Intactivism News

July - December, 2017

To more recent news

News items are copied to Circumstitions News blog (which takes comments)

- thanks to Joseph4GI

The Guardian

December 20, 2017

Amazon removes circumcision training kits from sale

Critics say non-therapeutic circumcision in the UK is unethical and puts infant boys at risk of serious injury

by Haroon Siddique

Amazon has removed circumcision training kits from its UK website after complaints that they normalised unnecessary and risky practice.

The infant circumcision training kits were offered for sale by ESP through Amazon, retailing at between £365.16 and £456.60. It included a model of a boy’s genitals made from “lifelike” material, plus scissors and scalpels.

Amazon UK withdrew the kits from sale after being urged to do so in a letter from the National Secular Society (NSS).

Dr Antony Lempert, the chair of the NSS’s secular medical forum, wrote: “Male circumcision in the UK is wholly unregulated and we fear that the sale of this product may encourage unqualified practitioners to carry out unnecessary surgery on infants in non-clinical conditions, resulting in serious harm.

“Non-therapeutic circumcision is unethical and unnecessary and is putting infant boys at risk of death and serious injury. This practice could be encouraged by the morally negligent sale of infant circumcision training kits to the public.”

Amazon confirmed on Wednesday it had removed the products. The kits, available in a variety of colours, were advertised as “made with soft, lifelike material, which is pliable, delicate, and realistic to the touch”. Associated accessories could be purchased separately. Similar kits remain for sale on Amazon’s US site.

Lempert said the sellers had misrepresented the health benefits of circumcision. “No medical association in the world actively recommends routine infant male circumcision for health reasons,” he wrote. “Any associated claims for medical benefit of surgical training equipment should be accurate.”

Ritual male circumcision is practised by Jews and Muslims. The British Association of Paediatric Surgeons advises there is rarely a clinical reason for circumcision and that it should always be performed by, or under the supervision of, doctors trained in children’s surgery.

In January 2015 the head of the family division of the high court in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, said non-therapeutic infant male circumcision caused “significant harm” to boys.

The practice has been linked to serious injuries and deaths. In 2009, Birmingham children’s hospital’s A&E department admitted 105 boys for circumcision related injuries. In 2011, the hospital admitted 11 boys aged from newborn to one year old to its paediatric intensive care unit with life-threatening complications directly caused by circumcision.


Invisible, nothing removed, "not harmful" but still assault...

Daily Mail

December 14, 2017

Surgeon admits BRANDING his initials on the livers of two patients during transplant operations after colleague spotted his handiwork in follow-up op on one of his victims
  • Simon Bramhall, 53, admitted burning 'SB' onto a man and a woman's livers
  • The incidents are believed to have taken place in February and August 2013
  • He used argon gas in brandings, which is used to stop livers bleeding in surgery
  • Initials were spotted when one patient went for follow-up procedure

by Joseph Curtis and Lara Keay

A surgeon has admitted marking his initials on the livers of two patients during transplant operations.

Consultant Simon Bramhall, 53, pleaded guilty to a charge of assault by beating at Birmingham Crown Court after being accused of branding one man and one woman's livers with 'SB' during transplant surgery in 2013.

He also pleaded not guilty to alternative charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

After Bramhall's pleas were entered, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said the Crown accepted the medic's not guilty pleas in a case which was 'without legal precedent in criminal law'.

...Liver surgeons use argon beam coagulators to stop livers bleeding during operations, but they can also be used to highlight the area of the organ due to be worked on.

It is not harmful and the marks usually disappear by themselves, but when the female patient had a follow-up operation doctors saw they had not healed and saw the initials there instead.

'The pleas of guilty now entered represent an acceptance that that which he did was not just ethically wrong but criminally wrong,' Mr Badenoch told the court.

...Describing the offences as an abuse of position, Mr Badenoch said they had been carried out with a disregard for the feelings of unconscious patients.

The prosecutor said of the assaults: 'It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anaesthetised.

...The offence of assault by beating was brought against Bramhall to reflect the act of marking the liver and there is no suggestion that he was responsible for physically 'beating' either patient.


Follow the money....


December 4, 2017

How to fight female genital mutilation with economics

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (CNN) Seleiman Bishagazi never enjoyed the benefits of a university education, but he's smarter on a basic human rights issue than nearly anyone I've met in the world.

This activist showed me what ground-level investigation, hard-core determination and a lot of community conversation taught him about the practice of female genital mutilation: Follow the money.


'Girls as capital'

"When I saw girls and the way they were going through this pain, I thought, 'This must stop,' " Bishagazi, chairman of Kipunguni Knowledge Center, a community group in Dar es Salaam, told me. "It made me become a champion of stopping this practice."

But stop it how?

According to Bishagazi, families would get monetary gifts when their daughters underwent the procedure.

"I used to attend ceremonies, and I saw how people were benefiting from this," he says.

"I knew right away they were using FGM as a source of income because people would say, 'I will build a house after my daughter goes through this.' They were using girls as capital."


Once Bishagazi figured out that one big part of the incentive behind female genital mutilation was economic, he decided to ask more about how and why. The answers quickly became clear.

Parents would talk with him about how they bought land on the gift money they received after cutting ceremonies. Older women who wielded the knives talked about the money they would make during the cutting season, which arrived every two years, in years divisible by two. Even brothers would benefit from the presents that came in as their sisters faced the knife in the name of tradition.

Poverty -- at least as much as culture, in Bishagazi's community -- stood behind the continuation of female genital mutilation, he came to realize. And so earning money would have to be at the center of stopping cutting.

... He turned to a women's rights nongovernmental organization called the Tanzania Gender Networking Program, or TGNP, for help.

"We had a big event at TGNP and what he did was to bring people from Kipunguni to attend that event so that they could learn the negative side of FGM," says Lilian Liundi, executive director of TGNP. "He asked for a bus to go and pick members of Kipunguni community to come and attend the event. ... The event was quite successful and that is where they learned a lot about FGM and the impact of FGM."

Says Liundi, "This thing they do, it is because they get money. So he knew that if they have alternative ways of getting money, then that will help them to leave practicing FGM."

Creating a financial alternative

Bishagazi began to attack the problem from the ground up. Literally.

He says he knew that women who were cutting girls received about 30,000 Tanzanian shilling (roughly $14) for one girl. So he tried to figure out how to replace that income.

"Agriculture was not a hard thing to do, it didn't need a lot of capital, and a lot of women were doing it in other places," Bishagazi says....

So Bishagazi suggested they start, together, growing things on a plot of land he had access to, beginning with vegetables....

After two growing cycles, and once the vegetables began turning a profit, he started talking with the women performing female genital mutilation about the problems that came with the practice -- that it is considered violence against women under the law and could land them in prison.

Bishagazi's fellow program members agree that the convincing began once the money started coming in.

"When you do agriculture, you can earn" roughly $10 a day, says Fatima Brahman, a Kipunguni community leader. "And you can do it throughout the year. And it is clean and legal money."

That argument convinced parents and women who previously supported cutting to join the effort. Thus far, Bishagazi says, the community program has close to 150 members.


Slowly and step by step, with introductions and educational materials from TGNP, Bishagazi has built a community group focused on farming, women's leadership and safety....

"It is not the women who decide; it is the elders who say we have to continue this practice," says Justina Gasaya, a 20-something woman who is part of Bishagazi's program. "So when women are empowered, especially economically, it gives them power. And changes the balance of power in the community."...

In Bishagazi's vision, these community farms would spread nationwide ...

"We have realized when women don't have economic power it is very easy to conduct gender-based violence," Bishagazi says. "My dream is to end FGM once and for all."...

Money and male genital cutting

An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff...


November 22, 2017

Penis transplants for botched circumcision victims

by Siphumelele Khumalo

Many African males go through the painful ordeal of botched circumcisions during their initiation, which often leads to penile amputation.

To help the victims, the Department of Health has successfully begun penis transplant procedures in the Eastern Cape.

Collen Bonnecwe, the director at the department's medical male circumcision programme, said they had a urologist and a plastic surgeon to provide reconstruction services. [McMonkey McBean from Dr Seuss's The Sneetches springs to mind.]

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities conducted an investigation through public hearings, focused on the initiation schools and the challenges they faced.

The hearings, conducted in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo, confirmed the extent of the problem.

A report compiled by the commission revealed that between 2006 and 2014 there were 557 deaths due to initiations, and only 260 arrests made. Most initiates were subjected to violence, drugs, alcohol and even death at the initiation schools.

According to Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, the chairperson of the commission, poor families in both rural and urban areas were at high risk of death and injuries at initiation schools.


Initiation has lost its cultural value. It is a spiritual thing, and is not something that you just do...” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.


Other issues she mentioned were of males being abducted and forced to participate in initiation practices, as well as those who felt pressured by their peers and left home in order to be a man, only to return home as a totally different person with violent, aggressive tendencies and a totally different perception of what manhood was.

The commission and first-hand victims made the following recommendations:


Parents and guardians need to be fully informed, and pre-counselling needs to be given to the males who are going to be initiated to fully understand what they are getting into.

There needs to be a prescribed check-up and immunisation before the initiation.

All single-headed households must be protected by offering the necessary support. -->

Suspend all initiation-related acts until December next year. [...leading to a rush at the end of that time, and more botches.]


[But not a word about curtailing genital cutting.]

BBC news

November 10, 2017

'No-consent' circumcision doctor will not be prosecuted

by Caroline Lowbridge

A mother has been left "sickened" by a decision not to prosecute the doctor who circumcised her son without her consent.

The boy underwent the procedure when his paternal grandmother took him to a surgery in Nottingham.

Dr Balvinder Mehat told police he believed the mother had consented, and prosecutors decided not to charge him.


According to the British Medical Association, male circumcision in the UK is generally assumed to be lawful provided there is valid consent.


Saimo Chahal QC (Hon) is appealing the Crown Prosecution Service's decision and has written a 24-page letter, "outlining numerous defects in their decision-making process and evaluation of this case".

She told the BBC: "The decision lacks any semblance of a considered and reasoned decision and is flawed and irrational."

If prosecutors do not review their decision within 14 days, she said, the mother will "be obliged to take the matter before the administrative court for a determination of these very important issues, which need to be resolved not only for her personal case but also for the wider public interest issues that the case raises".

About circumcision

  • Male circumcision is the removal of the foreskin - a sensitive fold of skin and other tissue that covers the head of the penis.
  • Circumcision was promoted as a way of discouraging masturbation in the past, and was regarded as clean and hygienic.
  • Circumcision rates in Europe are low, and it is mostly confined to the Jewish and Muslim communities.
  • Three-quarters of American adult men are circumcised - but the number of newborns having the operation is falling as the anti-circumcision movement grows.
  • Some argue there is a medical case for circumcision, to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer.
  • "Intactivists" argue that circumcision has negative health effects and reduces sexual pleasure for both partners [and that all unnecessary genital cutting unless consented to by the genitals' owner, male, female or intersex, is a human rights violation].

    Earlier story

And again, the elephant in the room...

U.S. Departnment of State

October 26, 2017

US Government endorses genital autonomy - for Intersex people

The US State Department has issued a statement for Intersex Awareness Day:

In Recognition of Intersex Awareness Day

Press Statement
Heather Nauert
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 26, 2017

In recognition of Intersex Awareness Day, the United States stands in solidarity with intersex persons and their advocates around the world.

We recognize that intersex persons face violence, discrimination, harassment, and persecution on account of their sex characteristics. At a young age, intersex persons routinely face forced medical surgeries without free or informed consent. These interventions jeopardize their physical integrity and ability to live freely.

On Intersex Awareness Day, we reaffirm our strong commitment to promoting a world where all persons can freely and equally express themselves with dignity, regardless of sex characteristics. When those most marginalized in society are afforded equal protection and opportunity, global security and stability are strengthened. Increased recognition, understanding and awareness of intersex persons and their human rights strengthens democracy for all.

The highlighted passage of course applies also to boys.

Nyasa Times (Malawai)

September 25, 2017

Tumbukas in Rumphi resist circumcision as Thyolo men cut foreskins en masse

by Tiwonge Kumwenda- Nyasa Times

Health officials in Rumphi have described religious and cultural beliefs as a set back to Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) program in the district as men as refusing to cut their foreskins, saying VMMC is not in line with Tumbuka culture and that it part of Islamic belief not Christian.

Rumphi nutrition and HIV/Aids officer, Blessings Kanyangale said the development has made the hospital to reduce their target.

“Circumcision is being regarded as sin to the Tumbuka culture. Some men also said it is against their religious belief but suitable for Muslims. Men are shunning circumcision because of these two things,” said Kanyangale.

“Imagine, in 2013 we planned to circumcise 2, 569 across the district but out of the figure only 914 men were circumcised. So, for the year 2017-2018 we reduced the figure,” he disclosed.

Exective Director for National Aids Commission (NAC), Davie Kalomba said the trend is not strange because circumcision is a new phenomenon in some cultures but ask the hospital to organize mass sensitization campaign.


The Bulletin (Belgium)

September 21, 2017

Ethics committee rules against infant circumcision

by Alan Hope (Flanders Today)

The Belgian federal government’s Committee for Bio-Ethics has ruled against the circumcision of infant boys for reasons other than medical necessity. Its ruling states that bodily integrity is more important than religious faith.

The committee was ruling on a question posed in 2014 by Brussels doctors, who asked whether carrying out ritual circumcision of infant boys was ethically correct. The process is irreversible, has no medical justification in most cases, and is performed on minors unable to give their own permission.

The committee has taken three years to give its ruling, it said, because of the religious and cultural importance of the question.

“We’re dealing with a very difficult question,” said Paul Schotsmans of the University of Leuven on behalf of the committee. “On the one hand you have the freedom of religion, which means a parent is allowed to have their son circumcised for religious reasons.” [But not their daughter?  Something is clearly wrong with this part of the argument.]

On the other hand, he said, is the child’s right to physical integrity, which is protected by the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child, and in particular its protection from physical injury. [This is why no cutting of girls is allowed, no matter how minor.]

“As circumcision is irreversible and therefore a radical operation, we find the physical integrity of the child takes precedence over the belief system of the parents,” the committee chair Marie-Geneviève Pinsart pronounced. [And this should apply whether doctors do it or religious practitioners.]

Detroit Free Press

June 7, 2017

Doctor, wife in genital cutting case win bond, placed on house arrest, with tethers

by Tresa Baldas

Against the wishes of the government, a judge today granted bond to a doctor and his wife as they await trial in a historic genital mutilation case.

The prosecution argued that the defendants should remain locked up, claiming they are both flight risks and a danger to the community given their alleged crimes: Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, of Farmington Hills, is accused of letting another doctor use his clinic to perform genital cutting procedures on two 7-year-old Minnesota girls; his wife, Farida Attar, 50, is accused of holding the girls' hands during the procedure to keep them from squirming and to calm them.

Defense lawyers have claimed the Attars did not engage in any criminal act, and that the procedure at issue is a protected religious rite-of-passage that involved no cutting. They also argued the Attars are not a danger to the society and have no reason or desire to flee, convincing U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to release them on bond.

...The Attars are Bohras, along with the lead defendant in the case, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, who is accused of performing the cutting procedures on the two Minnesota girls.

The prosecution claims that Nagarwala and the Attars have been subjecting numerous minor girls to genital cutting procedures for a dozen years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward dropped a bombshell in court today in telling Friedman that the government believes the defendants have subjected as many as 100 victims to the procedure. To date, the government has identified eight minor girls who have been subjected to genital cutting at the hands of Nagarwala, she said.


Earlier story

Face of Malawi

July 20, 2017

Medical Male circumcision no longer voluntary , luring boys with k2500

by Andrew Kandulu

The controversial medical procedure, male circumcision which is believed to reduce risk of being infected with HIV has gone sour in Malawi , it is no longer voluntary as some health practitioners reportedly to lure young boys and men with k2500. [$US 3.45]

Despite male circumcision is meant to be done on voluntary basis, it was in the case in Pensulo village in Blantyre two week ago, where young boys were reported to undergo the procedure after being convinced by what health officers promised to give them.

”Anali m’galito imazungulira kunoko, ifeyo timasewera nde anatinyengelera kuti atipetsa k2500, tikakwera kuti akatidulidwe ku Joshua,” said one of the boys in vernacular language.

Pensulo health centre widely known as Joshua for its donor’ name is where this exercise was taken place.

A woman in the community said her young brother came to her for permission after being convinced with the amount.

”If it has such benefits they are claiming why they are giving such money, who is benefiting from the procedure then? I told my brother dont go there,” she disclosed in an interview with faceofmalawi.

It seems the exercise is not convincing at its own as they are trying to paint it with new colours, giving the beneficiaries free-ride back home, now are receiving k2500.

It is not clear if this medical procedure really helps to reduce chances of being infected with HIV as circumcised males are also reported to enhance the dryness during sex which is arguable to promote the spread of the pandemic.


July 12, 2017

Michigan Laws Will Increase Penalties For Performing Female Genital Mutilation

by Laurel Wamsley

New legislation signed into law by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday makes female genital mutilation a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The laws apply both to doctors who conduct the procedure and parents who transport a child to undergo it.

"Those who commit these horrendous crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and these bills stiffen the penalties for offenders while providing additional support to victims," Gov. Snyder said in a statement. "This legislation is an important step toward eliminating this despicable practice in Michigan while empowering victims to find healing and justice."

The governor also signed a bill allowing for a health professional's license or registration to be revoked if he or she is convicted of female genital mutilation.

Michigan is the 26th state to ban the practice; the state laws go into effect in October. The practice was banned in the United States in 1996, but Michigan's laws impose harsher penalties than the federal law.

The package of bills comes amid the federal criminal trial of an emergency room doctor in Michigan, Jumana Nagarwala, ...

The case has inspired new bills across the country that would enact harsher penalties for the practice, The Washington Post reported in May.

Jaha Dukureh, who leads advocacy group against the practice called Safe Hands for Girls, and who underwent the practice as an infant, says outreach and education to prevent the practice are preferable to punishment alone.

"When things like this happen, people just want to focus on getting all states to penalize it," Dukureh told the Post. "But there's a bigger picture out here that we're not focusing on."

One of the new laws requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to create an education and outreach program about the trauma of female genital mutilation and the penalties in effect.

The bill[']s had few opponents, the Associated Press reported last month.

"This barbaric procedure has no accepted health benefits [only because nobody has looked for them; they are claimed in Egypt, with as little evidence as the benefits claimed from male cutting in the USA] and is only performed to exercise control over young women [not so]," said one of the bill sponsors, Republican Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton, according to the AP. "We owe it to our girls to give law enforcement and prosecutors every available tool to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The laws set the criminal statute of limitations at either ten years or the 21st birthday of the alleged victim, whichever is later, according to the News; victims can sue in civil court until they turn 28. The state laws only apply to cases going forward.

The legislation makes clear that cultural defenses will not hold up in court.

"It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the person on whom the operation is performed, or any other person, believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual, or that the person on whom the operation is performed, or that person's parent or guardian, consented to the operation," states one of the bills.

[This clause throws the sexism and religious bias of the law into sharp relief. Two of the main justifications given for male genital cutting are that religion mandates it and that parents have consented to it.]


Earlier story


July 3, 2017

11 initiates die at initiation schools in Mpumalanga

by Balise Mabona

Kwamhlanga - At least 11 initiates have died at various initiation schools in Mpumalanga during the current initiation season that started in April, police said on Sunday.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi told the African News Agency (ANA) that police were still investigating eight cases of culpable homicide and three inquests in relation to the deaths.

“The inquests are for the deaths of three female initiates and the culpable homicide cases are for the deaths of eight male initiates. I cannot say when the investigations will be concluded,” said Hlathi.

The initiates died at different times in separate areas of the province, including KwaMhlanga and Belfast, he said.


To earlier news (headlines)

Back to the Intactivism index page.