know the depth of that argument on many, many different levels. And so within the context of the United States, where we have a separation of church and state and choice is made essentially, um, on the parental level on behalf of the child, this part of what is, um, a human right within the context of the United States and I daresay in many other parts of the world and other countries and their democracies. And so when we're talking about choice and human right, and you take it from a different perspective on a different level, this, uh, ballot measure actually denies choice altogether."

[Except to the person most directly concerned, when he is old enough to make a choice. He will almost certainly choose to keep it all.]


May 27, 2011

Dentist performs circumcisions, gets blamed for infections

By Niña Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines - Parents of 2 boys, "Phillip", 14 and "Robin", 11, complained to ABS-CBN News on Friday about a dentist in their barangay who performed circumcision on the boys.

Erlinda Frayna and Rosemarie Capad say their children's penises got infected after Dr. Ronald Espulgar performed circumcision on the 2 boys.

Philip's case, in particular, worried him and his mom after his penis bled continuously when he got home.


The 2 boys were brought to the hospital where it was confirmed that their organs were inflamed. They were prescribed antibiotics and sent home afterwards.

Espulgar was out of town when ABS-CBN News tried to get his side. On the phone he explained that although he is a dentist, he has been doing circumcisions since the 1990s and is trained to do so.



A relatively balanced debate

Fox (Houston)
23 May, 2011

Debate on Circumcision

FOX in Focus

Debate on Circumcision: MyFoxHOUSTON.com

HOUSTON - There's a general consensus in the west that circumcision of young girls is akin to mutilation, but 80 percent of boys undergo the procedure.

(News Core) - A San Francisco resident is working to include a measure on next November’s ballot that would ban circumcision in the city, CBS News reported May 20.

The ban could stir the ire of members of the Jewish faith, who perform religious circumcision ceremonies on eight-day-old male infants.

But Schofield contends religious traditions should change.

“It’s a man’s body and … his body doesn’t belong to his culture, his government, his religion or even his parents. It’s his decision,” Schofield said, according to CBS.

[Penile cancer HIV]


Right for the wrong reason

Daily Monitor (Uganda)
May 23, 2011

Church heads criticise male circumcision

The launch of safe male circumcision in Bushenyi District has been met with stiff resistance from church leaders, who say the practice is against morals.

Religious leaders said the way the medical people have packaged messages about male circumcision encourages people to go on sex rampage after the exercise.

The Rev. Can. Norbert Tibikoma, the Archdeacon for All Saints Church Greater Bushenyi, said the church will not compromise its morality.

“Telling people that circumcision will prevent them from the risk of HIV is very unfortunate. We have buried circumcised people who died of the disease. The way they are putting across their message of circumcision is like giving a licence to commit adultery.

It is like saying now you are free go and sin,” he said during the launch of the exercise last week.

He said the message from the church is that couples should remain faithful and those who are not yet married should abstain from premarital sex in order to avoid acquiring HIV. The chaplain of Masheruka Girls SS, the Rev. Ananias Ntereyo, said the approach being used to promote male circumcision should be changed.

“Circumcision has been in existence for ages. Putting HIV/Aids at the fore will encourage people to have sex with multiple partners. We have seen those who are circumcised also getting the disease,” he said.

But the district medical officer, Dr Celestine Barigye, said religious leaders have a bigger role in educating people to get circumcised. “We count on religious leaders in this exercise. If they fail to embrace this programme it will be difficult for us,” he said.

[This is eerily reminiscent of the Catholic Church's opposition to condoms to prevent HIV - except that condoms work.]


The word is spreading....

La Figa
May 22, 2011

Santa Monica, CA Wants to Snip Male Circumcision in the Bud

By Lisa Derrick

In what could be a very unkind cut, or not, depending on your point of view, the wealthy beach-side city of Santa Monica, CA, located west of Los Angeles, is contemplating a ballot measure that would ban circumcision even as a religious practice. The pro-foreskin move comes on the heels of a similar initiative approved in San Francisco on May 17.

According to the Jewish Journal–which obtained a copy of memorandum from the Santa Monica City clerk addressed to the city attorney, along with a Notice of Intent to Circulate a Petition, filed on Thursday, May 19– the proposal would add an initiative prohibiting “Genital Cutting of Male Minors” to a ballot in a future election in Santa Monica…

Included with the notice is the text of the proposed initiative, which is identical to the text of the initiative approved in San Francisco on May 17.

The text allows for exceptions to the ban only in cases where a surgical removal of the foreskin is deemed “necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed.”

Santa Monica, which has a population of nearly 90,000 is home to two hospitals–St. John’s and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. There are no mosques listed in Santa Monica, but the adherent Muslim population was 1.7% in 2009, and six synagogues/shuls.

The petition also seeks to make circumcision a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in county jail.

The group behind the bill, MGMBill.org has a lot of reasons why male circumcision is wrong, and point to medical and cosmetic uses of foreskins. I just remember reading Winds of War and there’s this scene where the Nazis want to look at a group of guys’ penises to see who was Jewish, and the America dude basically told them that checking out their joy sticks wouldn’t be much help since in America circumcision was the norm, not matter of faith. That was an eye opener for me at age nine!


The Nation (Kenya)
May 19, 2011

No more warrants to raid female 'cut' dens

The police will not be required to have an arrest warrant to enter premises where they suspect female circumcision is being carried out.

This is according to a Bill that will prohibit female circumcision.


The proposed law will criminalise the practice and make those involved in its practice offenders.

“There are existing laws which touch on it but they have loopholes that expose girls to the process,” Mr Kapondi told an advocacy forum organised by the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association in Nairobi.

The Constitution protects women from harmful cultural practices. Article 27 (4) says no person should be compelled to undergo a cultural practice.

Article 55(d) states that the government shall take measures to protect the youth from harmful cultural practices and exploitation.

Section 14 of the Children’s Act of 2001 also protects children from harmful cultural practices.


Saudi Gazette
May 19, 2011

Child loses member after circumcision

HAIL: Health Affairs are investigating how a private hospital in Hail managed to leave a two-year-old boy without a male member after going in for a circumcision.

A Health Affairs spokesman said that the boy appeared to have suffered a “wound” to his penis during the procedure and that the doctor in charge was being investigated.

An uncle of the child said that after the initial circumcision his nephew was taken from the hospital and admitted to the public King Khaled Hospital in Hail due to a “thrombosis and burns” where he remained for nearly 20 days.

“Ten days after he’d left hospital we were taken aback to find his whole member had fallen off,” he said.

“He’s only two. I don’t know what will become of him when he grows up.”

He said the family had made a complaint to Health Affairs asking for the doctor responsible to be punished and for “a male member to be attached” as a replacement.


MSN health, May 17, 2011

Foreskin May Be Reservoir for HPV [Real headline: HPV found in phimotic foreskins]

By Maureen Salamon HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- The penile foreskin can harbor the human papillomavirus (HPV) responsible for cervical cancer and genital warts, although experts disagree on whether this means that boys as well as girls should get vaccinations designed to prevent later sexual transmission.

In a small Austrian study, nearly a third of the foreskins in males examined contained strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and the cause of 70 percent of cervical cancers. HPV can also lead to genital warts in males and females.

The results were to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) in Washington, D.C. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"To have [HPV] present in about 30 percent of males is pretty interesting," AUA spokesman Dr. Kevin McVary said. "What we don't know is if any HPV in it was potentially transmittable. Having it present isn't the same thing as being able to pass it on. There are a lot of unknowns."

In the study, scientists from Innsbruck Medical University in Austria examined foreskin samples from 133 males between 7 months and 82 years old who had undergone circumcision to treat phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back from the head of the penis.


  1. This was not a typical sample of intact men.
  2. 133 is a small sample.
  3. Seven months is too early to diagnose phimosis.
  4. They were not compared with neonatally circumcised men - who would be hard to find in Austria. ]

Researchers took DNA from 40 tissue sections to evaluate the prevalence of HPV and found low-risk HPV genotypes in 18.8 percent of the foreskins and high-risk HPV in 9.77 percent. None of the patients had clinical symptoms of disease.

Two vaccines are available ...

"What this doesn't tell us is anything regarding the relative risk of having a partner who's circumcised vs. uncircumcised," said Dr. Jonathan L. Temte, professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and a voting member on the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. "I don't think this changes the argument very much regarding pros vs. cons on circumcision."

McVary added: "I wouldn't overreact and start circumcising all the boys. [But guess what commenters then went and did?] This is pilot data, and it needs to be repeated."


May 17, 2011

Botched Circumcisions

By Tracy Sears


RICHMOND,Va— For some it's a cosmetic or health decision. For others, it's a religious covenant.

Regardless of the reason, a majority of baby boys born in the Greater Richmond Area today are being circumcised.

While [or rather, Because] circumcision is one of the most common procedures performed, a number of things can and do go wrong.

Traci Stevens knew she didn’t want her second baby to go through what her first son did. Stevens says, “My husband said over and over, ‘Something’s wrong.’”

Pediatric urologist Dr. Boyd Winslow confirmed what the Stevens feared, their first son’s circumcision had been done wrong in the hospital and needed to be repeated. To spare their second born, Jonah, the same heartache, the Stevens took him directly to Dr. Winslow a month after he was born. Stevens says, “Jonah didn’t cry one bit when it was done, so I was very happy with that.”

Dr. Winslow says the Stevens aren’t alone; circumcision errors are becoming all too common.

Dr. Winslow says, “Babies crying and bleeding and I’m like, ‘Come on, this is not humane.’”

Over the past three years, Winslow’s practice has performed more than 1600 repeat circumcisions. Some are minor fixes, others are major ones.

[That's an average of 533 botches/year]

Dr. Winslow says, “The ones that have more serious problems can have so much skin removed that the penis becomes constrained and scarred or either bent and distorted.”

So why is this happening?

A lot of circumcisions are done on a newborn in a hurry,” says Dr. Winslow.

Obstetricians have been doing circumcisions for years. One because they’re experienced surgeons, and two, because they’re in the hospitals with the new mothers. [i.e. they get in first]

Susan Lanni, The Medical Director for Labor and Delivery at VCU Medical Center says, “It’s really not our specialty, but by default it falls in our lap.” [In fact the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it's "beyond the scope of the practice of obstetrics and gynecology"] She says with any medical procedure, there are complications, but says the majority of procedures are done correctly.


there are roughly 4,500 baby boys born in Greater Richmond each year and statistics show 80-90% of them are circumcised, ...

[That's 3600-4050 circumcisions/year - 13.2%-14.8% of them so badly botched a second operation was required.]

But what Winslow is offering is his expertise. A year ago, he began doing presentations for local doctors to help them recognize problematic conditions and to perform the procedure as safely and painlessly as possible. [His presentations include a slide beginning "Now the fun is over..."] While the American Medical Association has set up guidelines for doctors to follow, the procedure is often left up to an individual physician’s discretion, and some don’t even use a local anesthetic.

... However, if you're unsure whether circumcision is right for your child, consult your doctor first.

[The elephant in the room - not circumcising would eliminate any risk of a botch.]


San Francisco circumcision ban one step closer

May 17, 2011

Initiative Updates

We are pleased to announce that John Arntz, Director of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco, has certified that we have exceeded the required number of signatures for our initiative to be placed on the November 8, 2011 ballot

[The possibility remains of a legal challenge to the Bill's Constitutionality.]

Earlier story


Who will guard the guards?

May 17, 2011

BMIRs' 'Operation Tule' a success

MALOLOS City - The Bulacan Media Investigative Reporters (BMIRs), a media-related organization that aims to raise the credibility of Filipino journalists and implores fairness in delivering news nationwide, organized a circumcision project called, “Operation Tule” at Bgy. Canaleta last Sunday.

Twenty five boys ages 9-13 years old from B[aran]g[a]ys. of Anilao and Canaleta availed of [were subjected to] the free circumcision.



the Forward
May 06, 2011

Outlawing Circumcision
Good for the Jews?

By Eli Ungar-Sargon

The subject of circumcision is often relegated to the realm of jokes and cheeky double-entendres, but a San Francisco ballot initiative now gaining momentum would ban the practice, and it raises some very serious issues. At the heart of the current controversy are three fundamental questions. First, is circumcising an infant wrong? Second, should infant circumcision be against the law? And third, would banning circumcision infringe on the rights of those who practice it as part of their religions?

The answer to the first question is relatively straightforward. Though practiced by Jews for thousands of years and more recently adopted in the United States for its purported health benefits, infant circumcision is an ethically problematic act. By surgically removing the most sensitive part of the penis, we permanently alter a person’s sexual experience and we do so without their consent. The argument that we ought to circumcise babies for health reasons is very weak. Consider an analogous situation: If all women had one breast surgically removed, we could probably reduce the incidence of breast cancer in this country. This is clearly not a sufficient reason to implement such a drastic measure and neither are the claimed health benefits of circumcision.

The answer to the second question is not as clear. Not all ethically problematic behaviors need to be criminalized. For example, sleeping with your wife’s sister may be unethical, but it hardly warrants a law prohibiting the behavior. Proponents of the ballot measure often point out that female circumcision is illegal in the U.S., while male circumcision is practiced routinely. The comparison between female and male circumcision may seem outrageous at first, but upon closer inspection, it is actually reasonable. Female circumcision is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of practices, some of which are less severe than male circumcision. Contrary to common belief, most forms of female circumcision do not completely eliminate a woman’s ability to feel sexual pleasure, yet any form of female genital cutting, even something as minor as a ritual nick to the hood of the clitoris, is illegal in the United States. The comparison to female circumcision is useful in so far as it helps to uncover a cultural bias that has yielded a legal double standard in the U.S. But understanding this inconsistency doesn’t get us any closer to answering the second question. The law prohibiting female circumcision might be as unnecessary as the proposed ban on male circumcision.

Nevertheless, one of the state’s primary responsibilities is to protect its citizens. And by allowing parents to permanently alter the bodies of their children, the state is failing to protect its most vulnerable citizens from bodily harm. It seems reasonable to draw a legal line when it comes to body modifications that have life-long consequences.

To answer the third question, I will focus on the Jewish community, as my knowledge of Islam is insufficient to do that community justice. I would argue that a clear majority of American Jews do not circumcise their sons out of a sense of religious obligation, but rather as a means of ethnic identification. These people mostly have it done in the hospital by medical staff rather than a mohel, which, ironically, means that their sons do not and cannot have an actual religious brit milah. Criminalizing circumcision would not infringe on this group’s religious rights, as they are not doing it for religious reasons.   But there are religious American Jews who circumcise their boys out of a sense of religious obligation. These Jews can be divided into two groups: the fundamentalists and the non-fundamentalists. The former are a sub-group of Orthodox Jews who believe that our human understanding of ethics should not play a role in shaping Jewish law and practice. A ban on circumcision would indeed infringe on their right to practice their faith as they see fit. The human right to body integrity would, in this instance, override their religious right.

On the other hand, non-fundamentalist Jews, who constitute a very large number of Reform, Conservative, and even some Orthodox Jews, believe that human ethics are an essential element in the Jewish tradition. If my answer to the first question is correct, then there is a Jewish tradition practiced by virtually all Jewish parents today that is morally wrong. This should give pause to any non-fundamentalist religious Jew, and it is a black eye for the liberal movements that they have not taken this issue more seriously. Perhaps a law prohibiting circumcision is just what these Jews need to start a serious discussion about the problem of brit milah.

Eli Ungar-Sargon is an independent filmmaker who grew up in an Orthodox home. His first film, “Cut,” was about circumcision and Jewish identity.

Read more:


RTÉ News (Ireland)
May 10, 2011

Inquiry after 'incomplete' circumcision

The Medical Council has started an inquiry into alleged poor professional performance relating to a circumcision operation at Mullingar General Hospital in July 2009.

Dr Timothy Buckley, a surgeon from Westmeath, is before the inquiry due to the performance of an alleged incomplete circumcision on a seven-year-old boy by a trainee surgeon.

The inquiry has heard evidence alleging that the failure to perform a proper circumcision led to necrosis [death] in some tissue. [More than just "incomplete", then.]

A full circumcision was later performed on the child.

The inquiry heard circumcisions at the hospital were mostly performed by trainee surgeons.

Ms Zamira Tuhtahunova told the inquiry she sought the circumcision for cultural, religious and hygiene reasons.

She believed that the operation would be performed by Dr Buckley.

She said her son suffered pain after the operation.

She said her son was okay now but may need a further operation.

The inquiry is considering whether it was correct to delegate the surgery to a trainee.


the Intactivism Pages
May 10, 2011

Guinness Book Will Not Recognise Circumcision Record Attempt

By Hugh Young

The Guinness Book of World Records will not recognise an attempt in the Philippines on a record number of child circumcisions in one day.

The city of Marikina held a "circumcision party" on May 7 in an attempt to establish such a record. More than 1000 boys were genitally cut.

But the city government had not checked whether such a record would be accepted. Circumcision is surgery that requires due care rather than haste, and there are ethical concerns about performing it on those too young to give informed consent.

A query with the the Guinness website had this reply:

I can assure you that we are not recognizing this record attempt.

Unfortunately it is out our hands when people advertise that they are attempting a Guinness World Records.  We definitely are not recognizing, nor do we condone this attempt.

Further statement from the Guinness Book

Statement from Guinness World Records

It has been bought to our attention that a circumcision event in the Philippines last Saturday has supposedly been approved by Guinness World Records.

Guinness World Records would like to clarify that it does not, under any circumstances, monitor, endorse or recognise this kind of 'record attempt'. The organisers of the event have no approval from Guinness World Records to use its trademarks in connection with this event and any claim to officially recognise this event will be rejected.

For further information please contact our press office at press@guinnessworldrecords.com.

9 May 2011


Earlier story


New York Post
May 6, 2011

Dead tot's kin refuse hosp's pay


The family of a 2-year-old Queens boy who died after a circumcision at Beth Israel Hospital has refused the East Side medical center's offer to pay for his funeral, angry relatives said yesterday

"I'd rather have him back," said Jabbar Coleson, whose nephew Jamaal died Tuesday about 10 hours after what was supposed to be a routine procedure. "I wish there was a way to clone him. We miss him so much."

A spokeswoman for the hospital said she was unaware of any offer.

An autopsy performed Wednesday on the toddler was "inconclusive," said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city Medical Examiner's Office.

The family accused the hospital of giving the boy the wrong analgesic for the 30-minute procedure.

"He started to tell his mommy he wasn't feeling well. It took them four hours to get him into surgery. They couldn't find the doctor," Coleson said.



New York Post
May 5, 2011

Tot's shock hosp death / Tragic circumcision


The grieving family of a tragic Queens toddler are blasting doctors at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan -- accusing them of botching a simple circumcision that led to the boy's sudden death.

Jamaal Coleson Jr. died Tuesday, about 10 hours after what was supposed to be a routine procedure, according to his uncle Jabbar Coleson, 23.

Coleson said the hospital was supposed to give his nephew a local analgesic, but instead administered a general.

The boy, who would have turned 2 next month, "Woke up and laughed and called for his mother and then went critical.

Jamaal Coleson
Anesthetic blamed.


The hospital said in a statement, ... "We immediately notified the Medical Examiner's Office and requested that they accept this case for further review, which they have." ... "We also are in the process of reporting this case as an unexpected death to the NYS Department of Health,"...


[Other circumcision deaths]


What did we tell you, from the very beginning?

All Africa
May 5, 2011

Uganda: New HIV/Aids Messages Worsening HIV Situation

By Flavia Lanyero

A new report by PANOS Eastern Africa has shown that new HIV/Aids messages meant to reduce the prevalence of the disease are instead facilitating its spread as they have created false impressions, especially with regard to multiple concurrent partnerships and male circumcision. PANOS is a network of institutions world over that carries out research and documentation of development information in marginalised communities.

The report, titled "Communication challenges in HIV Prevention: Multiple Concurrent Partnerships and Medical Male Circumcision", shows that majority of rural population believed that male circumcision gives a complete protection to HIV/Aids, while more than 88 per cent did not exactly know what the sexual network was.

The report also notes that most of these messages are urban based with little or no translation for the rural people while younger people are no longer scared of the HIV pandemic because it is no longer as scary as it used to be. These communications include the "Be a man" campaign, "Go together Know together", "Go Red" campaign and the "Fidelity" campaign. "Current Multiple Concurrent Partnership (MCP) policies, programmes and communication initiatives in Uganda are not addressing the social, cultural and economic issues that underline why people engage in MCP. Future attempts should incorporate an analysis of the social drivers of HIV," the report released last month reads in part.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Kampala, the Director PANOS Eastern Africa, Peter Okubal, said the report was prompted by the increasing number of infections every year. Last year alone, 120,000 new infections were recorded.One of the lead researchers, Daudi Ochieng, from the Uganda Health Marketing Group, said that the messages have lost authority and have become cliché. "People are tired of the same old messages, campaigns are vague and boring, there is nothing shocking about them and they lack coherence as everyone gives a different message," Mr Ochieng said.

Also, communication about HIV has become complacent in the Ministry of Health. "The role of MOH in educating people about HIV transmission seems to have ended with the introduction of ARVS. Once these drugs were introduced, even the international donors shifted from helping institutions like Aids Information Centre and are now helping those offering ARVS and more recently circumcision," a respondent said.


Views and News from Norway
May 4, 2011

Jews oppose circumcision age limit

The Mosaic Religious Community, which represents Jewish organizations and Jews in Norway, has criticized the Ombudsman for Children for suggesting a lower age limit of 15 years old for the ritual circumcision of boys.

Jewish representatives let their opposition be known in the media after an informal meeting with the ombudsman. The ombudsman himself confirmed that he was considering suggesting an age limit, but had not yet reached a firm conclusion.

The Jewish community organization has sent a letter to foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre and justice minister Knut Storberget outlining its opposition to the ombud’s idea. “This suggestion is going to go to Jewish media all over the world and support the idea that Norway is a ‘Jew-hating country,” commented the Mosaic Religious Community’s Anne Sender in the letter, reported in newspaper VG. “And we agree – this will in practice mean that ‘Jews don’t have access to the kingdom’ again,” she added.

Sender’s letter was written and delivered before the Norwegian government put forward a proposed change in the law to allow ritual circumcision in public hospitals last week.

The children’s ombudsman in Denmark has suggested a 15 year-old age limit for non-medical circumcisions, apparently referring to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Earlier story



International Business Times
May 2, 2011

City seeks world record of circumcised boys on May 7

By Alyangka Francheska

A city east of the Philippine capital Manila is trying to set a world record for the most number of circumcised boys on May 7. The city government of Marikina has announced its "Tule (Circumcision) Party" to highlight the event.

In a statement, the city government said the "Tule Party" would be held at the city sports complex and invites boys aged and up to undergo circumcision for free.


An estimated 1,500 boys are expected to participate in the event to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records list.

[Notice also the grotesque language - "invite", for an offer they can't refuse, to "participate", by being held down while their most sensitive part is cut off.]


The ACOG admit it themselves - RIC is not O or G!


Washington Post
May 2, 2011


American women entrust their obstetricians with the most important event in their life - childbirth. In turn, the obsterician's primary concern must be the safety of the mother and her unborn child. But once that child is born, he or she is an independent person with separate needs and rights.

That is why, as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists gathers for its Annual Clinical Meeting, Intact America is calling on ACOG members to "Put Down the Knife!" and stop circumcising baby boys.

It is a cultural peculiarity that America's obstetricians - trained to opeate only on women's reproductive organs - perpetuate infant male circumcision.

As though to illustrate this paradox, ACOG denied Intact America permission to exhibit at their convention, taking place now in Washington, DC. Their reasoning? Our "product and services" (referring to our advocacy concerning the harm and the ethics of neonatal circumcision) is "beyond the scope of the practice of obstetrics and gynecology."

[to the rest]


Views and News from Norway
April 27, 2011

New ritual circumcision law proposed

Changes have been proposed to the law on ritual circumcision in Norway, with health officials hoping to ensure that the procedure can be done under proper medical conditions by covering it for free as part of the public health system.

Until around 10 years ago, free circumcisions were available to parents in public hospitals, almost always right after birth. Opposition from doctors nonetheless increased until the practice ended within the public health system.

Black market
Today, parents must themselves pay for the procedure, and a change in the law to cover the operation for free will cost the government NOK 13 million (around USD 2.5 million). Currently, anyone may carry out ritual circumcision as long as they have parental consent, raising concerns about the medical ethics of the procedure. Only a small number of private medical practices carry out the procedure, which is often expensive and requires traveling far. A black market in circumcisions has therefore arisen in Norway, with many of those who perform the procedure traveling from other countries without recognized qualifications or medical licenses, and performing the surgery in offices, refugee centers and other non-medical facilities.

Tord Dale, a junior minister in the health and care department representing the Labour Party, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the suggestion was “to ensure that circumcision happens safely and with pain alleviation” as it is “important for very many.”

The proposed change comes with two alternatives. Parents can choose either between having only a doctor present, or having others connected to their religion and experienced in circumcision carry out the procedure under the observation of medical professionals. There is no provision in the draft law to allow doctors to refuse the procedure because of ethical considerations. Instead, Dale “hopes this can resolve itself through internal discussion at hospitals.” Furthermore, the new law would require parental permission for boys under 18, and would not be undertaken without the boy’s consent where it was possible to ascertain the boy’s wishes.

Ethical concerns
Many Norwegian doctors are still uneasy with ritual circumcision. Trond Markestad, a pediatrician and leader of the Norwegian Medical Association (NMA) ethical council, believes that circumcising a boy on non-medical grounds is unethical and “should not be a prioritized public responsibility.” “This is a medically unnecessary procedure, with the threat of complications, and is done to a person that can not give consent,” Markestad told NRK. While the NMA is not in favour of a blanket ban on ritual circumcision, it has encouraged religious leaders to work out other rituals they can use in the long term.

Another doctor and convert to Islam, Trond Ali Linstad, disagrees with the NMA. “This is simply closing one’s eyes to what really happens,” Linstad told NRK. “People will not stop getting circumcisions, so therefore there should be public control for this and arrangements made so that it can go on in a way in which everyone can feel safe.” Other Muslims also welcomed the news. Imam Tayab Berghout, who works at the mosque in Trondheim, explained to NRK that currently Muslims often “find no-one that will do it in Norway, and must therefore plan expensive trips to their home country.”

The state ombudsman for children, Reidar Hjermann, nonetheless disagrees, and has put forward a lower age limit for non-medical circumcisions of 16 or 18. This would effectively ban ritual circumcisions, as Muslims generally complete them before the age of 15 and Jews must do them within eight days after birth.


April 27, 2011

Taiwan doctor sued over alleged circumcision mishap

Taipei - A Taiwan doctor has been indicted for a botched circumcision which allegedly caused infection and left the patient with a shorter penis, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Chen Chun-nan, owner of the Chen Urology Clinic in Taichung, central Taiwan, was indicted by the Taichung Prosecutor's Office on charges of medical negligence causing injury to the patient, identified only by his last name Tseng, the Apple Daily said.

Tseng, 34, is seeking 2 million Taiwan dollars (66,000 US dollars) in damages from Chen, who allegedly treated Tseng for an inflammation by performing a circumcision that failed to heal.

Tseng later spent 20 days in hospital, where he underwent four surgeries to clean up the infection and received a skin graft. The ordeal left his penis about half its former size.

'My girl friend has left me because of this. I am the only son in my family and have the duty to have a son to carry on the family name. I am worried that I cannot find a wife,' the paper quoted him as saying.

Dr Chen denied the circumcision failed, arguing that Tseng had infection because his body's resistance was weak. [Blame the victim!]

The Cabinet's panel on medical affairs has found that Chen should have treated the infection first, and that the circumcision actually caused the infection to spread.


San Francisco Examiner
April 25, 2011

Backers of SF circumcision ban say they have signatures needed for ballot

By Joshua Sabatini, Examiner Staff Writer

San Francisco residents may be voting on banning male circumcision in November. Backers of a November ballot measure that would ban circumcision of males under 18 years old in San Francisco say they have enough signatures to bring the proposal to voters.

Needing at least 7,168 valid signatures by today's 5 p.m. deadline, San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield, who is the lead proponent of the measure, said Monday he has 12,250 valid signatures.

"It's in excess of what we need to qualify for the ballot," Schofield said.

He plans to submit the signatures to the Department of Elections today. The department has 30-days to review and determine whether it officially qualifies for the Nov. 8 election.

The measure has gained nationwide attention since it was first reported six months ago, and is the latest much-talked about ban proposal to come out of San Francisco - since the Board of Supervisors banned toys in McDonald's Happy Meals backed in November.

The measure has also thrust the debate on circumcision into the spotlight. It has drawn sharp criticism from religious groups who say it violates religious freedom, and been ridiculed on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Schofield is supportive of a nationwide movement to outlaw male circumcision. A similar effort was attempted last year through the Massachusetts legislature, but failed.

About $9,000 has been spent on the signature-gathering effort, according to filings with the Ethics Commission.

The measure would amend The City's police code "to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicles or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18."

Violators would face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail. [The wording and the penalty match those of the existing law against cutting females.]

"We don't come at this from a religious angle. We feel this is a very harmful thing," Scholfield said. "Parents are guardians. They are not owners of children. It's a felony to tattoo a child."

Earlier story


April 25, 2011

Intact America Tells Doctors to Put Down The Knife!

Group Calls Upon Members of Three Professional Societies to Stop Performing Infant Circumcisions

Intact America, an organization founded in 2009 to abolish the practice of infant and child circumcision, has launched a campaign calling upon American doctors to stop performing medically unnecessary circumcisions on babies and children.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all acknowledge that infant circumcision is not medically necessary, yet their members are responsible for a million infant circumcisions performed in the United States each year,” stated Georganne Chapin, an attorney and founding Executive Director of Intact America.

Intact America's new “Put Down the Knife!” campaign calls upon physicians in these organizations to educate parents about the lack of medical necessity for circumcision and the risks and harms it poses, and to refuse to circumcise babies and children – minors who cannot consent but who will live with the consequences of this permanent removal of healthy genital tissue for the rest of their lives.

On March 24, 2011, Intact America issued a nationwide action alert to its tens of thousands of supporters asking them to send an electronic message, delivered by email to the AAP, the AAFP and ACOG, telling their members to stop promoting and participating in the unethical procedure. Within the first three weeks, nearly 100,000 messages were sent to the leadership of those organizations. In response to the huge influx of emails, the American Academy of Family Physicians, based in Kansas City, contacted Intact America and asked that its staff and board members' names be removed from the list of recipients. Intact America is continuing to collect the messages to the AAFP, and will forward them to that organization via other means.

The electronic campaign message (which can be modified by the sender) reads in part: “Many doctors say that they do circumcisions because parents request it. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents cannot give proxy consent for elective procedures. Just as physicians must, and do, refuse to surgically alter the genitals of a girl child, they should refuse to alter the genitals of a boy.”

According to a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the neonatal circumcision rate has dropped from 90 percent thirty years ago to 33 percent in 2009, but male circumcision continues to be the most commonly performed surgery on infants and children in the United States.

“Doctors have a responsibility to tell parents that circumcision does not aid in hygiene, it does not make the normal penis ‘look better,' and it does not prevent disease,” remarked Chapin.

Although some circumcision proponents are using AIDS and STD prevention as yet another reason for promoting circumcision, the facts do not support their claims. European nations, with circumcision rates near zero, have lower HIV/AIDS rates than the United States. And, circumcision in America does not correlate with the incidence of HIV or any other sexually transmitted infections in any ethnic population or geographic region.

Furthermore, circumcision presents significant risks, including infection, hemorrhage, impaired sexual function, and even death. Just last year, a Georgia boy received $2.3 million as compensation for a botched circumcision that removed a large part of his penis. And earlier this month, a South Dakota family was awarded $230,000 for the loss of their son, who bled to death following his circumcision.

In speaking about the Put Down The Knife! campaign, Chapin said: “It's astonishing how comfortable physicians feel blaming parents for ‘insisting' on circumcision for their sons. Would a doctor – a licensed professional who has taken an oath to do no harm to his or her patients – perform an unnecessary appendectomy on a child if a parent requested it? Would a doctor remove a baby girl's genital labia, or pierce her hymen or clitoris, because a parent insisted? We know the answer to these questions is ‘no,' yet doctors continue to circumcise baby boys, blame the parents, and perpetuate this senseless custom.”

One of the next steps in the “Put Down the Knife!” campaign is an Open Letter to be placed in the Washington Post on May 2, during the upcoming annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, April 30 ? May 4, in Washington, DC. Intact America applied to purchase space in ACOG's exhibit hall, but was refused on the grounds that its “product/service was beyond the scope of the practice of obstetrics and gynecology.”

“We couldn't agree more that unnecessary infant circumcision does not belong in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology – or anywhere else in medical practice, for that matter. Yet doctors continue to do it. Our goal is to make them think about what they are doing when they amputate a healthy body part from an unconsenting baby,” Chapin said. “Think about it, and stop.”


If it were done to females, would they hesitate?

April 25, 2011

KENYA: Plea to ICC over forced male circumcision

NAIROBI, 25 April 2011 (IRIN) - A global advocacy group for gender-based violence survivors has called on the International Criminal Court to reconsider its refusal to recognize forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence in a case against alleged organizers of Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election crisis.

Brigid Inder, executive director of The Hague-based Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, said the judges’ decision to classify forced male circumcision under "other inhumane acts" was "a misstep" that failed to take into account the element of force and purpose of the crime.

"We don’t agree with the judicial decision; we think it's a wrong classification," Inder told IRIN.

Her comments followed allegedly inflammatory statements by leading politicians that have raised concerns among civil society groups in Kenya that the crime could repeated in the 2012 elections.

In his December 2010 request for summonses for three crimes-against-humanity suspects aligned with President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo provided evidence of at least nine instances of forced male circumcision in the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and Naivasha, as well as in Nairobi's Kibera slum. The violence claimed at least 1,000 lives nationwide and displaced hundreds of thousands between December 2007 and February 2008.

Sexual violence
Ocampo initially moved to charge the crime — targeting the Luo ethnic group, which does not practise male circumcision — under "other forms of sexual violence", with atrocities such as sexual slavery and forced prostitution. But the pre-trial chamber ruled in March that it should fall under "other inhumane acts", crimes that cause "great suffering" or "serious injury to body or to mental or physical health".

The chamber blocked an appeal against that ruling in early April, though Ocampo can raise the issue again in hearings scheduled for September or before the trial chamber if cases against the suspects are allowed to proceed.

Though "other forms of sexual violence" and "other inhumane acts" are both categories of crimes against humanity, Inder said the latter, while acknowledging great suffering and injury, failed to address "the coercive environment" in which forced circumcisions were carried out — typically by mobs armed with knives, machetes or even broken soda bottles.

"In our view, what makes these acts a form of sexual violence is the force and the coercive environment, as well as the intention and purpose of the acts," she said. "It isn’t simply about the injuries and suffering, although clearly these are also aspects of these crimes. But the forced circumcision of Luo men… has both political and ethnic significance in Kenya and therefore has a specific meaning. In this instance, it was intended as an expression of political and ethnic domination by one group over the other and was intended to diminish the cultural identity of Luo men.”

Instead of placing all the blame with judges, however, Inder said Ocampo had failed to stress these points in his filings, simply stating that the acts are "sexual in nature" without elaborating. She said the onus was now on prosecutors "to argue their facts more effectively", and she encouraged them to do so in September.

Mob justice
Kevin Omollo, 23, a Kibera resident who was forcibly circumcised the day after poll results were announced, told IRIN the crime should be considered a form of sexual violence, saying he viewed the attack as an attempt to rob him of his "manhood".

On the morning of 31 December 2007, Omollo joined supporters of Raila Odinga, the Luo politician who was declared the loser in the election and is now Kenya's prime minister. When the mob was dispersed by police officers, Omollo fled, only to run into a group of the outlawed Mungiki criminal gang.

Unarmed, Omollo was quickly thrown down by his dread-locked assailants, members of the Kikuyu group, who carried guns, clubs and pangas and promptly beat him. Eventually, one removed his pants and sliced off his foreskin with a six-inch kitchen knife.

"The only thing I could feel was the pain in my genitals," Omollo said. "It was really intense."

Fellow Odinga supporters then came to rescue him. As he was whisked away he could hear his attackers saying, “How can a kihii [uncircumcised boy] rule the country? How can we have a president who is not circumcised?”

This rallying cry, which rights groups accused the PNU of openly spreading in the run-up to the 2007 general election, could very well be repeated in 2012 given that Odinga is viewed as an early frontrunner for the presidency, said Mary Njeri Gichuru, executive director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women in Kenya.

Gichuru said it was evidence of the tribalism that was at the base of much of the violence.

"For the many communities that circumcise, not being circumcised is a very abominable thing," Gichuru said. "That's why it's easy for them to abuse others for not circumcising. They believe that if you aren't circumcised, you can’t be a leader."

Recent comments by Kenyan politicians have only heightened the anxieties of Gichuru and other observers.

At a February rally, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s Finance Minister and one of the six suspects targeted by Ocampo, lashed out at Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement for opposing high-level appointments put forward by Kibaki, saying: “They think that Kibaki is their uncircumcised boy? That he does not have his own head to make his own decisions?”

An article on 3 April in a local daily newspaper cited one rally where Mwangi Kiunjuri, the PNU-aligned Assistant Minister for Public Works, said: “Let me tell you, uncircumcised boys are not invited to dowry negotiations because, as you know, boys will always take time to sing their play songs. An uncircumcised boy’s goings is only ended when he faces the knife.”

Judith Okal, a senior programme officer with the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya, said in addition to deterring attacks that might be prompted by such statements, a decision by the ICC to classify forced circumcision as sexual violence could raise awareness about the crime and encourage survivors to seek treatment not just for physical injuries but also for psychological trauma.

There is no domestic law that specifically mentions forced male circumcision. Okal said this discouraged survivors from seeking comprehensive treatment, as did the stigma associated with male circumcision among ethnic groups that do not practise it.

“In African culture, we grow up thinking that a man is absolute," Okal said. "If such a thing were to happen they wouldn’t want that thing discussed."

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


The Rebel Yell (Las Vegas)
April 21, 2011

Student's fight against circumcision reaches global stage

By Maria Ágreda

Women’s studies major contests practice as moral crime

UNLV student Travis Wisdom has been battling the centuries-old Western tradition of male circumcision for two years. And he’s backing it up with research.

A women’s studies major in his senior year, Wisdom is passionate about sharing his views and research on the preservation of the genital integrity of infants and is seeking to educate people about what he said is the danger of the practice of circumcision.

Wisdom was invited to travel to Lisbon, Portugal to share the knowledge of the history of circumcision that he has gained after two years of research. He will travel to Canada soon after he returns to speak on the medical aspects of circumcision.

In September, he will travel to the United Kingdom to speak about genital autonomy in a conference and assist those who have been circumcised and regret it.

“When he comes home, he will have more to say, more to offer, more experience and more education,” said Marilyn Milos, director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, which has worked with Wisdom and identified with the cause of eradicating infant circumcision.

“Everything he does, he does with dignity and respect,” she said of Wisdom. “He is responsible and conscious.”



A recipe for diaster

Swazi Observer
April 21, 2011

New male circumcision campaign targets women

By Winile Masinga

THE ministry of health has engaged on a campaign to encourage women to support their partners to circumcise.

In an effort to publicise the campaign, billboards and public transport have been branded with posters of women who are supporting the campaign. The campaign is about the involvement of women in the male circumcision programme.

However, this campaign has been misinterpreted by some people who thought that the message being sent out was that they were safe from contracting sexually transmitted infections when they were circumcised and therefore, could have more than one sexual partner. The posters on the public transport display pictures of a man and four women accompanied by the word; “ngingumancoba” (I am a conqueror). To some, this has implied that after circumcision, they would be safe from sexually transmitted illnesses, hence the decision to have multiple concurrent partners.

Coordinator of the male circumcision programme Ayanda Nqeketho has clarified that the message being conveyed with these posters was not for men to have more than one partner as it has been interpreted by some. He said on the contrary, the message being conveyed was that women should support their partners as they take the decision to circumcise. He noted a concern raised by men that having to abstain from sexual encounters after circumcision was difficult because they had no assurance that their partners would be waiting for them all that period. As a result, some stayed away or delayed their decision to circumcise.

Nqeketho said with the support men could get from their partners, more would be encouraged to have themselves circumcised.

[The Swazi Observer has run many pro-circumcision stories, and though it has a comments box, it has never published a comment.]


HIV Rates:

Circumcised men


Intact men


Source: www.measuredhs.com


SF Weekly
March 16, 2011

The Unkindest Cut

By Joe Eskenazi


San Francisco has banned Happy Meals [No, it banned bribing children with free toys] and, should enough signatures be gathered by the end of next month, voters will decide on whether to ban circumcision — meaning the Foreskin McNugget may never grace a local menu. [Bleaugh! Worst. Circumcision. Joke. Ever.]

Every one of the platoon of lawyers SF Weekly consulted regarding the potential ban on circumcision stated it’d be a really bad idea. But that could be said of a great many laws San Francisco voters choose to enshrine in the city charter. Just because ideas are transcendentally bad doesn’t mean they’re unconstitutional. And, should San Francisco voters opt to criminalize the practice of circumcision within our borders, it would, lawyers say, not be illegal — not, at least, at the federal level.

“Would it be constitutional? Almost certainly,” says Ashutosh Bhagwat of UC Hastings. Adds Jesse Choper of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, “Under the federal Constitution, unless you could show that the purpose of this was to disadvantage Jews generally, and since it’s a neutral law and applies to everyone, it’s not a violation of the free exercise clause.”

Intriguingly, the precedent that would enable San Francisco to bust a bris and haul the rabbi off to jail is tied to peyote. In Employment Division vs. Smith (1990), the Supreme Court found that benefits could be denied to a man who used an illegal drug, even if its use was part of a religious ritual. While states can choose to accommodate illegal behavior tied to religious rituals, they aren’t mandated to.

So is the circumcision ban a legal slamdunk? Quite the opposite. California’s state constitution takes a rather generous view of free exercise of religion. This means the ban’s proponents would have to argue a compelling “state interest” to outlaw circumcision, an ancient practice exacted upon the penises of an estimated 79 percent of American men — many of whom, we’re told, live productive lives.

“The court could say the state’s interest would outweigh the free exercise of religion: If I’m an Aztec and my religion says I must go up on top of a high, pointed building and tear someone’s heart out — that’s nice, but we have a murder statute that trumps that,” notes Peter Keane, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University. “In terms of a state interest in preventing the foreskin of a male infant from being detached — that is an interest that is very, very minor.” [And yet the state considers it has an interest in preventing the foreskin - just the foreskin - of a female being detached.]

And if the lawyers are wrong? For S.F. residents, San Mateo County becomes Foreskin Town USA.[He seems to mean "Circumcision Town".]


The Jerusalem Report - April 25, 2011 (pp. 24-27)


AS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS - including a sizable number of American Jews - question the act of male circumcision, a group of San Francisco activists are advocating to ban circumcision, or what they call male genital mutilation. These activists are hoping to acquire 7,168 signatures to get a proposed measure on the November city ballot that would impose a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in jail for someone who performs a circumcision. [Much less than the existing penalty for any female genital cutting.]

Lloyd Schofield, who is leading the signature effort, tells The Jerusalem Report that his group is "on track" for obtaining the required number of signatures by the April 26 deadline for getting a proposition on the November ballot. If they achieve their objective, during the November 1 mayoral contest, San Francisco voters can vote on the measure, which makes it a "misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18." [Words cut and pasted, with the anatomy adapted, from the existing law.]

Many of the leading activists against circumcision around the country are Jewish. But not surprisingly, the established Jewish community in the San Francisco Bay Area is furious about the proposed bill. "It is very alienating to Jews in San Francisco to read this proposed language," says Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Bay Area. "It appears to be hostile to many Jews. It´s an attempt to infringe upon our rights as individuals and a faith community." [On the contrary, in enlarges on the rights of the individuals most directly concerned.]

Male circumcision is commanded in Genesis 17:10-14 as an outward sign of a man´s participation in the Jewish covenant with God. The rite of circumcision, or brit mila, is performed on the eighth day of a boy´s life. "This is a tradition as ancient as the very first Hebrew, even before Sinai. It is a mitzva that perpetuates the Jewish people," [How?] says Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Orthodox spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, and first vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America.

Schofield is not unaware of the significance of circumcision to the Jewish community. "We considered the wording and possible religious exclusion because we know that circumcision is important to Coptic Christians, Jews and Muslims. But we believe this is harmful to babies," he says. Opponents of male circumcision believe that circumcision not only inflicts tremendous pain on babies,but also causes psychological damage to men, including feelings of anger, distrust and grief. They believe circumcision hinders full sexual satisfaction since the foreskin that is removed during circumcision includes thousands of sensitive nerve endings.

Schofield asserts that he wouldn´t be leading the San Francisco move to ban circumcisions without the support of a lot of Jews. The more I talk to Jews, the more I learn how divisive this is within the Jewish community. The Jewish community is as diverse as any. I get emails from Jews, even Orthodox Jews, who are against circumcision. And I have gotten some support from Muslim men."

As hopeful as Schofield is that his group will succeed in getting the bill on the election ballot, and then hopefully passed by voters, he´s not sure if he´d be involved again if it fails and another attempt were made to pass the measure. But the Jewish community in San Francisco and around the country should not believe the efforts to ban circumcision would end, if the measure fails on the West Coast. Other activists against circumcision have been working on both the state level and federal level to get bills passed to ban the practice, which is also prevalent, but declining, among the non-Jewish population in this country. "This is a powerful movement that´s not going away," contends Schofield.

IN FACT, THE MAN WHO WROTE THE MEASURE FOR THE San Francisco ballot, Matthew Hess, president of MGMbill.org, (standing for male genital mutilation bill) started the effort to ban circumcision on the federal level as far back as 2003. Each year he attempts to find sponsors of the bill, though he´s not optimistic he´ll succeed. "There´s no reason to expect to find a sponsor of the bill this year," he tells The Report. He points out that female circumcision is against US law and asserts that it is gender discrimination to allow circumcision on males. "If it´s unethical to cut any female genitals, then there shouldn´t be a double standard for boys."

In 2007, the proposed bill in Massachusetts actually found a sponsor- which is the furthest his efforts have reached - but it was voted down by the state judiciary committee. Hess is not discouraged. "The level of support to ban male circumcision is rapidly growing, partly due to Facebook, where it´s exploded. When I started, the rate of male circumcision in this country was 56 percent and now it´s 33 percent. In California, it´s only 22 percent. I believe circumcision may be the top civil-rights issue this decade, as gay rights was in the last decade."

Hess, whose anti-circumcision advocacy is on a volunteer basis, explains what led him on this unusual journey. "I was circumcised as an infant, but in my late 20s, I slowly lost feeling [in his genitals]. I did some research and was amazed to find out how harmful this surgery is. I underwent a non-surgical foreskin replacement, which reversed some of the damage. There´s been a significant difference; it´s changed my life. I decided I needed to get involved so this wouldn´t be forced on children."

He doesn´t accept the arguments that circumcision reduces health issues in males as well as their female partners. "If you give mastectomies to all little girls, you´ll never have breast cancer, but no one considers doing that," he says. Nor does he accept any religious argument for circumcision. "One person´s right to religion doesn´t supersede another´s right not to be harmed. Freedom of religion has limits."

There are a number of groups of activists against circumcision in the US, some of whom call themselves "intactists" - activists for leaving men intact. Ronald Goldman, executive director of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, who has been fighting circumcision since 1991, says his organization is purely educational. "We want people to make informed decisions not to circumcise their sons. We think education will persuade people not to do it. The US is the only country in the world that circumcises for non-religious purposes."

He tells The Report that he attended a brit mila and found it "very distressing to hear the baby cry in agony for over 20 minutes." He expresses some hope that national groups, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - both expected to release new public health recommendations about circumcision this year - will speak out against the procedure.

Salina Cranor, a spokeswoman in CDC´s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD (sexually transmitted diseases) and TB (tuberculosis) Prevention, tells The Report that the "CDC is working on some recommendations on male circumcision for HIV prevention in the United States, but those recommendations are still in progress and we can´t offer a timeline for publication."

SIMILARLY, A MEMBER OF THE CIRCUMCISION TASK force of the AAP predicts their final document won´t be published until the end of the year or in early 2012. Dr. Doug Diekema says the task force has taken its responsibility very seriously, spending the first six to nine months reviewing vast amounts of literature, of data and studies of the benefits and repercussions of male circumcision. "At the last meeting, we wrestled with what the recommendation should be and now we´re working on the wording and what support evidence needs to be provided," he tells The Report. Once there is a document, it goes through an academic review process, which takes about three months.

The present policy of the AAP was written 10 years ago and "basically says that there are no medical benefits sufficient to recommend that newborns be routinely circumcised," says Diekema. The policy recognized some benefits and some risks, but leaves the decision to the parents with consultation from their pediatrician. It´s not unusual for policies to be reviewed every few years, he explained. But there isn´t a standing committee to review circumcisions, so every 10 years they must put together a task force to review new data and new studies.

"All options [with the new policy] are on the table," Diekema said. "The task force has no constraints to establish a new policy." But there is some extra sensitivity. Last year the AAP released a new policy on female circumcision that "recognized that by offering some families a ritual nick, draws little blood and serves as a ritual. This caused a firestorm and we withdrew the policy. Now we´re opposed to all forms of female genital cutting."

Diekema, however, strongly notes that it´s "not appropriate to equate male and female circumcision. The procedures are not analogous. The male equivalent of female mutilation would be removing the penis and scrotum and that´s not it. The removal of the clitoral hood is most analogous." [And illegal.] In addition, he said, there are no known medical benefits to any female cutting and "there is evidence of medical benefits for men. The arguments against male circumcision are based on the assumption of no medical benefits and that means ignoring much data." [No, there are plenty of things that have medical benefits that we just don't do. Castrated men live longer.]

AMONG THE MEDICAL BENEFITS, HE POINTS OUT, are a decrease in incidence of urinary tract infections for babies under a year of age, a reduction in risk of penile cancer and most new data shows a lowering of risk for a number of sexually transmitted diseases including lowering the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV. [As the links show, all those claims are contested.]

He argues with the opinions of opponents of male circumcision that the procedure can increase the likelihood of males getting autism or attention deficit disorder (ADD), or that it increases anger and anxiety in male adults or increases the incidence of divorce. "It sounds like an attempt to blame these issues on something they don´t like, namely circumcision," Diekema said. "I don´t have a lot of respect for this. There´s no data and to speculate is irresponsible." [Those are virtually straw-man arguments, not the bedrock of our case.]

He does take seriously, however, circumcision´s sexual impact. "The data on sexual function doesn´t show a difference. There´s no compelling argument one way or another." He noted that the fact that the foreskin is loaded with sensory endings doesn´t answer the question.

"There are all kinds of sensory endings, hot and cold, pain, etc. and we don´t know if removal of some sensory endings, with some remaining, makes any difference." [Well isn't that a scandal in itself? In other words, they cut part off without knowing just what they are doing.]

While Diekema wouldn´t divulge any opinions from the task force, he said it is safe to say that the AAP won´t suggest banning circumcision. "The new data runs more in favor of circumcision than against. The evidence of benefit is stronger and the evidence doesn´t show more risk."

[Diekema is silent on ethics here, though elsewhere he says "...[P]roviders have legal and ethical duties to their child patients to render competent medical care based on what the patient needs, not what someone else expresses. ... The pediatrician's responsibilities to his or her patient exist independent of parental desires or proxy consent."]

Opponents of male circumcision will most likely question the source of the AAP policy, namely pediatricians who perform male circumcision. But Diekema says "most members on the task force don´t make money from circumcisions and I don´t do them. The Academy doesn´t have a vested interest in circumcision. Few pediatricians make substantial money from them."

Whatever policy the AAP publishes in the next few months, the controversy about circumcision is not likely to diminish. Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, an Internet-based movement whose newest campaign is called "Put Down the Knife," considers the AAP "collaborators." If anything, the new AAP guidelines might increase the debate - particularly among Jews. Goldman, from the Circumcision Resource Center, says he specifically encourages Jews to question circumcision, pointing to the website www.jewishcircumcision.org. Moreover, he wrote a book entitled, "Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective." Chapin says she doesn´t believe that circumcision "is a Jewish issue. Many Jews in this movement feel conflicted about this."

Miriam Pollack is one of those. Part of the NOCIRC (National Organization for Circumcision Resource Centers) group, Pollack says her "attachment and connection to Judaism is so profound," yet her mind was changed, over time, by witnessing the brit mila ceremony. She is now "unequivocally opposed to circumcision." She explains: "I assumed that as the central mitzva of the faith and tradition that I love, it was beyond reproach, that it was spiritually and medically superior. And, more than that, anyone who would intimate differently was ipso facto an anti-Semite. But this mitzva is so different from what I and everyone else had been led to believe."

"We need to tell parents about the sexual function of the foreskin, that it contains 20,000 of the most highly sensitive touch receptors in the penis and that the traumatizing of the child is significant," Pollack tells The Report. "Much research has been done on babies, including measuring the heart beat, respiratory rates and cortisol levels during circumcision. There´s nothing holy about it. Still most of Judaism I really embrace, but this piece is not OK."

Pollack is by no means alone. Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, who was brought up Orthodox, produced a documentary called "Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision," which examines male circumcision from a religious, scientific and ethical perspective. He also interviews his Orthodox father and his brother in the film. Another American Jew who works against circumcision is Laurie Evans, the director of the New York Hudson Valley chapter of NOCIRC. "I went to a brit and couldn´t believe I was standing in a room of people who usually question so much, but didn´t think of the baby. It was one of the worst days of my life. I feel our religion is in our heart and soul, not in our genitals."

When Evans´s children were born, she wanted to be more involved Jewishly, despite not being brought up to be practicing. She still maintains some of the Jewish customs, but her difficulty with circumcision has created a fissure between her and Judaism. "It´s hard for me to accept that we don´t accept tattooing and we like questioning, but this can´t be talked about. I see it like foot-binding in China."

Englewood´s Rabbi Goldin says he isn´t surprised that an increasing number of American Jews don´t circumcise their sons. "I´m not surprised because the more assimilated the Jewish community becomes, the more likely they will choose not to circumcise." He tells Jews, "Before you give up something, understand what challenges Jews have met across time to keep the tradition. We are a people that has maintained a tradition against tremendous odds, and not doing this undermines our continuity as a people." Moreover, he adds, "Once you pick and choose which mitzvot that are logical and sensible to you, you begin to undermine the tradition." [Some traditions need to be undermined. We see that readily after it has happened.]

There is an alternative initiative to the brit mila. Brit shalom is a non-cutting naming ceremony for newborn Jewish boys, similar to the now-popular naming ceremonies for Jewish girls. Retired physician Mark D. Reese [sic], the originator [sic] of Brit Shalom, created [sic] a website called circumstitious.com [sic]. [The Intactivism pages, www.circumstitions.com - you're there - hosts Dr Reiss's contact list of Brit Shalom celebrants.]

BUT CHOOSING TO LEAVE A SON INTACT IS NOT JUST a choice being made by American Jews. Increasingly, Israeli Jews are making this choice. Kahal was established in June 2000 by parents in the Tel Aviv area who decided not to circumcise their sons. The community is not a formal organization and includes only parents with intact sons.

Another website, www.gonnen.org, in Hebrew cites reasons against circumcision and quotes the Guide for the Perplexed in which Maimonides (Rambam) says: "This is also one of the reasons for circumcision, to minimize intercourse and weaken this member."

Raquel Lazar-Paley is a parent who chose not to circumcise her son and she says she has several friends in the Haifa area who made the same decision. Goldin says the fact that there are an increasing number of parents in Israel who decide not to circumcise their sons is just another indication of the growing rift there between the religious and secular.

Circumcision, he explains, is a symbol of the Jewish people´s partnership with God in creation. Woman, he says, was created after man so she doesn´t need a sign, and women have other mitzvot, such as going to the mikve (ritual bath). And, in answer to the question, if God wanted men to be circumcised, why weren´t they created that way, Goldin said the answer is in the Talmud. A Jew goes to Rabbi Akiva with the question and the rabbi shows the man both wheat and bread and asks, which is more valuable? When the man responds that the bread is, Akiva asks, then why didn´t God create it that way?

Goldin adds that for thousands of years, "men have experienced this without serious ramification, unless you think we´re permanently scarred," he laughs.

Some of the Jewish anti-circumcision advocates expressed some concern that the sons they do not circumcise would be considered Jewish, even if the mother is Jewish. Goldin put those fears to rest.

"They are still Jewish, even if they´re not circumcised."


Ultimately, whether or not male circumcision will ever be banned in San Francisco or elsewhere in the United States may be immaterial. The subject is becoming so much a part of the discussion among American Jews that late last year, Lisa Braver Moss published the first novel dealing with the circumcision controversy. "The Measure of His Grief," is about a Jewish doctor in Berkeley, California, who wages a campaign against circumcision, and finds himself feeling more Jewish as a result.


Seattle PI
April 8, 2011

Unkindest cut: Woman charged in home circumcision (Oregonian)

A 29-year-old Portland mom is accused of performing a home circumcision on her 3-month-old.

She allegedly performed that procedure at midnight, using a box cutter for a scalpel and a pair of pliers as a tourniquet, the Oregonian reports.

Her “training” allegedly came from YouTube videos on circumcision. And her inspiration to perform the operation was reading the Old Testament. She told police that she decided to do the cutting herself because she knew a hospital wouldn’t circumcise her son because he was too old.

The baby ended up being rushed to a hospital after his mother’s attempts at stitching him wouldn’t stop his bleeding.

The little boy has recovered with no permanent injury, the newspaper reports.

His mother, Keemonta Peterson, is accused of assault and criminal mistreatment.

She was released on bail this week.

The Oregonian reported:

She has been allowed to see her four children, who are staying with family members, during supervised visits.

According to the prosecution, Peterson said she has concerns about her mental health. She told the Oregon Department of Human Services that in the past she has been overcome with paranoia, and she and her children would stay inside. A month after the botched circumcision, she said she suffered “auditory hallucinations” and manic episodes that prevented her from sleeping for days.

She told authorities that she follows the “Hebrew” religion, but doesn’t attend services at any particular establishment.

[It is legal for anyone to perform a circumcision, as long as they do not pretend to be a doctor.]


April 8, 2011

Circumcision Death Case Settles for $230,000

Native American Boy Bleeds to Death

A lawsuit involving a South Dakota Native American infant, Eric Dickson Keefe, from the Rosebud Indian Reservation, who bled to death from a circumcision in 2008, was settled this week for $230,000. The case involved an Indian Health Service doctor who circumcised the child at the end of the working day allowing for no period of post-surgical observation. Testimony showed the mother faced a long drive home on rural roads with other children in her care.

“This was sheer negligence and an ethical failure to consider the risk,” says George C. Denniston, MD, MPH, President of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, a physicians’ group based in Seattle, Washington, which assisted with the case. “Circumcision is unnecessary surgery, which the parents are never told holds a risk of death for their child.”

Keefe bled to death during the night from his open circumcision wound in June, 2008. Medical professionals say that the loss of only two and one-half ounces of blood can cause the death of even a large eight-pound infant. “That amount of blood, just a few drops per hour, was easily hidden in the super-absorbent disposable diaper baby Keefe was diapered with.” notes Denniston, “Parents are never told about that risk.”

Doctors Opposing Circumcision has provided expert advice for numerous circumcision death cases. “Exsanguination, or bleeding to death, is hard to detect,” says Denniston, “since the child slips away quietly, and no one wants to disturb what appears to be a sleeping child.”

Death from circumcision is relatively rare, although a recent study estimates that around 117 children in the United States die each year from circumcision. “These are entirely avoidable deaths,” says Denniston, “caused by a pointless surgery that the child would never choose for himself.”

[$230,000 would not be a generous settlement for a botched circumcision, let alone a death.]


IPP Media (Tanzania)
April 5, 2011

Public education key in curbing FGM - police

Police in Tarime and Rorya Special Zone have asked the government and other actors to provide human rights education to people in the two districts in an effort to curb female genital mutilation (FMG).

Acting Tarime/Rorya special zone police commander Sebastian Zacharia sounded the call during Police Day celebrations held here to recognise achievements made in law enforcement.


Zacharia, who was presenting a brief report to Mara regional commissioner Enos Mfuru, said in many parts of the region, boys and girls were being circumcised at home, resulting to deaths due to bleeding.


Regarding robbery incidents, the RPC said, “In 2008/9 there was 133 murder incidents, but that number went down to 61 in the 2009/2010.”

The special zone acting police chief further informed that cattle rustling incidents had gone down as well to 164 last year from 279 in the year 2008/09. “The area experienced only 34 armed robberies over the same period, down from 123 recorded in the previous year,” said Zacharia.

In his remarks after listening to the presentation, Mfuru hailed the police force for its efforts to combat crimes in the areas, calling on the people to support the law-enforcers in their endeavors.

Mafuru also thanked businessmen and community leaders in the two districts for their contributions towards anti-crime initiatives.



April 2, 2011

March on the White House

Genital Integrity Week, 2011


Weekend Observer (Swaziland)
April 2, 2011

'Circumcision a threat to umncwadvo'

By Ackel Zwane

In what would seem to be coming from an unusual quota women have raised concern that circumcision could bring an end to the use of the time tested gadget of umncwadvo, or the penis cap.

Josephine Motsa of Enhlulweni near Mankayane has come out to clarify that women had their own concerns about being left out of the circumcision debate yet they are the ones who service men in their various needs and also take up the responsibility of raising the boy child.

The umncwadvo is crafted in such a way that it is held by the foreskin to the effect it suppresses unprecedented erection. It is also used by elderly men who fail to control urination, sichenene. In the event of an impromptu erection the umncwadvo holds tight as the penis expands. As a result a man wearing umncwadvo is safe from the embarrassment of having an erection that would even lift the loin skin, lijobo.

Donald Nkonyane of the national museum says umncwadvo is commonly used and is made from the fruit of umtfongwane. There is one growing outside the museum. When making the umncwadvo one is expected to be at a distance from the family home to pierce the opening of the fruit (kuwugwedla) by using the girth of the thumb. There is also a small opening at the back by using a needle or thorn for it to breathe. Young men are taught how to make and wear umncwadvo during the initiation into the regiments. This is the most respected dress after the headband, umbhodze.

At a rather interesting meeting held at Enhlulweni chief’s compound last Saturday it became also an issue why women we not circumcised. At least on this one they wanted to be taught about the circumstances surrounding the circumcision of women.

Josephine said women were very much worried about the consequences of having their men going under the knife especially because this might result in the men’s organs becoming dysfunctional. “You have this thing removed from your man and then it suddenly does not perform as it used to.” She further said it was worrisome that those effecting the circumcision did not conduct tests to prevent side effects or unexpected reaction. She had in mind diabetic men who mind find the wound not healing after the operation.

“We must be able to help the male members of the family such as boys and that is if only we understand what this circumcision is all about. We have been told that it protects one from infections and we are happy too that if our husbands are protected we are also protected,” said Josephine. She said men in the area were finding it difficult to embrace circumcision especially because of fears of the unknown. People do not want to circumcise at old age and the practice is only acceptable to children at birth because it is conducted at the Mankayane Government Hospital.

“We are also afraid that in the hereafter we might not be accepted in heaven because the Bible says we should not go with our limbs missing unjustifiably. If you go to heaven without your private parts you might be disqualified from entry.”

Another woman said she could not understand what circumcision was all about because it did not prevent sexually transmitted diseases at all, only that it mitigated. Local folk also hold the belief that the foreskin is used in making spice popular with ochre, ligusha.

Some of the myths are dismissed by circumcision activists who claim, for instance, that bleeding is minimal during the procedure and it is effectively stopped and the health provider makes sure there are no chances of the client bleeding after the operation. Also circumcision has nothing to do with infertility. Clients with high blood pressure are often advised to declare their statuses so that the operation is undertaken after the level has been lowered.

Swazi Observer
April 7, 2011

Circumcision not a threat to ‘umncadvo’

By Calsile Masilela

FOLLOWING a concern by members of the public regarding circumcision and the use of umcandvo, a regiment known as Sobholwenyoni from Malindza has come out to say he is circumcised and still uses umcandvo without a problem.

Medical Male Circumcision Doctor Khumbulani Moyo based at Litsemba Letfu Men’s Clinic in Matsapha, one of the service providers for circumcision in the country, stated that he had worked with men who use umcandvo and never raised any concern about that. ...


Fox News
April 1, 2011

'Strange Sex' Exploring More Bizarre Bedroom Behavior, Mysterious Medical Conditions

By Hollie McKay

TLC is once again taking American audiences between the sheets for an intimate exploration of medical abnormalities, unusual fetishes and the science behind sexual attraction in the second season of “Strange Sex.”

The 10 episode docu-reality series profiles a range of individuals brave enough to divulge the trials and tribulations of their various conditions, including a Muslim couple who waited until their wedding night to have sex only to discover they were unable to consummate their nuptials, a woman born with two vaginas dealing with the possibility she will not be able to have children, and, in the debut episode, we’ll meet Ron Low, a typical suburban husband and father from Chicago on a mission to help men restore their foreskin.

“In 2001 I realized I had to do something to improve my sex life because it was getting to be dull. I researched online and found out there are a lot of men restoring their foreskins and I decided to do it too,” Low, an industrial engineer, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “The tapeless device I wanted wasn’t available, so that got me tinkering in my own basement to make a device based on some ideas I had seen online and came up with a way to make these things to meet my needs. I hope when you see (the show) you get an appreciation for how foreskin restoration really benefits men. It makes up for a lot of damage.”

Low and his wife now work full-time on the procedure, and in the last year they helped more than [3000] men restore their foreskin. Furthermore, Low is using his new-found public platform to advocate against infant circumcision on Capitol Hill.

“We want to see the law that presently protects baby girls stripped of gender add language so that it protects all infants from cosmetic surgery. There is not any medical association on earth that suggests routine infant circumcision, it is a strictly cosmetic procedure,” he explained. “We need to protect people from things if they cannot consent to them if it is purely for cosmetic purposes.”

According to Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Nancy Irwin, “Strange Sex” will also provide a profound sense of relief to those with atypical sexual predilections, in addition to providing treatment techniques and resources.

“Hopefully, the show will underscore the fact that no one chooses to have these conditions, and it takes a very courageous person to share this intimate issue and ask for help,” she said.

While the show deals with an assortment of unconventional issues, it has clearly captivated American audiences. The season one premiere attracted an average of 1.2 million viewers.

“We send very confusing messages through the media; teens and girls are highly sexualized at an alarmingly earlier age now, yet our sex offender laws and punishments are stricter than ever. No wonder offenses are higher,” Irwin added. “This is why people tune in to a show like this; we are curious about sex, and want some real answers that are not available through commercial means.”

TLC's Strange Sex premieres on Sunday, April 3 at 10 PM ET/PT.

[Amazing! Apart from the emphasis on "strangeness", not a snigger, not a double entendre, not single bad cutting pun!]


March 16, 2011

Male cut drive in slow start as old rites refuse to go

By Lucas Ng'asike

Ekeno Eweet, 40, does not know what to expect as he heads to a local dispensary to find out about male circumcision.

Eweet and his peers, who are pastoralists, have half-heartedly decided to give it a try only after they understood what it is all about.

He and his counterparts have lived according to the Turkana culture, one that has for decades never accommodated male circumcision.

Eweet refuses to disclose he considers undergoing the surgical procedure.

Those who seek the service even decline to have their picture taken as they visit Turkana Central District Hospital for information.

Unlike Kisumu, where the residents embraced the male cut almost by a 100 per cent, male circumcision has been received with mixed feelings among the Turkana.

Equal abilities
The community still looks down upon those that practice male circumcision, with some locals terming it outrageous.

Former Turkana Central MP Immanuel Imana is among elders in the county who do not think male circumcision adds any value to those who undergo it.

"What is the essence of removing the foreskin in the male genitalia if not to erode the cultures of communities such as ours," he says.

According to Mr Imana, men who undergo the cut and those who don't, have equal abilities, especially when it comes to siring children. "For our community, being uncircumcised has not brought harm and we can do without it," he adds.

His standpoint, Imana argues, is supported by statistics that indicate that sexual diseases like HIV and Aids among the Turkana is low.

[Sounds like their resistance is perfectly rational]

"Our culture is still intact and we do not see why we should erode it now. But this does not mean that I am against the war against diseases like HIV and Aids," he says.


However, many are unaware of a little known ceremony called Asapan, which is a traditional circumcision rite practiced by most clans among the Turkana.

Although it does not involve the physical circumcision, it initiates Turkana youth into adulthood, a rite similar to the alternative rite of passage for girls practiced in communities who do not subscribe to female genital mutilation.


But on the flipside, Lokiridi said women in the Turkana traditional set-up are not used to circumcised men. "Our local, traditional women do not want to see circumcised men. They consider the practice a shame. It is better to have one's genitalia covered," adds Lokiridi.

This fact could work against the campaign, introduced in the community to have the men undergo the cut.


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