To more recent news
(More recent items first)
Economists say adult circumcision not best anti-HIV tactic
By Oren Dorell
A group of top world economists said Wednesday that adult male circumcision, a global priority for preventing HIV infection, is not nearly as cost-effective as other methods of prevention.
A successful adult male circumcision effort would require "a large public campaign to get people into the clinic," said Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Danish think tank focused on cost-effective public spending that commissioned the panel.
Getting men to volunteer to be circumcised would not be easy and "it could cause more risky behavior," Lomborg said.
The economists conducted a first-ever cost-benefit analysis of the top AIDS-fighting approaches by comparing the costs of prevention and treatment options per lives saved.
The group told representatives of global organizations at Georgetown University that more cost-effective ways to prevent the spread of the disease are an HIV vaccine [yet to be invented] , infant male circumcision [not shown to have any effect on HIV anywhere, and with ethical issues] , preventing mother-to-child transmission of the disease and making blood transfusions safe.
Each year 2.5million people are infected with the disease and 2million die, about 70% of them in Africa, according to the Copenhagen center.
Marelize Gorgens, HIV prevention coordinator at the World Bank, disagreed with the economists, saying male circumcision is like a vaccine because it reduces the risk of infection by 60%.
"We need to spend money on things we know work," Gorgens said.
The World Bank and the U.S. State Department support a major push for adult male circumcision. But the economists estimated the cost-benefit ratio for such circumcisions at 23:1. The economists said increasing annual spending on an AIDS vaccine by $100million would be a better investment because it could potentially eradicate the disease, even though the cost-benefit ratio, 12:1, is lower, Lomborg said.
[He means "benefit-cost" or 1:23 and 1:12.]
Other improvements "are so cheap and effective" they jumped to the top of the list, he said.
Preventing mother-to-child transmission by treating HIV-positive pregnant women with medication and improving the blood supply had a cost-benefit ratios of 95:1 and 393:1, respectively.
"Making blood transfusions safe costs almost nothing, but we're not doing it," Lomborg said.
Injuries linked to circumcision clamps
The Mogen and Gomco devices have been blamed for injuries. One manufacturer no longer distributes the Mogen clamp, but it's still popular with mohels.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Melanie Hall did not think she was putting her week-old son at risk when she brought him to a Los Angeles doctor to be circumcised. But after a nurse took the baby into an examining room, something went terribly wrong.
"I heard a scream, an excruciating kind of scream," Hall said. "You know your baby's cry."
The doctor called her in from the waiting room. He had cut off most of the tip of her son's penis.
[They mean the glans. Circumcising always cuts off most of the tip of a baby's penis.]
Hall sued both the doctor and the distributor of the Mogen clamp he had used to circumcise her now 8-year-old son, Terrel. Although her claim against the physician was dismissed, Miltex Inc. and its parent company, Integra Life Sciences Holding Corp., agreed this summer to a $4.6-million settlement.
The Mogen clamp's name derives from the Hebrew word "magain," or shield. It was invented in 1954 by Rabbi Harry Bronstein, a Brooklyn mohel who wanted to standardize circumcision equipment then in use by both doctors and mohels without medical training who perform the procedure in private homes and other locations. A user first loosens the foreskin, then pulls it through the clamp and clips it off with a single cut.
["Loosens" - a euphemism for tearing it away from the glans.]
These days, about 56% of boys born in the U.S. are circumcised in hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC does not keep track of how many additional circumcisions are done by mohels. [Less than 3%] ) Nearly all circumcisions in the U.S. are performed with a Mogen clamp, a Gomco clamp or a device called the Plastibell.
There have been numerous reports in recent years of patients being injured by the Mogen clamp, which is much less popular than the other two types of circumcision devices, which are two-part systems that protect the tip of the penis.
As far back as August 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public health notice about the Mogen and Gomco clamps after receiving about 20 injury reports a year since 1996, including lacerations, hemorrhaging, penile amputation and urethral damage. Instead of recalling the devices, the FDA advised users to make sure they were using the correct size Mogen clamp and that the space between the clamp's jaws met manufacturer's specifications. The agency also cautioned against using replacement parts on the Gomco clamp, which led it to malfunction.
But complications continued. In the 11 years between the FDA warnings and the Hall settlement, the agency has received 139 additional reports of problems related to circumcision clamps, including 51 injuries, said spokeswoman Amanda Sena. Twenty-one of those reports were related to Mogen clamps, all but one of which involved injuries.
[Circumcising always causes injuries.]
Miltex, one of several Mogen clamp manufacturers, stopped distributing the devices in 1994. "Although no obvious defect has been found with the clamp's design or manufacturing we have concerns over the possible mishandling of the instrument by practitioners and our inability to ensure the instrument's proper use," Miltex's then-president Saul Kleinkramer wrote in a letter announcing the decision.
[It's a wonder they don't blame the babies for having the wrong kind of foreskin.]
But some of its devices are still in use. That troubles some medical experts, who say the Mogen clamp, unlike others, has a critical design flaw: It does not allow doctors or mohels to see what they are cutting.
In 2000, Miltex reached a confidential settlement with a North Hollywood couple whose newborn was injured during circumcision, according to their lawyer, Robert Mandell. Last year, a New York judge awarded $10.8 million in damages to a Florida couple whose son lost the head of his penis when he was circumcised with a Mogen clamp during a Jewish ceremony called a brith milah, or bris. The maker of that device, Mogen Circumcision Instruments of New York, already was in default on a $7.5-million judgment in Massachusetts.
The lawyer who represented the Florida couple, David Llewellyn, is an outspoken opponent of circumcision. He and other so-called intactivists have pushed for laws banning the practice.
Only about 10% to 20% of doctors use the Mogen clamp, according to Dr. David Tomlinson, who teaches family medicine at Brown University in Providence, R.I., and serves as the World Health Organization's chief expert on circumcision. [And invented the "improved" Gomco, the "improved" Plastibell and the Accu-circ - no conflict of interest there.] But the clamp is popular with mohels because some orthodox Jews recognize only circumcisions performed with devices based on the traditional design, according to Dr. Fred R. Kogen, a mohel in Los Angeles.
Kogen has performed circumcisions with the Mogen, the Gomco and the Plastibell. He said he prefers the Mogen, which he has used on more than 7,000 babies, including his son.
With the Mogen clamp, a circumcision requires just one cut and is over in minutes. The Gomco and Plastibell devices require doctors to make multiple incisions, which takes more time and causes more pain, according to studies cited in the April issue of the Journal of Family Practice.
"In my mind, it was less traumatic to the child" to use the Mogen clamp, Kogen said. "I felt comfortable with it."
Besides, he added, "some families are specifically looking for a Mogen for religious reasons, and if I pull something else out, they might get suspicious."
[G_d didn't actually say what to do it with....]
Terrel now lives with his mother in Austin, Texas. He has had two reconstructive surgeries, and doctors predict he will need at least two more while in his teens and 20s to repair the physical damage. Then will come plastic surgery.
Another study finds no benefit...
Circumcision Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in London, United Kingdom: An Unlikely Strategy for HIV Prevention
From U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Male circumcision is unlikely to be a workable HIV prevention strategy among London MSM, the current study suggests. The team undertook the research to explore attitudes about circumcision among MSM in London and to assess the feasibility of conducting research on circumcision and HIV prevention among these men.
In May and June 2008, a convenience sample of MSM visiting gyms in central London completed a confidential, self-administered questionnaire. The information collected included demographic characteristics, self-reported HIV status, sexual behavior, circumcision status, attitudes about circumcision, and willingness to take part in research on circumcision and HIV prevention.
Among the 653 participants, 29 percent reported they were circumcised. HIV prevalence among the MSM was 23.3 percent and did not differ significantly between circumcised (18.6 percent) and uncircumcised (25.2 percent) men (adjusted odds ratio=0.79; 95 percent confidence interval: 0.50-1.26). The proportion of participants reporting unprotected anal intercourse in the past three months was similar in the circumcised (38.8 percent) and uncircumcised (36.7 percent) groups (AOR=1.06; 95 percent CI: 0.72-1.55). The uncircumcised MSM were [much] less likely to think there were benefits to being circumcised compared to the circumcised men (31.2 percent vs. 65.4 percent, P<0.001). Just 10.3 percent of the uncircumcised men indicated a willingness to take part in research on circumcision as a strategy to prevent HIV transmission.
"Most uncircumcised MSM in this London survey were unwilling to participate in research on circumcision and HIV prevention," the authors concluded. "Only a minority of uncircumcised men thought that there were benefits of circumcision. It is unlikely that circumcision would be a feasible strategy for HIV prevention among MSM in London."
Local jury to decide circumcision case
By Douglas Walker
The lawsuit calls the procedure 'an intentional battery' and claims the infant was only 'partially anesthetized'
MUNCIE -- A Delaware [County] Circuit Court 4 jury next month will be asked to decide whether a local physician should pay damages to a now-7-year-old Muncie boy who was circumcised a day after his November 2003 birth -- allegedly against the wishes of the youngster's parents.
The boy and his mother have already reached an out-of-court settlement with Ball Memorial Hospital, where the birth and circumcision took place.
In a lawsuit -- filed nearly six years ago, in November 2005 -- the mother alleges her newborn baby displayed "calm, cuddly, confident behavior" on his first day of life.
As a result of "the tremendous pain suffered upon him" a day after his birth, the child became "a very fussy and upset baby" for nearly a year, and continued to suffer pain for at least two weeks after the procedure, which the suit calls "an intentional battery."
The mother maintains the physician targeted in the suit, Michael R. Burt, was aware of her opposition to circumcision, in part because he was the pediatrician for her "genitally intact" older son.
The suit -- filed by the Indianapolis law firm of Wilson Kehoe & Winningham -- says the mother comes from a family "in which circumcision has never been practiced," and whose members believe "genital integrity is a basic human right." It lists several of her male relatives, living and dead, who are or were "intact."
She also alleges her infant was only "partially anesthetized" before the circumcision, making the procedure "excruciatingly painful."
The suit alleges as a result of the circumcision, the boy has been "permanently deprived of having normal sexual intercourse when he is an adult," and is at risk of developing related medical problems.
In a recent court filing, the mother says while her son has had not related mental heath counseling, she has had to counsel him "through his concerns regarding his missing foreskin" and of being different from his older brother.
David Llewellyn, an Atlanta attorney who has made a specialty of circumcision-related litigation [Yes, botched and non-consented circumcisions are that common - and he's not the only one.] , is also part of the mother and son's legal team.
The trial is set to begin Oct. 3, and is expected to last a week, Circuit Court 4 Judge John Feick said Friday.
The judge has yet to rule on whether a topic-specific questionnaire proposed by the boy's attorneys will be sent to prospective jurors in the case.
It asks several questions about prospective jurors' views on circumcision, and whether they (if male) have been circumcised, whether they know anyone who is not circumcised [all relevant to potential bias] , and whether they belong to any pro-circumcision and [or - they'd hardly belong to both] anti-circumcision organizations.
Physician Burt will be defended by three Fort Wayne attorneys.
Doctors campaign against 'risky and painful' circumcision of boys
The Dutch doctors federation KNMG has again called on ministers, MPs and human rights organisations to speak out against the practice of circumcising young boys.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 boys are circumcised in the Netherlands every year, often on religious grounds and without anaesthetics, the organisation says. This is against human rights.
The intervention is not without risk and is increasingly being seen as 'not normal', the organisation says.
It is not calling for an outright ban because of fears this would drive the practice underground and lead to more complications.
In particular, the KNMG says insurance companies should ask if they should be using public funds to pay for an unnecessary operation.
the Nation (Kenya)
Law against the female 'cut' most welcome
A historic law passed by Parliament last week was unfortunately overshadowed by other happenings.
Female circumcision is now illegal in Kenya. That might come as a surprise to many who have assumed that the retrograde practice has always been against the law.
From the colonial era to the present day, the government has tried to stamp out female circumcision through administrative actions that did not actually have full backing in law.
Often different laws, against assault or abuse of minor, for instance, have been employed; rather than specific legislation outlawing the practice.
That is why the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Bill, that now awaits presidential assent, is a landmark worth celebrating.
Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi deserves plaudits for sponsoring the Private Members’ Bill that makes it illegal to practise female circumcision, procure the services of a circumcisor, or send somebody out of the country to undergo the illegal ‘cut’.
Offenders will serve up to three years in prison and fines of up to Sh200,000.
The new law was rightly hailed by women MPs as marking, at last, emancipation for the Kenyan woman and girl nearly a half century after the proclamation of Independence.
It is one thing to make laws, however, and another top enforce them.
Deeply-ingrained cultural practices, however outdated and retrogressive, can often defy the best efforts to eradicate them.
The oppressive colonial regime could not root out female circumcision in some parts of the country, and neither after independence could the practice be wiped out through the coercive Chief’s Act.
The mixture of carrot-and-stick employed by the churches and the education system from the colonial days to the present also did not succeed in stamping out the practice.
The new law will add legal backing to the fight against female circumcision, but victory will only be achieved when the communities that practise the ‘cut’ are persuaded to voluntarily abandon it.
For those who didn't hear it the first, second, third (etc) time....
Unborn babies recognise pain: study
Babies begin to recognise pain just before they are born, a study has shown.
They learn to tell the difference between pain and touch from around the 35th to 37th week of pregnancy, researchers have discovered.
Scientists measured the brain waves of 25 normal-term and 21 premature babies to look for differences in activity. As the electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings were made the infants had samples of blood taken by lancing their heels, a routine standard procedure.
Among premature babies, the heel lances produced general bursts of electrical activity in the brain. But after 35 to 37 weeks the babies' response switched to localised activity in specific brain areas.
This showed they were perceiving pain stimulation as an experience separate from touch, said the scientists.
Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi, from University College London, who led the research published in the journal Current Biology, said: "We are asking a fundamental question about human development in this study - when do babies start to distinguish between sensations? In very young brains all stimulations are followed by 'bursts' of activity, but at a critical time in development babies start to respond with activity specific to the type of stimulation.
"Of course babies cannot tell us how they feel, so it is impossible to know what babies actually experience. We cannot say that before this change in brain activity they don't feel pain."
Previous studies have shown a similar shift from neuronal bursts to focused activity in the brain's visual centre at around the same time. The research suggests that important nerve connections are formed in the brain during the period just prior to birth.
Bill halting local circumcision bans goes to Brown
SACRAMENTO Calif.—The Legislature has approved a bill preventing local jurisdictions from banning male circumcision, a measure written in response to ballot measure proposed in San Francisco.
Supporters of the San Francisco measure tried to ban [no, age-restrict] the practice for most males under age 18, but it later blocked by a judge.
The author of AB768, Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles, says the practice has cultural and health benefits and should require statewide rules.
Challengers say it is an unnecessary surgery that may lead to sexual and health problems later in life. [and breaches human rights, religious freedom and equality] Advocates say circumcision is an important religious practice for many Jews and Muslims and can reduce the risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
The Assembly passed amendments made to the bill Tuesday. It now heads to the governor.
Nyeri man forced to undergo the cut
A man in Nyeri County was descended upon by his colleagues after they discovered that he was not circumcised. The hapless man was promptly paraded along the streets of Nyeri town stark naked and raising funds along the way to assist their colleague to undergo the cut at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital.
Sunday Herald Sun
Former sailor wants compensation over ship circumcision
By Sue Hewitt
A FORMER sailor who was circumcised by a ship's doctor and allegedly suffered ridicule from his shipmates is seeking compensation almost 40 years after the operation.
He woke during the operation and had to be physically restrained while it was completed, according to evidence to a tribunal.
The attendant holding him down then joked his foreskin would make good fish bait, it was claimed.
The Melbourne man, 56, is seeking a $28,600 a year defence force pension because he claims his severe depression that emerged after the circumcision was caused by his defence service.
The Repatriation Commission rejected his claim, despite its own expert diagnosing the man, known only as DZLG, as suffering a "generalised anxiety disorder" because of the ridicule after the operation.
But the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled the commission was wrong and recommended the man be given a pension.
The man was 19 when he was posted on HMAS Sydney in 1973 and attended sick bay with a sore penis, the tribunal was told.
He had expected to receive an antiseptic cream but instead was circumcised and he told the tribunal the operation "just happened" and he had no time to object.
A medical attendant "held the removed foreskin in tongs and joked about using it for fishing", he said.
The man fainted and spent four days in sick bay, then his shipmates started taunting him.
''Jokes were made referring to the size of his penis . . . he was called names," the tribunal found.
When he transferred to another ship the taunts continued and he became depressed, alienated and lonely, the tribunal found.
His lawyer, Greg Isolani of KCI Lawyers, said the bullying affected the sailor for the rest of his life, leaving him a "shattered man".
He said it was "extremely disappointing" that the Department of Veterans' Affairs forced him to appeal to a tribunal.
Sense breaks out in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe MPs shun Thokozani Khope's circumcision call
Zimbabwe's male MPs are not enthusiastic about a call for them to be circumcised to set an example in the fight against Aids, the BBC has found.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe made the call, following evidence that circumcised men are 60% less likely to get infected with HIV.
Of eight MPs the BBC spoke to, only one said he would heed her suggestion.
One called it "madness", while another said he was setting a good example through his behaviour.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries worst hit by Aids and the government last year launched a campaign to circumcise up to 80% of the country's young men - some three million people.
The World Health Organization is encouraging men to get circumcised following studies in other African countries.
Aids experts, however, warn that using a condom, abstaining from sex or being faithful to one partner offer far greater protection against HIV infection.
'Circumcision of the mind'
"I don't see many takers but I'm not stopping anyone," he said.
His colleague Nelson Chamisa said it should be a matter of individual choice.
"It has to be a circumcision of the mind rather than circumcision of the organ," he said. [He seems to be thinking of biblical "circumcision of the heart", Deut 10:16, 30:6, Rom 2:29]
Edgar Mbwembwe, from Zanu-PF, was the only legislator who said he would go ahead with the procedure.
Another, Willias Madzamure, said the call was a good idea and said he was "seriously considering" it but did not firmly commit himself.
Only a few of Zimbabwe's ethnic groups practise circumcision for cultural reasons.
Circumcision rates falling, CDC says
By Rob Stein
Fewer U.S. newborns are getting circumcised at the hospital, according to a federal analysis released Thursday.
The analysis of three separate surveys found that the proportion of boys being circumcised before their parents take them home dropped over the last decade, researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The percentage of boys circumcised in the hospital fell from 62.5 percent in 1999 to 56.9 percent in 2008, according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey, which is conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. It declined from 63.5 percent in 1999 to 56.3 percent in 2008 according to the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which is conducted by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And it dropped from 58.4 percent in 2001 to 54.7 percent in 2010, according to the Charge Data Master, which is conducted by SDIHealth, a private source.
The decreases come after circumcision rates had been on the rise. During the previous 10-year period, the circumcision rate increased from 48.3 percent during 1988 – 1991 to 61.1 percent during 1997 – 2000, according to the report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The data comes amid an intense debate in the United States about circumcision. In San Francisco, opponents tried to ban the practice, likening circumcision to female genital mutilation. But others defend the practice on religious, cultural and medical grounds. Recent studies also indicate circumcision can have health benefits, most notably decreasing the risk of becoming infected with the AIDS virus and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The new analysis likely underestimates the proportion of boys being circumcised because it only includes procedures done in hospital. The analysis did not examine the reason for the decline, but noted that cost could be an issue.
“Many factors likely influence rates of” circumcision, according to the report. “A recent survey found that, after controlling for other factors, hospital in states in which Medicaid covers routine male circumcision had circumcision rates that were 24 percentage points higher than in hospitals in states without such coverage.” [Or it may simply be that the Intactivist message is getting across, and parents are agreeing that neonatal circumcision is a human rights violation.]
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC plan to release new guidelines about circumcision.
Norway Ombudsman argues minimum circumcision age
NEWS IN BRIEF: Children’s Ombudsman Reidar Hjermann believes that there should be an age restriction on circumcising boys.
Norwegian law states children are able to make decisions about religion at 15, whilst 16-year-olds can decide about their health.
The Ministry of Health and Care services has already sent a separate consultation paper proposing that only doctors or experts should perform circumcisions, and that the procedure should be free.
Religious leaders and representatives have condemned the Ombudsman’s proposal and it is likely to provoke further angry response, but Mr Hjermann nevertheless believes that age is important.
“This is about parents’ right to decide versus children’s rights,” he said to Dagbladet. “We now have more knowledge of how infants experience pain therefore this discussion must be had now.”
Bill halting local bans on circumcision advances
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The state Senate has unanimously [or rather, without dissent] approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning male circumcisions, responding to a proposed ballot measure in San Francisco.
The San Francisco measure, later blocked by a judge, would have prohibited the practice for most boys under age 18.
AB768 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat from Los Angeles, says the practice has health, cultural and other benefits. [Medical associations worldwide have been debating circumcision for decades without ever coming to such a conclusion. This is up there with States ruling that the value of pi = 3.] It says statewide rules are needed to govern circumcisions and parents' authority over seeking the procedure. [They sure are. The measure the Senate has passed makes it legal for an untrained child with a boxcutter to circumise an unwilling 17-year-old so long as one parent has consented and the 17-year-old is male.]
Critics say the surgery is unnecessary and can cause children sexual and mental health problems later in life.
The bill passed 37-0 Tuesday without debate. [Three of the 40 state senators were absent or abstained.] It returns to the Assembly for a final vote on Senate amendments.
Magharebia (North Africa)
Circumcision during Ramadan carries risks
By Mohand Ouali for Magharebia in Algiers
Charities offer free circumcisions for the children of needy families during Ramadan, but some are concerned about potential health complications.
In Algeria, Ramadan is a popular time to have boys circumcised. But the delicate operation can result in accidents or injuries to children if performed by inadequately trained medical staff. [...or indeed, by anybody.]
Although circumcisions can be performed at any time of the year, many Algerians choose to have their children circumcised during Ramadan, especially on the 27th day of the month, which has particular religious significance (Laylat al-Qadr or the Night of Destiny).
Many organisations, public institutions and companies arrange collective circumcision ceremonies during the holy month as a gesture of support for families. However, when collective operations are performed at improperly equipped facilities, injuries often result.
"There are nurses, general practitioners and even paediatricians who carry out these operations despite having no right to do so," said Dr Mourad Zaoui, who works at a hospital in Kolea, Blida province. "This is a surgical procedure that should be performed by a surgeon."
He explained that bleeding, infections and injuries resulting from surgical mishaps are the most common problems.
"I witnessed the death of a child from post-circumcision bleeding," he said, adding that in other cases, damage caused by botched circumcisions can be repaired. "In most cases, the child will certainly experience psychological trauma, but that is all." [Is that not enough?]
"There are still some areas where there is no oversight, and this increases the risk of accidents," Dr Zaoui said. He also noted that there are no national statistics indicating the frequency of mishaps.
"Yes, accidents are frequent when circumcisions are performed. For instance, two boys were maimed when they were circumcised in mid-July in the town of Tenes," a medical source told Magharebia.
Another doctor in the town said that one child was maimed during a collective circumcision ceremony held by a charity last year. The child, who was later found to suffer from haemophilia, was circumcised by a nurse and was hospitalised due to bleeding. The nurse was suspended and legal proceedings filed against him.
The Algerian health ministry has taken steps in recent years to reduce the risk of injury, including issuing new safety recommendations for doctors.
The Social Action Department (DAS) in Algiers announced August 1st that it would offer circumcisions to a thousand boys during the holy month in partnership with the health ministry.
In Constantine, Abdelkader Nouar, the secretary-general of the Souboul el Kheirat office with the religious affairs ministry, has announced that around 500 boys from needy families will be circumcised during Ramadan. This gesture of solidarity will end on the eve of Eid al-Fitr. Nouar mosque committees have received numerous requests for circumcisions from impoverished families who cannot afford to pay private doctors for the procedure, which usually costs around 4,500 dinars (43 euros).
In early August, the daily newspaper La Tribune launched an initiative called "Together, let's put a smile on children's faces". The aim of the charity event was to arrange collective circumcision ceremonies for 120 orphans and needy children.
[Of course what would really put a smile on their faces is not circumcising them.]
However, these mass circumcisions pose the greatest risk of accidents, according to authorities. In an August 4th statement, the health ministry said circumcisions "may only be performed by surgeons at a healthcare facility (public or private) where all of the safety measures necessary to ensure the success of this surgical procedure are in place".
The regulations aim to protect children and "prevent any repeat of the painful accidents that have transformed acts of faith and joy into acts of mourning". The guidelines have been in force since 2006, when the health minister issued instructions in wake of a tragedy in El Khroub that left several boys maimed.
Authorities hope to minimise the risks and offer protection to children by preventing accidents, the main causes of which are poor hygiene and incompetence. Since the 2006 incident, pre-operative assessments and general check-ups have been mandatory for all children prior to circumcision.
When persuasion fails, try bribery (then force)
The Standard (Kenya)
Residents earn Sh100 for getting circumcised
By Lucas Ng'asike
National Aids and STI Control Programme (Nascop) is using monetary incentives to entice more men in Turkana County to undergo circumcision.
Nascop, together with Nyanza Health Reproductive Society (NHRS), changed strategy after the number of people getting circumcised dwindled.
The approach is aimed at encouraging men to go for Voluntarily Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) in local health facilities.
Dr Nicholas Muraguri, the Director of Nascop, said the incentive will ensure VMMC succeeds.
"We really want this programme to succeed. That is why we are giving locals, who visit health facilities for the cut, incentives," Muraguri said.
He said the rates of HIV infection in the area were alarming.
Muraguri noted that VMMC approach could reduce HIV infection rates by up to 60 per cent.
Through the programme, anyone taking a person to the facility for the cut will be given Sh100. [$US 1.07]
"This approach will help us to achieve our targets. The more you bring clients to the health facility for the cut, the more money you get," Muraguri told a sensitisation forum in Lodwar.
He said cultural aspects had challenged the VMMC project in Turkana since men do not get circumcised.
"We are educating the community the health benefits of male cut in the prevention of HIV to encourage men to get circumcised," said Muraguri.
Since the programme was rolled out in March this year, less than 3,000 men have been circumcised in the area.
The director said they were targeting 175,000 men at the end of the five-year programme.
He noted the programme was not well co-ordinated in the area due to misinformation.
New York Daily News
Kentucky jury rules against patient in penis amputation suit
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — A jury on Wednesday ruled against a Kentucky truck driver who sued his urologist claiming the doctor amputated part of his penis without his consent.
The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated briefly before coming back with the verdict in the lawsuit filed by 64-year-old Phillip Seaton, and his wife, Deborah, in Shelby County Circuit Court.
The jury ruled unanimously against the claim that Dr. John Patterson of Frankfort had failed to exercise proper care. It ruled 10-2 against the claim that Seaton hadn't consented to the amputation.
Jurors were told that Seaton had gone to Patterson seeking a circumcision in 2007, but the doctor decided to amputate part of the organ after he found potentially deadly cancer during surgery.
All jurors, including the forewoman, declined to comment as they filed out of the courthouse after the trial.
Seaton, who with his wife of 35 years had been seeking more than $16 million in damages for "loss of service, love and affection," also declined to comment after the verdict.
The Seatons' attorney, Kevin George, said in closing arguments, "Phillip has changed. He was mutilated. His manhood was taken."
George said he planned to appeal the decision on the grounds that a doctor is allowed to change a consent for surgery only if there is a danger of imminent death.
"There was no emergency, no reason to do it," George said of the amputation.
Patterson said after the verdict, "I think we're feeling pretty good." He declined to say more about the highly publicized case, calling one reporter who tried to question him "a member of the tabloid press."
"We feel like justice was done," the doctor's attorney, Clay Robinson, said.
"No doctor ever wins a malpractice action," Robinson said. "It's just a matter of how much you lose by."
The key question of the case revolved around whether Patterson should have halted the surgery when he made the surprise discovery of penile cancer, then consulted the Seatons before taking further action.
Seaton, a heavyset former truck driver from Waddy sporting a long, gray ponytail and gray beard, receives Social Security disability payments because of arthritis and bad eyesight, according to court testimony. Clad in a button-down shirt, he showed little reaction through most of the three days of testimony but said on the witness stand that he was "bad case" emotionally after hearing the news of the partial amputation and had wanted to run from the hospital.
"I didn't have no say in it," Seaton said. "I wasn't told what had to be done. It was just done."
According to court testimony, Seaton had told his general practitioner during a routine examination that he was experiencing burning when he urinated and was prescribed a cream. When symptoms persisted, the doctor later referred Seaton to Patterson, who recommended a simple circumcision, according to court testimony.
[So the doctor recommended circumcision without looking at his penis or retracting his foreskin? Why are we not surprised?]
Seaton had testified that he had not been told prior to the surgery that it would be anything but a circumcision, and had even joked with his doctor about the procedure.
But Patterson testified Monday that when he cut the foreskin, the tip of the penis had the appearance of rotten cauliflower, indicating cancer. A pathologist later testified that tests confirmed the diagnosis.
"What I saw was not a penis. What I saw was cancer," Patterson had testified.
Patterson said he removed less than an inch of Seaton's penis. The rest of the penis was amputated by another doctor later, Patterson's lawyer said.
New York Daily News
Man suing doc for amputating penis signed pre-operation consent form but can't read: lawyer
By Gabriela Resto-Montero
At trial Tuesday, Patterson's attorneys produced a pre-surgery form that was signed by Seaton and authorized the urologist to perform any action necessary if unforeseen problems arose during the surgery, local TV station WLKY reported.
Seaton, however, can't read or write, his lawyer said, the TV station reported.
Taking the stand in his own defense, Patterson testified Tuesday there was no indication before surgery that Seaton had penile cancer . He argued that he acted out of medical necessity in the man's best interest.
Two physicians who testified at the civil trial Tuesday differed on whether the partial amputation was a medical necessity that needed to be performed immediately, as Patterson has claimed, The Associated Press reported.
Family members also testified that Seaton has become extremely angry since the surgery.
CP Radio (audio)
Bill Would Prevent Local Governments From Banning Male Circumcision
By Marianne Russ
California lawmakers will soon decide whether local governments should have the power to limit male circumcision. A State Senate committee has approved a measure that would prevent cities and counties from doing so.
The legislation was prompted by a San Francisco ballot measure that would have banned the practice of male circumcision for those under 18. A judge has removed that measure from the ballot. Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gatto wrote the bill. He says it should be the parents' decision and asked the Senate committee to approve a clear, statewide policy:
Gatto: "I ask you to simply consider this legislation important if only to eliminate a confusing patchwork of local laws that could result in mothers having to drive their newborn babies to another city to get circumcised."
Brian Levitt is from San Francisco and opposes the bill. The measure states that circumcision has health benefits and he has a big problem with that:
Levitt: "This language is a hail Mary pass by circumcision supporters and has no business becoming part of the code of California. It is biased, misleading and inaccurate."
[Worse than that, the Bill completely deregulates circumcision -
The Senate committee approved the legislation unanimously. It heads next to the Senate floor.
American Medical News
California doctors back bill to prevent circumcision ban
By Alicia Gallegos
The measure comes in response to a November ballot initiative to prohibit the procedure in San Francisco. A judge ordered the initiative off the ballot.
California physicians are supporting a bill that would block lawmakers from restricting the practice of male circumcision.
California Assembly Bill 768, which is scheduled to go before the state's Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 23, would prevent any local statute, ordinance or administrative measure from limiting a doctor's [or anyone else's] ability to perform circumcisions. The bill comes after a legal battle in San Francisco over a proposed circumcision ban that was set to appear on the ballot for the city's November elections. Anti-circumcision activists secured more than 10,000 signatures to bring the proposal before voters.
If passed, the ban would have criminalized doctors for performing circumcisions on patients under age 18 unless medically necessary. A group of community organizations, doctors and religious leaders challenged the proposal in court. They argued that a ban would restrict religious freedom and illegally regulate a medical procedure.
County of San Francisco Superior Court of California Judge Loretta Giorgi on July 27 agreed, ruling that the measure was prohibited by state law. She struck the ban from the ballot.
California physicians said the ruling protects doctors and patients from harmful medical regulations.
"You cannot have a referendum on the practice of medicine," said pediatrician Charles Wibbelsman, MD. He's president of Chapter 1 for Northern California District 9 of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We all have been taught to practice medicine in the most ethical and forthright way, and so much of what we do comes from experience. [The ban] would be taking the practice of medicine out of the profession and into the hands of a layperson." [And isn't that just what happens when parents are asked if they want their son circumcised?]
Circumcision has proven health benefits, he added, including a decrease in urinary tract infections among infants and a lowered risk for HIV later in life.
Matthew Hess, president of MGMbill.org, a California-based nonprofit that supported the ban, is considering an appeal. Male circumcision is akin to female genital mutilation, serves no purpose and leaves permanent nerve damage, according to MGMbill.org. The medical benefits associated with circumcision are exaggerated and do not justify valid reasons to "amputate a functioning body part," the group said on its website.
Ban's effect on doctor-patient relationship
"It's very clear a ban would disrupt the doctor-patient relationship," she said. [...forgetting who the patient is.]
Regulation of circumcision also could lead to more ballot initiatives or proposed rules on other procedures, such as abortion and tubal ligation, Dr. Wibbelsman said. [They can cross that bridge when they come to it.]
The CMA supports Assembly Bill 768 and has written a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting its approval.
"From political to religious, there are many differing views on the practice of male circumcision. However, in the medical world, the CMA has long endorsed the concept of newborn circumcision as an effective public health measure," the association's letter said. [This is not true. A 1989 resolution endorsing circumcision lapsed years ago.]
American Medical Association policy strongly opposes interference by the government or other third parties that "causes a physician to compromise his or her medical judgment as to what information or treatment is in the best interest of the patient."
The AMA also advocates that the decision for neonatal circumcision be determined by parents in circumstances in which the procedure is not essential to the child's current well-being. "To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information and be provided the opportunity to discuss this decision," AMA policy states.
Times Live (South Africa)
Experts divided over baby circumcision plan
By Prega Govender
A controversial plan to circumcise newborn babies is among a string of drastic new proposals to tackle the scourge of HIV.
They are contained in the first draft of the National Strategic Plan for HIV and Aids, STIs and TB launched by the South African National Aids Council (Sanac).
The discussion document, which will become the blueprint for Sanac's fight against the pandemic over the next five years once finalised, will be officially launched on World Aids Day on December 1.
The proposed goals of the new strategy include reducing the rate of new HIV infections by 50% and new HIV infections in children by 90% by 2016.
Other proposals include offering circumcisions to young men before they become sexually active and preventing unintended pregnancies, especially among young girls, through sexual and reproductive health information and education in schools.
In addition, the plan suggests universal HIV testing and TB screening on an annual basis for every South African 12 years and older who previously tested negative or whose test status is unknown.
While medical practitioners this week welcomed plans to circumcise young men before their first sexual encounter, they were sharply divided over the proposal on neonatal circumcisions.
Dr Ashraf Coovadia, a paediatrician at Rahima Moosa Hospital in Gauteng, said encouraging young men to be medically circumcised had been a scientific recommendation for some time.
Studies conducted in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa have shown that there was a reduction of between 50% and 60% in HIV infection among men who had been circumcised. [No, they showed, debatably, that after circumcision, a smaller number of the circumcised men had HIV than the non-circumcised controls.]
"The medical fraternity believes it's one of the very good medical, evidence-based options in the prevention of HIV," said Coovadia.
Durban paediatrician Dr Thahir Mitha said scientific evidence pointed to the benefits of neonatal circumcision. [This is false.]
"At least 25% to 30% of the country's 700-odd paediatricians support neonatal circumcisions," he said. [Evidence for that claim?]
But Professor Johan Smit, a neonatologist at Tygerberg Children's Hospital in the Western Cape, said circumcising newborns "was not in the best interests of the child".
"The procedure is not without risks, and newborn circumcision is not based on any scientific evidence. It is based on the extrapolation of scientific data obtained by three studies on adult males.
"It should be left to parents to decide, following counselling, about the risks and benefits of such a procedure."
Gerard Payne, advocacy manager for the Aids Consortium, said they supported medical circumcisions in males as a preventive measure, "but we haven't taken a stance on neonatal circumcisions".
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said he welcomed the proposal on circumcision, saying studies had proven that it was effective in the prevention of HIV. He also supported neonatal circumcisions and urged neonatologists who took issue with this to raise their concerns.
Writing in the June edition of the South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, YA Vawda and LN Maqutu of the University of KwaZulu-Natal's law department examined the ethical, legal and public health considerations of circumcision of newborns as an HIV-prevention strategy.
They concluded that the public health hazard of HIV and Aids could justify such a move.
Adult Circumcision Leads to Penis Amputation, Trial to Begin
The trial is set to begin in the case of a patient who had his penis amputated during a procedure to perform an adult circumcision.
A Kentucky man, ... Phillip Seaton, now in his 60's, went for the procedure to ease his chronic discomfort ...
The doctor in question, Dr. John Patterson of Louisville, maintains that he had detected cancer in the penis and that the amputation was in the best interest of Seaton's overall health. Patterson also maintains that he had written permission to perform any procedures he deemed necessary.
New York Daily News
Man sues doctor for amputating his penis in what was supposed to be a routine circumcision
By Larry McShane
When Philip Seaton woke up after surgery in 2007, it was too late - make that way, way too late - to seek a second opinion.
The Kentucky man was in court Thursday, suing his doctor for amputating his penis during what was scheduled as a routine circumcision to relieve inflammation. [...suggesting the circumcision itself was also unnecessary.]
Jury selection in the case began Thursday, with the ponytailed plaintiff seated alongside his attorney.
Assyrian International News Agency
Female Genital Mutilation 'Is an Obligation' Says Mullah in Iraqi-Kurdistan
By Thomas v. der Osten-Sacken
A mullah in Iraqi-Kurdistan talked in a Friday sermon about the new bill against domestic violence that passed the parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan in June. This law also forbids the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Various clerics and members of Islamic groups started a campaign against this law and demand from the president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Mr. Massud Barzani not to sign the bill.
The mullah is one of the outspoken opponents of this bill. In his sermon he defends FGM as a Islamic practice of the Shafi'i law school. Additionally he defends the right of men to beat their women and children.
Here is a translation of some excerpts from his sermon:
"A woman has the right to protest if her husband looks at her in a grim way. Allah says if a woman disobeys her husband he has the right to beat her, but the lashes should be according to the Sharia. It has conditions. (With the bill against domestic violence) the Kurdish Parliament has rejected Quranic law. (...)
How should I allow that girls shouldn't be beaten at home? That a boy shouldn't be beaten? Is it not true that the prophet -- peace be upon -- him says "if a child doesn't pray when reaching 10 years, you should beat him/her." You have thus cancelled the sayings of the prophet! (...)
Then they come to the issue of circumcision. They have no problems left except the issue of female circumcision in Kurdistan. The mothers and sisters of more than half of your party members were circumcised. This means that you insult your own grandmother. You insult your own mother. You accuse them of ignorance. You dishonour your dead grandfather and burn his coffin for allowing the circumcision of your mother. Circumcision is a tenant of Islamic law (sharia). (...) (This bill is) to satisfy the Jews who in the conference of the Jews in Beijing [???] discussed that female circumcision should be banned. You obey their orders and disregard the Sharia of Allah (...).
...The Imam Shafi'i [most Iraqi-Kurds belong to the Shafi'i law school] said circumcision is good! Aren't you following his denomination? Didn't the KRG president say that he is a Shafi'i? Your denomination says FGM is good, and that is why I am saying it is good.
"Natural, caring and loving"? What would she have done if she hadn't been?
Portland woman who botched circumcision of 3-month-old son gets probation, ordered to undergo mental health treatment
By Helen Jung
A 30-year-old Portland woman who botched a home circumcision of her 3-month-old son was sentenced today to five years of probation.
Keemonta Peterson pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal mistreatment. She also must undergo mental health treatment and work with a mental health probation officer as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. The other two charges of abuse were dismissed.
Peterson was arrested in April after a lengthy investigation into the October 2010 incident. Peterson, inspired after reading the Old Testament, decided she wanted her son to be circumcised.
But because she believed he was too old to be circumcised by doctors, she decided to do it herself, after watching YouTube videos. She called 911 after the botched circumcision left her son bleeding uncontrollably and in great pain.
Doctors completed the circumcision and the boy has fully recovered, said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney John Casalino. The boy and his three siblings are in the state's care, although Peterson can see them under supervision.
The circumcision was "an aberration during a down period in her life," said Peterson's court-appointed lawyer, Scott Raivio. She has shown herself to be "a very natural, caring and loving mother" by all accounts, he said.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Eric Bergstrom agreed that there would be no benefit in sentencing Peterson to any more time in jail than the 28 days she has already served.
Despite the "sensational-sounding facts," said Bergstrom, "the reality is you love your children and had absolutely no intent to harm your child." [She reportedly did it at midnight, using a box cutter for a scalpel and a pair of pliers as a tourniquet.]
[If H.R. 2400 is passed, what Mrs Peterson did will not be a crime, just so long as she uses a clean boxcutter. ]
Monsters and Critics
Sir Richard Branson 'broke stitches after circumcision' watching Jane Fonda
By Samantha Lawton
Sex goddess Jane Fonda revealed Sir Richard Branson once admitted that watching Barbarella 'broke his stitches after circumcision'.
The 73-year-old sex symbol [Fonda] told chat show host Jay Leno that the British millionaire pulled her aside at a party and made the cheeky confession.
After slinking into the show wearing an animal print all-in-one with sky high stiletto heels, she purred as the audience was shown a saucy clip of the hit 1968 science fiction movie.
Then aged 31, Fonda played a woman from the future who saved the Universe from total destruction with the power of her sex appeal.
She told Leno: 'People bring this up very often. Richard Branson told me 'you caused me to tear my stitches after I had circumcision.' It was more news than I needed to have, but it was because he'd seen Barbarella.'
[Another good reason not to circumcise. Clearly Branson's was too tight. Branson was 24 and had it done to treat an allergic reaction with his then wife; unsuccessfully, but that doesn't stop him making extravagant claims about the power of circumcision to prevent HIV. His is a classic case of the Fox Who Lost His Tail.]
In Senegal, a Movement to Reject Female Circumcision
By Fred de Sam Lazaro
The practice of "female circumcision" is widespread, affecting an estimated 140 million women worldwide. ...
Attempts have been made from time to time to stamp out the practice: by missionaries in colonial times, U.N. proclamations, even laws to ban it, all to little effect. From all this history, Molly Melching, founder of an organization in Senegal called Tostan, derived a lesson.
"Tostan found that using approaches that shame or blame people really was just the opposite of what would work in changing social norms," Melching said.
In the two decades since Tostan -- which means "breakthrough" in the local Wolof language -- began using a human rights education approach, almost 5,000 villages in Senegal have abandoned the practice of female genital cutting, she said.
Tostan's staff and volunteers ... rely on an expansive education program of seminars conducted in the villages on human rights, including the right to good health. In time, people learn about germ transmission and how complications suffered by so many women during childbirth can be traced back to the cutting that occurred during their childhood, Melching explains. All this leads to community discussions that examine the origins of the practice,
Melching says religious leaders,... are especially appreciative of being consulted first.
Tostan's message to the communities is respectful, non-judgmental and simple: we know you want to do what's best for your daughters' future. It is sensitive to the fact that from the community's perspective, girls who are not cut are likely to be ostracized and unable to find marriage partners. That makes it critical that large numbers of communities - the marriage pool - abandon the practice collectively. Tostan helps coordinate, organize and raise the funds for such declarations -- gala events attended by thousands of people from hundreds of villages:
"One part of bringing about a change like this is to get everyone to change at once, what we call coordinated abandonment. Everyone has to see that everyone else sees that everyone is changing," says University of California, San Diego, professor Gerry Mackie, who has closely studied Tostan.
There are instances in history for this kind of massive shift in social norms. Women's feet were once bound in China, but the practice was abandoned in barely a generation. And there's a more recent example Melching notices when she returns to America: cigarette smoking was common and widespread when she left in the 1970s, but with increasing awareness of the health consequences, it has become widely unacceptable today.
Doctors who circumcise 'are breaking the law'
Critics of circumcision have argued that the practice could be illegal on minors under the Offences Against the Person Act and have attacked the British Medical Association's position on the procedure as 'unethical'.
Earlier this month, Men do complain (MDC) and NORM-UK chairman Dr John Warren and colleagues, pictured below, delivered an open letter to the BMA arguing that 'a child who has no disease, no injury or no dangerous abnormality has no need of any type of treatment or irreversible surgery' and that to carry out it out just to please the parents 'violates the autonomy of children'.
The letter goes on to say: 'any surgery that is performed without the patient’s personal consent and without therapeutic need is clearly an assault. Any cut made without consent or therapeutic need “that breaks the continuity of the skin” is a wounding under the (Offences Against the Person) Act 1861.'
All other genital touching 'vigorously' prosecuted
'It is hard to see how protecting children from unnecessary genital surgery is not in the public interest when prosecutions for touching the genitals of children are vigorously pursued. In a non-therapeutic circumcision such touching is done with impunity.'
Times Live (South Africa)
Babies' foreskins could be sold: Ethics watchdog
By Anna Majavu
The KwaZulu-Natal department of health said last year that from April 2012 it would, for the first time, offer circumcision as an option to 10% of the mothers of male babies born in public hospitals.
Until now babies have been circumcised for religious or medical reasons.
[Circumcising a minor without a medical or religious reason is contrary to South African law. There is NO evidence that circumcising babies prevents HIV infection in adults.]
The decision has raised the ire of the Medical Rights Advocacy Network's bioethics forum which says that a potential 2.3 million foreskins are at stake.
The network has written a letter to Motsoaledi, KwaZulu-Natal MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and premier Zweli Mkhize, urging them not to go through with their plans to circumcise babies.
"Africa may be viewed as the new source of discarded virgin foreskins to sustain a multi-million-dollar industry. Discarded human foreskins are used in the cosmetics industry, in the manufacture of insulin and artificial skin," the Medical Rights Advocacy Network warns in the letter.
The network's bioethics forum also warns that although biosamples, or any "excess tissue" removed during operations must, by law, be discarded as "biohazardous waste", anyone who has access to the discarded tissue might decide to export it to participate in a multibillion-dollar industry without appropriate consent.
"It is a dangerous presumption to believe that the days of unethical conduct in research is over. In spite of the fact that the South African Human Tissue Act requires that researchers obtain a permit from the South African Ministry of Health to export human tissues, this law is difficult to enforce," the letter continues.
Poonitha Naidoo, a co-ordinator for the network, said discarded baby foreskins contain regenerative stem cells that can't be grown in a laboratory: "They use this to remove wrinkles - it can grow new skin for plastic surgery."
Naidoo said one mother had claimed that the hospital refused to give her the foreskin of her son after it was removed.
Motsoaledi's spokesman, Fidel Hadebe, said doctors have no reason to fear.
"All foreskins are incinerated. No foreskins are sold to the cosmetics industry. Doing so would be against the Human Tissue Act," Hadebe said.
But Mary de Haas, who is co-chairman of the bioethics forum and a research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's school of law, said: "There have been cases in the US where people steal them from the bins because of the commercial value.
"We are worried that pushing for circumcision means that there are vested commercial interests," she said.
De Haas said the increasing global trade in human tissues was a type of "bio-colonialism".
Hadebe said anyone caught trading in foreskins would be in violation of the law and would be dealt with accordingly.
But Naidoo insisted that the government allow members of the Medical Rights Advocacy Network to act as independent monitors, to make sure that the foreskins were being correctly disposed of.
She added that if any parent felt they had been pressured into having their baby circumcised, the network would help them take legal action.
"Hadebe can say the foreskins will be disposed of but nobody is monitoring what is happening on the ground. Anyone could sell these foreskins, from nurses through to morticians," said Naidoo.
The New Age
Two die at circumcision schools
By Montsho Matlala
Initial reports on the traditional circumcision schools in Limpopo this year indicate that the ritual is not 100% successful, as was the case last year.
Yesterday Chief Vusani Netshimbupfe, chairperson of the Limpopo Initiation School Task Team, told The New Age that 306 initiation schools were based in the province this winter although the final report was not yet available.
“Reports from districts such as Waterburg and Sekhukhune are still outstanding and we hope to get them this week. Two initiates died separately in Ga-Mashishi Village in Sekhukhune and one in Nwametoa in Mopani respectively. We have not received postmortem reports on the cause of deaths as yet. One initiation camp was closed down after we set police on it because operators were using fake documents. We transferred the affected initiates to another school,” said Netshimbupfe.
He said although most of the initiation schools were for males, there were a few for females. “We will be able to give you more details in terms of gender and the exact number of initiates once we have rubber stamped the official report on initiation schools for this year,” he said.
Last year, there were no deaths in the 62 initiation schools with a roll of about 20000 in the province.
Senator Bacik wants male circumcision banned
Labour Party Senator Ivana Bacik has said that she would approve of an Irish ban on ‘male genital mutilation’ an apparent reference to male circumcision which is carried out on Muslims and Jewish children and has been performed on millions of other babies for medical reasons. [The author is struggling to defend the practice, without quite knowing why.]
She issued the call at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin at the weekend. Senator Bacik's comments come after a proposal to ban male circumcision was placed on the ballot in upcoming elections in San Francisco.
Speaking on Friday evening at the World Atheist Convention, Senator Bacik also said that there was a threat of a “a creeping fundamentalism in Irish life”, according to a report in the Irish Times.
Little-known non-cutting ritual appeals to some who oppose circumcision
By Jonah Lowenfeld
In the same week in which a San Francisco judge struck from the city’s November 2011 ballot a controversial measure aiming to ban circumcision of any male under 18, two reputable media sources reported on a relatively new, little-known ceremony that serves as a Jewish alternative to circumcision. The New York Times and NPR both reported on brit shalom — Hebrew for “covenant of peace” — and presented it as a small but growing phenomenon.
Brit shalom is frequently promoted by opponents of circumcision as a way to welcome baby boys into the Jewish covenant without the traditional ritual cutting that Jews have practiced for millennia and trace back to a biblical commandment from God to Abraham. But if you’ve never been to — or even heard of — this ceremony, you’re not alone.
“I have never had the pleasure of attending a brit shalom,” said filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, whose 2007 documentary “Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision” presents a critical look at the common surgical procedure.
Ungar-Sargon, who has called circumcision “physically harmful, medically irresponsible and morally wrong,” said that an alternative to Jewish ritual circumcision, or brit milah, was “a great idea” — albeit one whose time has clearly not yet come.
“Calling it a marginal phenomenon would be generous,” he said.
A survey of Jewish ritual circumcisers and brit shalom “celebrants” working in and around Los Angeles confirms Ungar-Sargon’s impression.
Interviews with 12 of the 22 Jewish ritual circumcisers currently practicing in the greater Los Angeles area found they had collectively performed approximately 1,400 traditional Jewish circumcisions in 2010.
By contrast, there are just five known brit shalom celebrants in Southern California. Of the four who could be reached for this article, two had never performed the ceremony.
The third, Rosalie Gottfried, a secular humanist madricha (Hebrew for leader), estimated she had done six in the past decade, and always for parents opposed to circumcision.
“The only time I’m called upon is when a couple chooses to use ‘naming and welcoming’ instead of cutting,” Gottfried, who lives in Laguna Woods, wrote in an e-mail.
The fourth, Hershl Hartman, is the secular Jewish vegvayzer (Yiddish for leader) of the Sholem Community in Los Angeles. He has been naming — without circumcising — Jewish baby boys since the mid-1980s, “several dozen” in all, at a rate of about five every year.
That annual number, however, includes both girls and boys — which is appropriate because secular Jewish leaders like Hartman, who were among the earliest proponents of non-cutting naming ceremonies for Jewish baby boys, were motivated not by opposition to circumcision but by a commitment to egalitarianism.
According to Gottfried, the earliest known brit shalom ceremony was performed around 1970 by her mentor, Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
In 2002, the Leadership Conference of Secular and Humanistic Jews issued a statement about circumcision and Jewish identity that focused much of its attention on gender parity in religious practice.
“Our profound belief in the equality of men and women requires/ensures that Jewish welcoming ceremonies are not different for infant males than for infant females,” reads an excerpt from the statement’s preamble.
“We actually take a really open and welcoming perspective that you don’t have to be circumcised in order to be Jewish,” said Rabbi Adam Chalom, the dean of the North American branch of the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism.
But don’t lump secular Jewish leaders along with anti-circumcision activists.
In June, Chalom contributed to a Chicago Tribune religion blog an entry titled “Circumcision Is Up to Parents,” in which he said that although “circumcision is non-consensual, irreversible, and painful,” there were valid medical, historical and cultural reasons for parents to choose circumcision for their sons.
“If anyone asks me, I say do it in an antiseptic setting,” Chalom said.
Chalom — the “ch” is pronounced in the French manner, as in chateau — leads the Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Chicago. He said he gets “one or two” inquiries every year about brit shalom and has done “four or five” ceremonies in the last 10 years.
The most complete list of celebrants of brit shalom includes five prominent Jewish leaders in the anti-circumcision movement among the 50 people who perform the ceremony worldwide. Many of the others named on that list, which is hosted on a prominent anti-circumcision Web site, [Woo hoo! Actually, a pro-intact website] are secular Jewish leaders.
Mark Reiss, the 78-year-old retired Jewish doctor who is executive vice president of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, maintains the list — although he hadn’t performed a brit shalom until earlier this year. But since he had his “aha” moment and turned firmly against circumcision in 1999, Reiss has worked to gather the names of rabbis and other Jewish leaders willing to perform brit shalom ceremonies.
Moshe Rothenberg, a New York City social worker and literacy teacher, is believed to have performed more of the non-cutting ceremonies than anyone else in the world.
A Reconstructionist Jew and an active member of the movement against circumcision, Rothenberg estimated that in the nearly 25 years since his son was born (but not circumcised), he has performed the ceremony between 150 and 200 times.
Ironically, some Jewish parents with concerns about brit milah have made inquiries with the person least likely to provide them with an alternative to traditional circumcision: a mohel, or Jewish ritual circumciser.
“They want the ceremony minus the circumcision,” said Fred Kogen, a Los Angeles-based physician who has gotten a few such requests in his 26 years of practicing as a mohel. “I say, ‘Look, I can’t do it for you.’ ”
Unlike brit milah, which has liturgical elements that remain largely consistent between one ceremony and another, the Jewish boys’ naming ceremonies that do not feature circumcision are often tailored by parents and leaders, and therefore vary widely.
Chalom, who sometimes calls the ceremony a brit ahava (covenant of love) or brit mishpachah (covenant of family), said he occasionally uses lines from the traditional brit milah ceremony.
Judith Seid, a secular humanistic rabbi and cantor who leads Tri-Valley Cultural Jews in Pleasanton, also doesn’t typically use the term brit shalom.
“We usually just call it a baby naming,” she said. “Same like with a girl.”
Seid presided over the naming of a baby boy in San Francisco on July 30. The script for the event included remarks about Jewish tradition, the child’s parents and grandparents, and the Jewish community. No mention was made of the circumcision that did not take place.
At other brit shalom ceremonies, however, officiants do talk about what’s not going on. [or rather, what's not coming off...]
In a booklet circulated at a Los Angeles naming ceremony in June, brit milah is referred to as “the pre-historic custom of the hunting/gathering/herding Hebrew tribes.”
“This is a ceremony of brit shalom, the peaceful covenant,” the text continued.
Hartman of the Sholem Community presided over that ceremony. In accordance with the secular Jewish leadership’s 2002 statement, Hartman doesn’t take a position on whether parents should circumcise — although he said he will not preside over circumcision ceremonies, which are inherently “theistic.”
Hartman does criticize religious leaders who exclude uncircumcised Jews from practices at their houses of worship — particularly rabbis who will not allow an uncircumcised boy to become a bar mitzvah in their synagogues.
“That tragic situation underlined to me the need for the religious Jewish community to examine more intensely the prehistoric origins of the rite,” Hartman said.
All the major branches of religious Judaism require — or at least encourage — circumcision. But if, as recent stories in The New York Times and NPR have reported, the incidence of brit shalom is increasing, it could follow the path of another practice that many Jews once considered (and some still do) controversial: intermarriage.
“When I first started doing interfaith marriages, you can bet that I got a lot of flak from my colleagues in the Reform movement,” said Rabbi Yeshaia Charles Familant, who was one of the first Reform rabbis in the country to begin performing intermarriages, in 1967.
When the couples he helped marry later had children, they called him, which is why Familant started performing what he called brit chayim — covenant of life — ceremonies in the early 1970s. Before retiring this year, the Menlo Park-based rabbi said he probably performed about 15 or 20 non-cutting naming ceremonies annually.
Familant is not opposed to circumcision, but he has no problem performing brit shalom-type ceremonies.
“If it violated any of my principles I would not have done any of this,” he said.
But other liberal rabbis who perform brit shalom ceremonies are not sold on the new ritual.
“Let’s just say that I do the ceremony,” said Jerry Levy, a 69-year-old Reform rabbi based in Tiburon. “I may not favor it, but I do it.”
Levy said he believes that parents should be able to choose the content of their religious practice. But it was no coincidence, Levy said, that brit shalom appeals mostly to parents who have a weaker sense of Jewish identity and less interest in Jewish continuity.
“I think that this not wanting to circumcise your sons is part of this process of diluting Judaism and assimilating into a very bland culture,” Levy said.
[Conversely, the appearance of a strict requirement for genital cutting may be driving some people away from Judaism altogether.
And while this article emphasises how few parents choose Brit Shalom, by making it better known, it will inevitably increase the demand.]
In Kenya, Forced Male Circumcision and a Struggle for Justice
By Robbie Corey-Boulet
The International Criminal Court faces a difficult history of sexual violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a chance to reconsider this under-discussed atrocity
NAIROBI, Kenya -- The mob, members of an outlawed gang, blindfolded Walter Odondi with a strip of cloth and steered him through the narrow alleys of Nairobi's Kibera slum, slapping him with the flat sides of their machetes as they went. They frog-marched the frightened 16-year-old for half an hour before stopping at a clearing just outside the slum, not far from the Nairobi Dam. Standing there, Odondi could hear the sound of machetes being sharpened on stones. As he made one last attempt to flee, two men grabbed his limbs and threw him to the grass.
Six days before, on December 30, 2007, a close presidential race had been called in favor of the ethnic Kikuyu incumbent, Mwai Kibaki. His main challenger, Raila Odinga, an ethnic Luo, had been leading in some earlier polls, and contested the result. As accusations of fraud flew from both camps, the escalating verbal battle filtered down to their ethnic constituencies. The confrontation became physical in several parts of the country, especially in Kibera, where hundreds of thousands of Kenyans from an array of tribes live in sprawling settlements of mud, wood, and scrap metal. All told, more than 1,000 people died in the post-election fighting, and more than 500,000 were displaced.
On January 5, 2008, the day of his run-in with the mob, Odondi had ventured out in search of food, and was walking alone when the gang spotted him. After one member of the gang, composed exclusively of Kikuyus, identified Odondi as a Luo (that his surname begins with 'O', as in Obama, is one giveaway), they grabbed him. Odondi would soon be subjected to one of the grisliest acts recorded during the violence.
After a few minutes at the clearing, the mob removed Odondi's blindfold, and then his clothes. "First, they took off my pants, and they started mocking me because I was wearing only my underwear. And they ripped off my underwear using a panga," Odondi recalled recently, using another word for machete.
"When the men had pinned me down, the man with the panga pulled my foreskin out and started to play with it. He would slice it a little, and then he started mocking me, and then he would slice a little more, and then mock me some more.
"This cutting lasted for five minutes, and it was the greatest pain I have ever felt in my life. It felt like a million little pins pricking my manhood."
Similar attacks were recorded elsewhere in Kibera and in other parts of the country, including the volatile Rift Valley, up until late February 2008, when Kibaki and Odinga reached a power-sharing deal. The lack of reporting on the part of victims, however, has complicated efforts to arrive at a national total. A government inquiry noted, for instance, that many victims in the Rift Valley were "too traumatized" to come forward.
"It was intended as an expression of political and ethnic domination by one group over the other."
While Odondi and some other Luos, a tribe that doesn't traditionally practice male circumcision, can describe their individual experiences of forced circumcision with marked candor, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is still struggling to find words for the crime. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who is pursuing crimes against humanity charges against six prominent Kenyans in connection with the post-election crisis, moved in December to charge the crime under "other forms of sexual violence," the category used for atrocities such as sexual slavery and forced prostitution.
But judges disagreed, ruling in March that the crime should fall under "other inhumane acts," a separate category of crimes that cause "great suffering" or "serious injury to body or to mental or physical health."
The distinction is by no means strictly academic, according to local advocates for sexual violence victims, who argue that labeling forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence could raise awareness of the crime and make comprehensive treatment more widely available.
Brigid Inder, executive director of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ), a Hague-based group that monitors the ICC, said she sees the reclassification as part of a troubling trend - one in which the court has failed to fully address the sexual violence components of mass crimes.
... According to WIGJ research, 33 percent of sexual violence charges in cases that have reached the confirmation stage - when judges decide whether to commit suspects to trial - have been dismissed. WIGJ attributes this to inadequate filings or insufficient evidence from the prosecution and, on occasion, questionable rulings from judges.
Inder said that ... a failure to provide enough evidence to ensure that charges are confirmed, could have triggered the reclassification of forced male circumcision in the Kenya case. The filings for the case claimed that the acts were "sexual in nature," but failed to elaborate on the specific elements that made them so. Ocampo's office did not respond to several requests for comment.
The "political and ethnic significance" of forced male circumcision in the Kenyan context, she said, makes it much more than just circumcision. "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," she said.
Forced circumcision in Kenya did not become such a widespread problem overnight. Grace Wangechi, executive director of the Gender Violence Recovery Center in Nairobi, said that, in some parts of Kenya, tribes that forgo male circumcision have long been targeted for forced circumcision by those who view the practice as an essential rite of passage.
In some tribes, she added, newly circumcised boys "are expected to have a sexual relationship to prove they've entered into manhood."
Despite the ingrained discrimination -- and periodic bouts of violence -- targeting uncircumcised men in some areas, the issue receives little public attention. "No one has ever talked about male circumcision. It's just not visible," Wangechi said.
Ocampo can present new evidence about forced male circumcision during the 2007 and 2008 crisis at confirmation hearings scheduled for September. Wangechi said a subsequent decision by judges to reclassify forced male circumcision as a form of sexual violence "would have a huge impact" on how the crime is viewed in Kenya, and could perhaps draw widespread attention to it for the first time. With this heightened attention, she added, could come expanded access to treatment at health centers, provided the government begins to fully grasp "the magnitude of the assault."
... many Kikuyus remain as wary as ever of being governed by a kihii - the Kikuyu word for "uncircumcised boy."
It was, presumably, this very sentiment that Mwangi Kiunjuri, a Kenyan assistant minister for public works, was looking to exploit while speaking at a political rally earlier this year in the Kikuyu heartland of Central province. After criticizing Odinga directly in the Kikuyu vernacular, he declared: "Let me tell you, kihiis are not invited to dowry negotiations because, as you know, boys will always take time to sing their play songs. A kihii's goings are only ended when he faces the knife."
Referring to kihiis in this manner, Wangechi said, was sure to rile up most Kenyan crowds. "If you call a Kikuyu man that, you're dead - literally," said Wangechi, who is part Kikuyu herself. "So you can imagine that when it's used on an adult male, crowds will respond to that. Just that word alone is more than enough to cause chaos in the country."
Few people understand the political dimension of forced male circumcision better than Caroline Anyango, a 31-year-old who lives in the Rift Valley, a staging ground for much of the post-election violence. Her 40-year-old Luo husband ran for a councilor position on Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement ticket in 2007, making him an especially visible target for Kikuyu mobs.
On January 26, 2008, as violence peaked in the area, the couple and their three children sat at home listening to a radio report on attacks at nearby estates. During the broadcast, a group of 20 men broke down the door to their home, found Anyango's husband hiding in a bedroom, and sliced off his foreskin with a panga.
"We were all forced to watch, including the children," said Anyango, who asked that her name be changed for fear of reprisals. "They were saying that until all the Luos are circumcised they can't take part in the political process."
Somehow, her husband managed to break free and run from the house. But the mob, joined by about 20 other men waiting outside, chased him for about 200 meters to a disused quarry that had been filled with water. Anyango had a clear view as her husband's genitals were chopped off entirely.
"It was at that point that my husband threw himself into the quarry, maybe because he could not take the pain," she said. The body was never recovered.
Judge orders circumcision ban off SF ballot
By Lisa Leff
A judge on Thursday struck a measure from the city's November ballot that called for a ban on most circumcisions of male children, saying the proposed law violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom and a California law that makes regulating medical procedures a function of the state, not cities.
[Cutting babies' genitals in the absence of a medical diagnosis is only a "medical procedure" by convention, because doctors do it.]
The ruling by Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi confirmed a tentative decision she issued a day earlier and came after she heard arguments from proponents of the ban which would have made San Francisco the first U.S. city to hold a public vote on whether to outlaw the circumcision of minors.
Michael Kinane, an attorney for the proponents, told Giorgi that circumcision was not usually performed as a medical procedure. He also said the ballot measure included an exception in cases where circumcision was needed for health reasons.
"If you bring in your son and say my custom, my religion requires circumcision of this little boy, the state hasn't said anything on the issue, so there is not a matter of pre-emption," Kinane argued.
Giorgi, while acknowledging that "there is legitimate debate on the benefits and harms of circumcision," was not swayed and ordered San Francisco's elections director to remove the measure from the ballot.
"I don't think there is any debate ... that this mater relates to issues of statewide concern," the judge said.
The ban's sponsor, anti-circumcision activist Lloyd Schofield, said afterward that he was considering an appeal.
"We will not stop until all men are protected from this damaging and harmful surgery," Schofield said.
The citizens' initiative, which qualified for the ballot in May, would have made the practice a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. The measure did not offer exemptions for religious rituals such as the Jewish bris or Muslim khitan. ["khitan" is the term for both male and female cutting....]
The city attorney's office had joined several Jewish organizations and Muslim parents in challenging the ban in court.
"It is up to parents to make the choice whether or not to have their baby boys circumcised," said Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. "We did not want to have Mr. Schofield legislating our religious traditions."
Backers had argued the ban was necessary to prevent circumcisions from being forced on children. Kinane pointed out Thursday that the federal government bans female circumcision.
"The U.S. government has said when you are looking at little girls we don't care if it's a matter of custom or ritual, you can't circumcise them unless there's a matter of medical necessity," he said.
Critics contended the initiative posed a threat to families' privacy and to constitutionally protected religious freedoms. They cited comic books and trading cards distributed by the measure's proponents that carried images of a blonde, blue-eyed superhero [they never fail to mention that ...] and four evil Jewish characters.
Outside the courthouse, anti-circumcision activists carried signs with slogans like "I did not consent to male genital mutilation" and a leaflet claiming that circumcision diminishes men's sexual pleasure.
San Francisco parent Jenny Benjamin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn the ban, said seeing people compare circumcision to child abuse made "my stomach churn."
"I don't know about you, but some of the decisions my parents made for me I wasn't thrilled about, but I didn't take it to voters," Benjamin said. "It seems a little extreme. It seems a lot extreme."
New York Times
Increasingly, a Ritual Is Bypassed
By Aaron Glantz
For thousands of years, Jewish parents have circumcised their baby boys, following a Biblical commandment they believe was first issued by God to Abraham. But when Lisa Rothman, an Oakland career counselor, gave birth to her two sons, now 2 and 5 years old, she did not even consider having their foreskins removed.
Ms. Rothman, who attends Shabbat services at Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont nearly every Saturday morning, said other things were more central to her faith, like community and a commitment to social justice.
“I do not associate what happened with my sons’ penises to have anything to do with my covenant with God,” said Ms. Rothman, who is part of a small but growing number of practicing Jews in the Bay Area who do not see ritual circumcision as essential to their religion.
The debate over ritual circumcision has been making headlines in San Francisco lately thanks to a controversial November ballot initiative that would ban the practice. On Thursday, Judge Loretta M. Giorgi of Superior Court ruled that the measure be stricken from the ballot.
According to a 2007 World Health Organization report, circumcision remains nearly universal among American Jews, with 98 percent of Jewish men having been circumcised.
But within the Bay Area, there is a debate about circumcision, said Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, the senior associate dean for religious life at Stanford University. Only a small portion of Bay Area Jews are members of synagogues, she said, and while most continue to circumcise, “there’s not the same social pressures” as there are in other parts of the country.
In the Bay Area, a high rate of intermarriage and a history of religious counterculture are creating new observances.
“The West Coast is where everything happens, the social trends, the ideas that are going to change the paradigm of thought,” said Rabbi Jerry Levy, a Bay Area clergyman who performs the nonsurgical religious ceremony, brit shalom, for naming boys.
Rabbi Levy — who said the proposed ban on circumcisions was “totally irresponsible, immoral and certainly not legal” — said he believed that ritual circumcision was preferable to brit shalom, however, because a noncutting ceremony imparted a “weak sense” of Jewish identity.
He said he began to conduct brit shalom ceremonies five years ago, after hearing from parents, especially interfaith couples, who did not want their sons’ foreskins removed.
Brit Shalom is the brainchild of Dr. Mark David Reiss , a 78-year old retired San Francisco physician, who was raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition in New York and attended Yeshiva as a boy. Like other “in[t]activists,” Dr. Reiss holds that the commandment to circumcise should be updated.
But mainline religious leaders say circumcision is different from other Old Testament commandments.
[Yes, it's done to someone else.]
Rabbi Stephen Pearce, who leads Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco’s largest synagogue, said that even Jews who ate pork and worked on the Sabbath almost always opted for the more traditional brit milah, or covenant of circumcision.
“It’s one thing to eat or not eat a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich,” Rabbi Pearce said. “It’s another thing to veer from a tradition that goes back to Abraham.”firstname.lastname@example.org
Circumcision Ban To Be Stricken From San Francisco Ballot, Judge Says
By Lisa Leff
SAN FRANCISCO — A judge said Wednesday she intends to strike a ban on male circumcision from the city's November ballot.
Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said in a tentative ruling that the proposed law prohibiting circumcision of male children violates a California law that makes regulating medical procedures a function of the state, not cities.
[Begging the question that both ritual and routine circumcision are medical procedures, when there is an exemption in the MGM Bill for necessary medical procedures.]
"It serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot," Giorgi wrote.
Giorgi ordered San Francisco's elections director to remove the controversial measure from the ballot that would have made the city the first in the nation to hold a public vote on whether to outlaw the circumcision of minors.
The ban's sponsor, anti-circumcision activist Lloyd Schofield, said that he disagreed with the judge's interpretation and deliberately crafted a local ordinance "because for 10 years, no one on a statewide or national level would even consider this."
Even if San Francisco voters will not be able to make their views known, the attention surrounding the ballot initiative has been good for circumcision opponents, Schofield said.
"The mission won't be accomplished until men enjoy the same protection as women from forced genital mutilation, but everything we can achieve on the way to that goal is a step in the right direction," he said. "Just getting people to think and discuss this is very rewarding because people don't think about this, they just do it automatically."
Though state law prohibits cities and counties from regulating medical procedures, two California Assembly members have introduced a bill that would specifically pre-empt local governments from enacting laws regarding male circumcision.
Foreskin Man gets a new cartoon doppelganger: Smegma Man
By Jonah Lowenfeld
When the second issue of “Foreskin Man” became public, the anti-circumcision comic book’s portrayal of a villainous Jewish ritual circumciser, Monster Mohel, generated accusations of anti-Semitism against the comic book’s creator and against the entire anti-circumcision—or intactivist—movement.
A new online comic strip, “Smegma Man Gets Circumcised,” recently entered the fray, aiming, in the words of its creator, to parody “Foreskin Man” and argue the case for circumcision’s health benefits.
“We point out the hypocrisy of the people who use cartoons and other methods to defame the Jewish people,” Ed Margolis, one of the creators of “Smegma Man,” said. [...by using cartoons to defame intact people.]
Together with his nephew, Noah Crissey, [Ed] Margolis, a Jewish lawyer based in Chicago, has been creating editorial cartoons on a freelance basis.
Margolis and Crissey’s parody, which is named for the substance that collects on the tip of an uncircumcised penis [and in women's genitalia], is at times confusing and convoluted. Its plot jumps quickly through place and time and its first two chapters do not include discussion of the implications of circumcision on a person’s health. Its narrative is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle references to Nazis and Nazism, in an effort to draw attention to what Margolis sees as the anti-Semitic goals of intactivists.
Margolis has already written the rest of the story, in which the newly muscular Helmut returns to the United States, reconnects with his childhood sweetheart and—at her urging—undergoes an adult circumcision.
The conclusion of “Smegma Man” can already be seen on the comic’s website. One panel shows Warrior sliding down a deli counter—groin first—directly toward a meat slicer.
Asked whether he thought his comic—which is replete with Nazi imagery and references, and concludes with a man being unwillingly circumcised by spinning metal blades—would advance the cause of those looking to preserve the rights of Jewish parents and others to circumcise their sons, Margolis said he wasn’t concerned.
“This guy is getting his balls cut off. It’s poetic justice. I never thought of it like that,” he said. “I still like the ending.”
"Never mind the planet, save circumcision!"
San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco circumcision ban will be cut short
By Melissa Griffin
How does a law regulating emissions become a law protecting circumcision? In Sacramento, the practice is called “gut and amend” and it is a tactic commonly used to get urgent bills in front of the governor for signature. The regular legislative calendar requires that all bills for any legislative session be introduced by a certain date — this year it was Feb. 18. Of course, the world keeps on turning after that date, so sometimes someone has to take a previously introduced bill and make it a new, more important one.
In this case, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, changed Assembly Bill 768 from some boring carbon-credit law into one that says no local government “shall prohibit or restrict the practice of male circumcision.” The law is aimed squarely at San Francisco’s proposed ballot measure to prohibit circumcision of males under the age of 18 unless there is an “immediate medical necessity” for the procedure.
[Here's Assemblyman Gatto cancelling a law about protecting the planet and replacing it with one about circumcision - where are all the people who are so concerned about the more important things when anyone wants to stop circumcision?]
San Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona Ma also is a sponsor of the law. This legislative session ends on Sept. 9, so the law needs to get through the Assembly and Senate by that date. If two-thirds of each house votes for the bill, it can take effect immediately. (A law passed by a majority vote in this session takes effect Jan. 1.) The governor then would have until Oct. 7 to sign the bill into law. According to Ma, “The goal is to get the governor to sign the bill before the San Francisco November election.”
But this isn’t the only effort under way to defend circumcision. Gatto’s former employer, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Los Angeles, has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would prevent any state or locality from issuing restrictions on circumcision except those ensuring that “circumcisions are preformed in a hygienic manner.”
[The Bill would not just stop the MGM Bill but enshrine male genital cutting of anyone under 18 by anyone using anything, so long as one parent gives consent.]
Note that initial statewide redistricting plans show Sherman’s district being consolidated with Rep. Howard Berman’s, D-Los Angeles, district, which means an impending fight over one congressional seat. Both men are Jewish, as is an important chunk of the proposed constituency. I think Sherman would have taken the same action regardless of the circumstances, but saving traditional circumcision certainly can’t hurt his popularity at this critical time.
Meanwhile, this Thursday, Judge Loretta Giorgi will hear arguments on the lawsuit to keep the circumcision ban off November’s ballot. Trying to prevent the ballot measure is a coalition of religious groups and fighting to keep it on the ballot is Lloyd Schofield, the official proponent of the measure.
Technically, the Department of Elections is also a party, but that is because any ruling to take the measure off the ballot will be an order directed to the department. The City Attorney’s Office represents the department and has taken the position that the proposed ban is unconstitutional and should be removed from the ballot. Schofield is thus on his own to legally defend the circumcision ban against the coalition, The City, the ACLU and the San Francisco Medical Society — all of which have joined to oppose the measure.
According to John Arntz, director of the Department of Elections, after Sept. 1 it will be tricky to pull items from the ballot before they go to the printers. Ideally, the judge will have issued a ruling by that date. And even if the law makes it to the ballot and passes, it will run smack up against an overriding state and/or federal law. In other words: there is basically zero chance of the circumcision restrictions ever taking effect.
Bloody hell! - literally
HIV/AIDS: Adult male circumcision - new developments
ROME, 25 July 2011 (PlusNews) - Medical male circumcision has been a World Health Organization (WHO)-endorsed HIV prevention method for more than four years, with most countries still using relatively expensive surgical procedures that require anaesthetic, at least a couple of health workers and a six-week healing period. However, several new devices could revolutionize the amount of time, labour and money involved, enabling countries to rapidly scale up their programmes.
WHO has approved three devices - the Gomco Clamp, the Mogen Clamp and the Plastibell - for infant male circumcision, but none for adult male circumcision. In February 2011, the organization developed a framework for the clinical evaluation of devices for adult male circumcision.
[The Mogen Clamp has now been the subject of three lost lawsuits, involving three boys who lost parts of their glans penis (head) in the clamps. Owing more than $18 million, the Mogen Company has gone out of business.]
Circumcision: Rwanda's quick cut to fight HIV
Circumcision in heterosexual males could reduce HIV by up to 60%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Rwanda, Matthew Stein looks at government efforts to convince men to consider circumcision through a new non-surgical procedure that is cheaper, cleaner and more accessible.
In a cool room in Kigali's Kanombe Military Hospital a group of camera and notebook-toting doctors, nurses and researchers are standing to attention.
On request of the consultant doctor, the young man standing in the middle of the room calmly lowers his trousers.
He is here to reveal the results of his nine-day old circumcision, a new, non-surgical procedure for adults which is being tested in Rwanda.
A thick gauze bandage, which was placed around the tip of his penis after his foreskin was removed two days earlier, is clean and without blood.
Dr Jean Pierre Bitega, the specialist who oversaw the operations explains: "We want to see if, in the future, a patient can remove the dressing alone at home."
In an adjacent room, 21-year-old Richard Muheto is preparing to undergo the same circumcision procedure.
A student from Bugesera in south-east Rwanda, Mr Muheto says he has long wanted to be circumcised to reduce his risk of contracting HIV and "to be a cleaner person for washing".
Wasting no time
However, those involved in the fight against Aids stress that using condoms and staying faithful to one partner offer far more reliable protection.
The new procedure involves the use of a device called a PrePex, a three-piece mechanism consisting of two plastic rings and an elastic mechanism.
It is clamped onto the penis without any need for sutures or anaesthesia.
[It crushes the foreskin into a groove in the hard ring, causing it to die and drop off.]
The campaign, which was launched in December 2010, intends to halve Rwanda's current HIV incidence rate of 3% by circumcising two million men by the end of 2012.
The National (UAE)
Fatal traditions: Female circumcision in the UAE
By Wafa Al Marzouqi
... Most of the people quoted in this essay have been granted anonymity, and their names have been changed.
"I was 8 years old when my mother took me and my sisters to the hospital. I was really terrified because I didn't know what was going on. I entered a white room and was told by the nurse to lie on the bed. A few minutes later, I felt severe pain and then everything ended," Asma Obaid, 21, says about the day her mother took her, together with her five sisters, for "a quick trip".
Female circumcision is a controversial topic in UAE society since people still argue about whether it is recommended Islamically or simply practised because of tribal traditions. A significant number of UAE nationals follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents without questioning the practice.
Female circumcision originated in Egypt in 100BC, when pharaonic circumcision was established. It is based on the mutilation of the sensitive female genital area, which leaves only a small aperture for the passage of urine and menstruation. This type of female circumcision is still popular in some Arab countries such as Egypt and Sudan. In the Gulf countries, and specifically in the UAE, female circumcision is to some still a tribal tradition and to others a religious tradition. Although it has been banned in Government hospitals, it is still performed secretly in the country. The common type of circumcision in the UAE is the one in which a small portion of the female genitalia is removed.
Opinions on female circumcision vary because of cultural sensitivity and different levels of education. In a Desert Dawn survey of 200 Emiratis of both sexes on the subject, 34 per cent of female respondents said they were circumcised because of customs and tradition. Forty per cent of circumcised female participants were in favour of female circumcision and said they would circumcise their daughters. Eighty-two per cent of female respondents opposed the practice, as did 99 per cent of male participants.
Mariam Humaid, a 21-year-old university student, was 7 when she was taken to the house of her grandmother, who was known for her medical knowledge in the tribe.
"I was feeling every needle prick as I was circumcised without any painkillers," Humaid says. She says that female circumcision is a "must" in her tribe; those who are circumcised will be respected and appreciated while those who are not will be looked down on. "Of course, I will circumcise my daughters and if my husband doesn't like the idea, I will do whatever it takes to persuade him."
Humaid tells the story of her friend, Alia Saeed, 22, who was circumcised against her will when a man proposed to her and made the circumcision a condition of marriage.
"I researched the topic and discovered that if it was done in the correct way, it is all right," Saeed says. So she agreed and married him.
Sara Ali, a 23-year-old university student, was circumcised at the age of 9 with her six sisters at a Government hospital before the ban. One of her sisters was not circumcised after the authorities banned the practice.
"My father didn't like the idea of female circumcision," Ali says, "but the pressure from my grandmother and aunts was greater than his wish." Ali believes female circumcision violates women's rights.
Fatma Essa, a 22-year-old bank employee, is the only circumcised girl in her family, even though she is the youngest. Her mother took her with the mother's friend and daughter to get both daughters circumcised.
"I don't know the reasons behind the circumcision and I don't know whether I am for or against it," she says. "But I'm sure that my mother won't do anything that will cause me harm." She says every mother wants the best for her daughter and so if circumcision were harmful, her mother would not do it.
Mona Ahmed, a 22-year-old student and mother of two boys, says she will circumcise her daughter if she has one. She will do as her mother did to her when she was only two days old.
"In case my husband refused to circumcise our daughter," she says, "I won't object to him because my only objective for circumcising her is to follow the sunnah of the Prophet." She says, however, that if she circumcises her daughter, it will be in the girl's early days and not when she grows up.
On the other hand, Um Reem, a circumcised mother of two girls, did not circumcise her daughters because she believes the practice does not offer any benefits.
"When I know that the damage caused by girls' circumcision is much bigger than its benefits, what's the point of endangering the lives of our daughters?" she asks.
Fatma Al Marzouqi, a 25-year-old in Abu Dhabi, opposes female circumcision, saying it is a violation of women's rights.
"Most people who circumcise their daughters are people who cling to tribal traditions and customs that have nothing to do with religion or medicine," she says.
Agreeing with Al Marzouqi, Maitha Mohammed, a 22-year-old student, encourages the Government to act.
"The authorities must play a better advocacy role," she says. "We are suffering today from the lack of resources and information regarding the circumcision of girls, which prevents individuals from gaining the knowledge about such procedures, especially if it was carried out by unqualified doctors or individuals."
According to the Desert Dawn survey, the vast majority of UAE men agree there is no point to female circumcision, rejecting the idea because of its many disadvantages, especially if it is performed improperly.
Mohammed Ahmed, a 28-year-old bank employee, opposes the practice because, he says, it leads to physical and psychological problems. "Many who circumcise their daughters have misunderstood Islam and most of them perform it due to cultural reasons which do not have anything to do with religion," he says.
Majed Ahmed, a 19-year-old university student, agrees. "The real reasons behind female circumcision are the traditions and customs without referring to the advice of experts," he says. He believes the practice of circumcision is unjust to females.
"Many people are afraid their daughters will misbehave, so they circumcise them," Ahmed says. "Good manners and sticking to real Islamic practices will guide the girls to proper behaviour. Circumcising them won't make them better behaved."
With reference to the origin of female circumcision in Islam, Dr Ahmed Al Haddad, Grand Mufti of the UAE and director of Ifta Department, notes that, historically, Arabs always knew about female circumcision, but only "medicine women" performed the procedure. He quotes the Prophet Mohammed as saying to a woman whom he saw circumcising a girl: "Cut off only the foreskin but don't cut deeply, for this is brighter for the face [of the girl] and more favourable with the husband."
While circumcision is performed on men and women, there is no evidence from the Quran or sunnah requiring female circumcision, says the Grand Mufti. The four Sunni schools of jurisprudence in Islam have slightly different interpretations. The Al Shafi'i school views circumcision as obligatory for both men and women, but on a small scale for women. The Hanbali and Hanafi schools believe female circumcision is desirable, and the Maliki school thinks it is an honour for the girl.
Dr Ahmed Al Qubaisi, former president of the Department of Islamic Studies at the University of Baghdad, and recently at the UAE University, agrees with Al Haddad that circumcision is a personal, not religious, choice. To him, many Muslims do it without any clear evidence from the Quran or sunnah.
Is there nothing circumcision will not do?
AIDS: New evidence backs circumcision campaign
By Richard Ingham
A campaign to encourage African men to get circumcised to prevent infection by HIV gained a powerful boost Wednesday by three new studies unveiled at the world AIDS forum in Rome. [But not yet published in peer-reviewed journals]
New cases of HIV among men fell by an astonishing [Astonishing? Literally incredible.] 76 percent after a circumcision programme was launched in a South African township, researchers reported.
Had no circumcisions been carried out, the tally of new infections among the overall population, men and women combined, would have been 58 percent higher.
[This presents the findings in a very opaque way. How many men were circumcised and how many got HIV? How do they know how many would have if they hadn't been circumcised?]
The new study was conducted between 2007 and 2010 in Orange Farm, a township of 110,000 adults, where more than 20,000 circumcisions had been performed, especially in the 15-24 age group which is most sexually active.
[So some of the results refer to a period of no more than a year after circumcision....]
Two other studies released in Rome added to the good news about circumcision:
-- Circumcised men [who had volunteered for the operation, selecting out men who value their foreskins] say they experience greater sexual pleasure after surgery, a finding that should help overcome unease about the operation.
Investigators at the University of Makerere interviewed 316 men, average age 22, who had been circumcised between February and September 2009.
A year after the operation, 220 of the volunteers said they were sexually active, of whom a quarter said they used condoms.
A total of 87.7 percent said they found it easier to reach an orgasm [One man's "ease to reach orgasm" is another man's premature ejaculation] after being circumcised, and 92.3 percent said they experienced more sexual pleasure.
-- Newly-circumcised men are just as likely as uncircumcised men to practice safe sex, according to interviews conducted among 2,207 men in western Kenya, six months after they had had the operation. [One in four again?]
France's 2008 Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who in 1983 co-identified HIV as the source of AIDS, said over-confidence in circumcision was a major anxiety.
"Nothing provides 100-percent protection, not even a vaccine," she told AFP. "Let's stop thinking that one preventative tool is enough. Circumcision has to be part of a combined approach."
On the downside, male circumcision does not reduce [and may increase] the risk for women who have intercourse with an HIV-infected man, and the protective benefit does not seem to apply to homosexual intercourse.
There is an indirect advantage, though. The fewer men who are infected with HIV, the smaller the risk of infection for others.
Measure seeks to derail San Francisco circumcision vote
By Jim Sanders
San Francisco could not ban circumcision of children under new state legislation proposed this month in the Assembly.
Assembly Bill 768 would apply to any city or county government but was introduced in response to a San Francisco ballot measure designed to prohibit child circumcision there.
"To enact an outright ban on an expression of personal, medical and religious freedom is an affront to all who value liberty," said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat who proposed AB 768. [Yes, and who is the person most directly affected?]
San Francisco's first-of-its-kind initiative has drawn national attention for targeting circumcision, removal of the male foreskin, a practice that has biblical roots and that many believe was commanded by God in a covenant with Abraham. [...along with circumcision of slaves...]
Opponents of circumcision liken it to "genital mutilation" – the forced removal of a healthy body part from an unconsenting child. The San Francisco initiative allows for a medical exclusion but not a religious exclusion.
Lloyd Schofield, the main proponent of the initiative, said last month that "just because something has been done repeatedly doesn't make it moral or ethical."
If San Francisco's initiative is approved and enacted, violators could be jailed for a year, fined $1,000 – or both. [Smaller penalties than for lesser harm to girls.]
AB 768 was introduced as an urgency measure, meaning that it requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature and would take effect immediately if it clears that threshold and Gov. Jerry Brown signs it.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a San Francisco Democrat who is teaming with Gatto to push AB 768, said it makes no sense for California to allow a "patchwork quilt" of local laws outlawing medical procedures. [So is non-therapeutic infant circumcision a medical proceure, or isn't it?]
"The city's measure would put the Police Department and politicians in charge of who can and cannot get circumcised," Ma said. "We should not be putting government in that position." [This wasn't an issue when female cutting was outlawed.]
AB 768 is meant to clarify an existing state law that opponents of San Francisco's circumcision ballot measure have cited in a Superior Court lawsuit aimed at disqualifying the initiative from the November ballot.
The existing law reads: "No city, county or city and county shall prohibit a healing arts professional … from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee."
The Legislature has not yet scheduled AB 768 hearings.
Rep. Brad Sherman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, recently introduced similar legislation in Congress.
U.S. circumcision rates have been declining for several years. Today, about half of all boys born in hospitals are circumcised, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ACLU joins effort to quash vote on circumcision ban
By Christina Jewett
The ACLU of Northern California filed a court brief Friday supporting an effort to block a ballot measure that would ban juvenile male circumcision in San Francisco.
The friend of the court brief bolsters the arguments of a coalition of Jews and Muslims who filed suit in June asking a judge to invalidate the controversial measure headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.
The lead supporter of the circumcision ban characterizes the procedure as “genital mutilation that is unnecessary, extremely painful and even dangerous,” the Associated Press reported.
The ballot measure would make the circumcision of a male younger than 18 years old a misdemeanor carrying up to $1,000 in fines or a year in jail. There would be no religious exemption to the ban, even though Jewish and Muslim followers consider circumcision part of their religion.
The move flies in the face of mainstream practices. The New York Times has reported that 80 percent of U.S. males are circumcised.
A group seeking to get the ban off the ballot cites a number of mainstream sources, including Harvard and UC San Francisco physicians, saying the procedure can stem the spread of AIDS and should be based on parental choice.
In the brief filed Friday, the ACLU argues that state law bans any city or county from passing a law that restricts a licensed medical professional from performing “any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that licensee.”
In other words, no city authority can stop a doctor from doing things that doctors normally do. [Or, it seems, a non-doctor.]
The brief also argues that the initiative would threaten the rights of mature teenage boys younger than 18 to make decisions about their health.
Lloyd Schofield, the initiative’s supporter, also filed a court brief Friday, batting off criticism that has surfaced about the law's apparent anti-Semitism. Schofield, of Oakland, noted that “it is not honest to suggest that the sole purpose of the initiative was to be anti-Semitic.”
Daily Breeze (Los Angeles)
Boy's botched circumcision leads to $4.6 million award
By Bill Hetherman
A judge today said he will approve a $4.6 million settlement of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a boy who was the victim of a botched circumcision at a Los Angeles clinic when he was a week old.
The accord to be signed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rex Heeseman brings an end to the case filed by the boy's mother, Melanie Hall, against Miltex Inc. and its parent company, Integra Life Sciences Holding Corp., in February 2007.
The boy and his family lived in Los Angeles at the time and and now reside in Austin, Texas. He, his mother and his brother were present in court today.
The family will receive $3.07 million of the settlement total after attorneys' fees and costs are deducted.
According to the lawsuit, Dr. Anthony Pickett performed the circumcision on the boy, now 8, at the Maternity Center of Vermont on Jan. 3, 2003. Pickett used a Miltex Mogen clamp that removed 85 percent of the top of the boy's penis, according to the suit.
[The Mogen Company has gone out of business after two earlier botched-circumcision lawwsuits.]
"Because of the defective design of the circumcision clamp, there was no protection for the head of the penis and Dr. Pickett was unable to visualize the (head) when excising the foreskin," according to the plaintiffs' court papers filed regarding the settlement. "For this reason, an amputation to the (head) of plaintiff's penis occurred."
The boy will need yearly visits to a pediatric urologist and will continue to obtain psychiatric care "to deal with the trauma of this incident and resultant surgeries," the plaintiff's court papers state. "In addition, future surgery may be required as he grows older."
Pickett was dismissed as a defendant last month and is not involved in the settlement.
Browne Greene, an attorney for the boy and his mother, said in a sworn statement that the case presented unique challenges.
"In the process of this litigation, we also have exposed a danger to children which we hope to eradicate by the effects of this litigation and settlement," Greene said.
Am J Perinatol. 2011 Feb;28(2):125-8. Epub 2010 Aug 10
The professional imperative for obstetrician-gynecologists to discontinue newborn male circumcision.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, New York Medical College, Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, USA.
Nairobi Star (Nairobi)
Kenya: Ill Chamus Community Declares War Against Female Circumcision
By Pauline Odhiambo
For Sh2,000 per girl, 50-year-old Nchoo Ngochila would move from one village to the next circumcising up to 20 girls in a day.
Her tools of trade a rusty piece of metal cut out from mabati (iron sheet roofing) then bent and filed to a cutting edge. This she would sometimes alternate with a razor blade but would on most occasions prefer mabati which she claims is more efficient for female circumcision.
Today, Ngochila sells mandazi (doughnuts) to schoolgoing children in Marigat District in the Rift Valley Province where she has lived all her life. She stopped circumcising young girls two years ago after attending an FGM seminar where she discovered that obstructed labour was among the effects of female genital cutting. "It is difficult to give birth when you have been circumcised and I say this from my own experience in giving birth," says the wizened Ngochila who looks much older than her 50 years. "From that seminar, I learned that labour pain is less severe for women who haven't been circumcised; they give birth quicker and easier compared to those of us who have been circumcised."
However, uncircumcised girls are still widely shunned by a community that perceives them as childish due to their uncircumcised state. "Among the Ill Chamus, a girl is recognised as an adult only after she has been circumcised. It is the only way she can earn the respect of the community and participate in traditional ceremonies."
Indeed, 20-year old Janet Nang'oi is living proof of the stigma uncircumcised girls face in Marigat. In 2003, Nang'oi dodged circumcision by hiding out in the bush during an initiation ceremony where she was to be circumcised together with her sister and other girls in her village. She has since become the butt of cruel jokes by her age mates and younger siblings who now deem her too "immature " for their company. She says, "My brothers won't even let me cook for them or wash their clothes because they say I'm a child who cannot be trusted even with the most basic of chores. Even when I go to fetch water, my age mates refuse to walk with me because they are embarrassed to be seen with me."
On June 24, Kiriampu, Nang'oi and Ole Kiprich were among hundreds of people to sign a public declaration on the abandonment of female genital mutilation at the Ill Chamus Cultural Centre in Marigat District. The ceremony was presided over by Dr James Nyikal, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development.
However, even as the ink dries on that declaration, it would be wishful-thinking to claim that female circumcision has been completely wiped out in Marigat as Ole Kiprich reveals that most circumcision ceremonies today take place in secret for fear of arrests by the local administration.
There's no such thing as a free circumcision.
Free circumcision makes good politics in Turkey
By Ece Toksabay
ISTANBUL - As an exercise in good governance, the mass circumcision ceremony for some 100 boys from disadvantaged families in an old Istanbul square ticks a lot of boxes for Turkey's ruling AK Party and its voters.
"Circumcision is an important tradition in Islam," Mayor Ibrahim Kavuncu told Reuters
A day later they will go to a private hospital for a fully paid circumcision
For the boys the operation will mark an early affirmation of their faith and a step toward manhood - albeit though some are infants and others are some years off puberty.
For their families, it is a religious obligation, but also an expense that many find difficult to afford. The operation can cost anywhere between $300 and $800, while paying for the spread and celebrations can typically cost over $1,000.
Dr. Sefik Ersan, an Ankara-based surgeon who has carried out more than 5,000 circumcision operations, estimated that only 10 to 15 percent of Turks take their kids to surgeons.
Many parents choose to pay non-qualified "sunnetci" -- traditional circumcisers who often pass their skill from father to son -- or barbers despite the risks of performing the procedure outside a hospital or clinic.
"Some parents demand the operation to be carried out at home. I tell them complications may occur, although the chances are one in a thousand [a figure he just made up]," Dr. Ersan said.
"Breathing may stop, or drug allergies may be observed. Intervention in such a case would be much harder at home, it's best not to take risks and take their kids to a medical facility in line with their financial resources."
"Other more common complications include infections, bleeding, damage to the urinary tract, intoxication, gangrene of penis head," he said, before adding another danger that may haunt the boy in later life.
"It's highly possible that the penis head is cut a little too much and the kid will suffer premature ejaculation when he grows up."
["a little too much"? Since when was the penis head supposed to be cut at all?]
A study over a 10-year period in Turkey showed that of 200 boys admitted to hospital with post-circumcision complications, some 85 percent had been circumcised by traditional circumcisers, 10 percent by health technicians and five percent by doctors. Out of the 200, one two-year-old boy died from a hemorrhage.
"BECOMING A MAN"
Standing in the summer heat beside the Eyup Sultan Mosque, a watching mother Hanim Akkas, has two sons,
Her youngest, Eyubensar has absolutely no qualms.
"I'm not afraid. I'll become a man," said the five-year-old.
Inevitably a few cling, sobbing to the skirts of their head-scarfed mothers, resisting efforts to round them up.
Circumcision does not protect US Men who have Sex with Men
Understanding Disparities in HIV Infection Between Black and White MSM in the United States
From U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The investigators sought to evaluate several hypotheses for HIV infection disparities between white and black men who have sex with men, including incarceration, partner HIV status, circumcision, sexual networks, and duration of infectiousness. The study design incorporated the 2008 National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System, a cross-sectional survey performed in 21 U.S. cities.
MSM were interviewed and tested for HIV. For previously undiagnosed MSM, logistic regression was used to test associations between newly diagnosed HIV and incarceration history, partner HIV status, circumcision status, and sexual networks (oldest partners, concurrency and partner risk behaviors). For HIV-positive MSM, factors related to duration of infectiousness were assessed.
Among 5,183 previously undiagnosed MSM, incarceration history, circumcision status, and sexual networks were not independently associated with HIV infection. Infection was associated with having HIV-positive partners (adjusted odds ratio=1.9, 95 percent confidence interval=1.2-3.0) or partners of unknown status (AOR=1.4, CI=1.1-1.7). "Of these two factors, only one was more common among black MSM - having partners of unknown HIV status. Among previously diagnosed HIV-positive MSM, black MSM were less likely to be on antiretroviral therapy (ART)," the authors wrote.
HIV infection differences between black and white MSM may partly be explained by less knowledge of partner HIV status and lower ART use among black MSM, the investigators concluded. "Efforts to encourage discussions about HIV status between MSM and their partners and decrease barriers to ART provision among black MSM may decrease transmission," they noted.
Girls Put at Risk by Circumcision Edict: Experts
By Nurfika Osman
The number of young girls in the country being circumcised could increase following a Health Ministry decree on the procedure, health experts warn.
The decree appears to contradict a 2006 memo from the ministry prohibiting health workers from circumcising girls.
“It’s a huge setback that Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih, who is also a doctor, has allowed this nonmedical practice to persist,” Kartono Muhammad, a former head of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI), said on Tuesday.
“With female circumcision now formalized in regulation, this will encourage practitioners to perform the procedure.”
He said that female circumcision did not have any health benefits and instead harmed girls and young women.
Among the immediate complications are severe pain, shock, bleeding and tetanus as a result of infections arising from shoddy surgery, he said.
“Female circumcision, which is usually performed on newborn babies, is very dangerous because they are more susceptible to infections,” Kartono warned.
He also said the long-term consequences could include bladder and urinary tract infections, as well as cysts and infertility.
Ramona Sari, from the Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI), said the type of female circumcision most commonly done in Indonesia was risky, since it often involved lacerations to the clitoris.
“It’s widely performed across the country and is particularly dangerous because in small villages it’s often done by traditional healers without the right tools or proper sterilization,” she said.
Kartono said other forms of circumcision, including the removal of the clitoris, had also been reported in the country.
“Cases of removing the entire clitoris have been found in a few areas in West Java and West Sumatra, where they’re performed by ultraconservative Islamic communities,” he said.
He said the rationale for female circumcision was a mix of cultural, religious and social factors, motivated by the belief that it would ensure abstinence and future marital fidelity.
“Many communities believe circumcision helps reduce a woman’s libido and thereby helps prevent her from engaging in illicit sexual acts,” Kartono said. “No religious scripts prescribe the practice, but practitioners often believe otherwise.”
The World Health Organization says that up to 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation.
Speaking after protests on the issue last month, Ina Hernawati, a Health Ministry official, said the decree did not represent support for female circumcision, but instead offered guidelines to reduce the risks in cases where it occurred.
The Boxcutter-circumcision Bill
The Defence of Circumcision (with Boxcutters) Act
On June 24 Representative Brad Sherman of California introduced the Religious and Parental Rights Defense Act of 2011 (HR 2400) in the House of Representatives. There are 9 co-sponsors of the bill listed below. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
[Compare that with the corresponding law for female children:]
More aggressively? Meaning less regard to informed consent?
Male circumcision to be pursued aggressively
The Ministry of Health and Social Services has received 32 Diathermy machines from USAID Namibia. The machines will enable the ministry to provide safe and affordable male circumcision, conducted to support HIV prevention services in the country. The machines will be distributed to district and regional hospitals across the country in order to scale up the male circumcision programme.
Meanwhile, in order to accelerate provision of the service to men countrywide, thus far, the health ministry, in collaboration with i-Tech and IntraHealth, has conducted five training courses on male circumcision under local anaesthesia since October 2009. The sixth training session is currently under way at the Windhoek Central hospital, where doctors, nurses and community counsellors are being equipped with theoretical and practical skills to implement male circumcision services at their facilities.
For every action...
S.F. Attorney's Office slams proposed circumcision ban
By Dan Pine
Thursday, July 7, 2011 | return to: news & features, local
The San Francisco City Attorney’s office has taken sides on the November ballot measure that would ban circumcision for males under 18.
It’s against it.
In a statement released June 30, the City Attorney’s office declared the ban would be “clearly unconstitutional” and aligned itself with a legal effort led by the Jewish Community Relations Council to have the measure removed from the ballot.
On June 22, the JCRC and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to have the Superior Court throw out the initiative on the grounds that state law forbids municipalities from banning legal medical procedures via elections.
If the court decides that, because of state law, medical professionals must be excluded from the proposed ban’s provisions, then the measure as written would be unconstitutional, the Attorney’s Office claims.
Attorneys for the JCRC have said that they expect a court ruling sometime later this month. The lawsuit names John Arntz, the San Francisco director of elections, and Lloyd Schofield, who is spearheading the ballot measure.
The City Attorney’s office rarely weighs in on pre-election challenges, “except in rare circumstances where a proposed measure is patently unconstitutional on its face or in its application,” a press release noted.
Among the office’s chief concerns, according to the release, is “the likelihood that the law would be narrowly applied to religious practices, and against the backdrop of political advocacy that expressly demonizes the Jewish faith.”
In the release, Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart said, “While the City is not reaching a legal conclusion on the [JCRC] argument about state pre-emption, it is abundantly clear that the measure will be unconstitutional if narrowly applied to religious practices.
“San Franciscans,” she explained, “cannot be asked to vote on whether to prohibit religious minorities from engaging in a particular religious practice” that also is performed under non-religious auspices.
Stewart also pointed to “disturbing campaign materials that evoke the ugliest kind of anti-Semitic propaganda” as a reason why the city has “an obligation” to support getting the measure off the ballot.
Those materials include the Foreskin Man comic books, written by San Diego–based anti-circumcision activist Matthew Hess, who also wrote the language for the San Francisco ballot measure. One of his comic books depicts Jewish mohels as sinister, sadistic villains preying on baby boys.
Last week, Hess published online the latest installment of the series, this one featuring the character Vulva Girl, who travels to Africa to stop the practice of female circumcision. The comic seeks to equate female circumcision, which [in its most extreme, tribal form] removes the vulva and clitoris of girls, with male circumcision.
Congress has taken notice, as well. A House bill, which would prevent cities and states from banning circumcision, has picked up several co-sponsors, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, and Jewish Reps. Henry Waxman, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, all of California. Sherman wrote the bill.
Religion News Service
Jewish foes of circumcision sit out attempts to ban it
By Lauren Markoe
(RNS) Though national and local Jewish groups have strongly condemned San Francisco’s proposed ban on infant circumcision, a small but vocal movement of Jews is trying to convince more of their own to abandon the practice.
What they won’t do, however, is join the San Francisco push to outlaw the practice in their pursuit of a circumcision-free world.
“It was a big mistake,” said Dr. Mark Reiss, executive vice president of Doctors Opposing Circumcision and an active member of his San Francisco synagogue. “We are experiencing a tremendous backlash from the Jewish community.”
Reiss said the coercive nature of the measure, which is slated to go before San Francisco voters on Nov. 8, recalls for many Jews the history of Jewish suffering as a religious minority. [The coercive nature of the measure is of course a counterpoint to the invasive nature of infant circumcision.] “They feel threatened,” he said ... To the rest
the New Age (South Africa)
MEC heavy-hearted after circumcision enquiry
By Velisile Bukula
The MEC’s visit was sparked by the increasing number of deaths of initiates and the growing commercialisation of circumcision by some bogus traditional surgeons.
“We need to make sure that young boys, of 20 to 30-something years of age, are not allowed to practise as traditional circumcision surgeons because they lack the experience, reputation, skill and compassion needed in ushering young boys into manhood.
[If "young boys" of 20-30 are too young to perform circumcisions, how can real boys of 10-18 be turned into men by being circumcised?]
“I was perturbed by a report I received in the Lusikisiki and Flagstaff area, that one surgeon is charging young boys R1600 to circumcise them. He had at least 61 boys in his school. It is wrong for this man or anyone to commercialise part of our tradition. We cannot accept this because in such cases, as we have seen here, the lives of our young boys are put at risk, as the surgeons rush to make money,” he said.
“When I spoke to these young men, they told me that they were beaten up by some young man while they were in the circumcision school. Some of the graphic details of genital mutilation of some of the initiates are too sensitive to divulge. ...
However, in the Flagstaff and Lusikisiki areas, at least 1300 young boys enrolled in the traditional circumcision school. Out of those, only one died – the cause of death unrelated to circumcision. At least 602 traditional circumcision schools in the OR Tambo district were illegal, while 74 were legal. At least 47 initiates had been admitted to district hospitals, with five deaths recorded.
New Vision (Uganda)
Museveni warns on male circumcision
PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has cautioned Ugandans not to consider male circumcision as the remedy and automatic control of HIV/AIDS infection.
He said messages promoting the practice were misguiding and may put the lives of many people in danger since it had not been proven to be scientifically true.
He said if male circumcision was the answer to HIV prevention, then Ugandans who conduct circumcision as a traditional belief or a religious practice would not contract the disease.
He, however, said there is proof that these people had contracted HIV and the disease prevails in their communities.
The President emphasised abstinence from premarital sex and faithfulness in marriage [And CONDOMS!] as the guarantee to a life free from HIV.
NBC BAY AREA
Circumcision Ban Doesn't Cut it With SF City Attorney
The San Francisco City Attorney doesn't often weigh in on ballot measures -- but it's not often that a circumcision ban is on the ballot, either.
By Chris Roberts
A ban on circumcising minors -- adults can chop away their foreskins at will -- is headed to the November ballot in San Francisco, but not if the City Attorney's Office has anything to do with it.
In a rare move, the office of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera -- also a leading candidate for San Francisco mayor in the same election that may outlaw foreskin removal -- filed a brief on the circumcision measure, according to the San Francisco Appeal online newspaper. The brief was written in response to outcry from opponents of the ban, which the brief appears to support.
The circumcision ban would be unconstitutional if only narrowly applied to religious practices, wrote a deputy city attorney. [That's why the age-restriction - not a ban - was written to cover all non-consensual genital cutting of males, without distinction. It has an exemption for medical need, yet apparently a group of doctors think that is not enough and they should be allowed to circumcise babies with no medical need as well, and they are going to use a restriction against laws "interfering with medical practice" to to so.]
The city attorney's office "rarely takes a position on the merits in pre-election litigation concerning the legality of proposed ballot measures" unless the measure would be "clearly invalid," Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart wrote. "This is such a case."
The ban's opponents include the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti Defamation League.
If enacted, the ban would punish doctors, rabbis or anyone else circumcising a minor with a fine and up to a year in jail.
The opponents of the ban are asking for a court hearing on the case to be held relatively soon, by July 15, since the city's Department of Elections has to begin preparations for putting measures on the ballot in August.
Information from proponents of the ban is available at www.sfmgmbill.org, while opponents have set up a website of their own at www.stopcircban.com. [That is the site of the "Committee for Parental Choice and Religious Freedom". The Committee for (Future) Men's Choice and Religious Freedom has a Facebook page.]
Beyond the Bris
'Blood Sweat & Tears' lead singer protests infant circumcision.
Los Angeles performer Jason Paige wants the audience of his one-man comedy show to realize his song about his botched bris isn’t a joke. So he calls a few audience members to the stage and has them face him. The rest of the audience can’t see Jason as he pulls down his pants to reveal what he calls his “piercing,” a small hole in his penis through which he can--and does, for performances--dangle an earring. Proof to the crowd of his circumcision gone wrong comes as the audience participants return to their seats, stunned looks on their faces.
Jason has a circumcision complication known as a skin bridge. A remanent of his foreskin became fused to the head of his penis as an infant during the healing process. Sometimes skin bridges can result in painful erections and severe disfigurement. In Jason’s case, it prompted him to learn more about "what goes down" during a circumcision procedure, and ultimately to oppose the practice.To the rest....
[He describes the horror of his own bris, as recounted by his family, at 3:20]
Abandon the Knife: a fundraising screening
On Thursday, we screened Abandon the Knife, a documentary about female circumcision, produced by Guardian Films in association with Christian Aid. On the night, we raised almost £600 that will be donated to an education fund for the two girls featured in the film
Earlier this week, we organised a fundraising screening of Guardian Films' Abandon the Knife for Extra members.
Directed by Sara Nason, the 30-minute documentary tells the story of two young Kenyan women, Nancy and Gertrude. They are members of the Pokot community and both of them stood up to family and community to resist the traditional practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM). The film looks at how their actions influenced other young women and their families, changing minds and attitudes about FGM.
Half the ticket proceeds on the night have been donated to a trust that will fund an education for Nancy and Gertrude. With the money donated during a whip round, we raised almost £600.
On the night, we also screened a film about FGM in the UK - approximately 500 young British girls are circumcised here or abroad each year. According to some people working to stop the practice, the UK is viewed as the FGM capital of Europe.
The New Age (South Africa)
At least one initiate dead from circumcision rituals
By Montsho Matlala
At least one initiate has died in the province since the start of circumcision rituals two weeks ago.
Chairperson of the Limpopo task team on initiation schools Khosi Vusani Netshimbupfe told The New Age on Thursday the death occurred last week, at Ga-Mashishi village in Sekhukhune.
Netshimbupfe said they were awaiting the postmortem result to determine the exact cause of the boy’s death at an initiation school.
There are 282 cultural initiation schools, catering for a total of 30000 initiates in the province this season, with no other reported deaths.
Netshimbupfe said his task team would again this year work with health workers, traditional leaders and parents of the initiates to ensure the boys’ safety until the graduations, Last year, there were no reported deaths in the 62 initiation schools, catering for 20000 initiates in the province. This has been attributed to the authorised visits to the camps by medical doctors and nurses, and the referrals of some initiates to the clinics and hospitals when necessary.
The provincial department of health has rolled out a massive medical male circumcision campaign as part of the overall protection package in the fight against the spread of HIV-Aids. Dikeledi Magadzi, MEC for health, said.
Call for checks on sex surgeries
By Amrita U Kadam
As Hindustan Times reported that hundreds of girl children in Indore are being operated on to turn them into boys, the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Madhya Pradesh health department on Sunday recommended measures to ensure that parents hankering for male children don't exploit such 'corrective' surgeries with the help of corrupt doctors.
The procedure, called genitoplasty, is recommended only for those children whose internal organs don't match their external genitalia (for instance, someone who has male internal organs but female genitals and female hormone). [A rather confused version of one of the wide variety of variations of gender development.]
"There should be a medical board to decide if the surgery is medically required. It has to be a responsible decision made by a panel and not a decision between a parent and a doctor," said Prof Gautam Sen, member, board of governors, MCI, and director of surgical education, Association of Surgeons of India (ASI).
Those who don't need the surgery, said medico-legal expert Shirish Deshpande, should be accepted by society.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has reportedly asked the state government to investigate the matter. Such surgeries - on children as young as 1-5 years old - are rampant in Indore's clinics and hospitals. The city's genitoplasty experts say each of them have turned 200-300 girls into 'boys' so far. The low cost of surgery (Rs 1.5 lakh), relatively easy and unobtrusive ways of getting it done and vague laws are even attracting parents from Delhi and Mumbai.
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