Intactivism News

July 2012

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Vos Is Neias?
July 31, 2012

Vienna - Religious Circumcision Gets Green Light In Western Austria

Vienna - A decision to suspend circumcision in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg except when required for health reasons was reversed today by Austria’s Justice Ministry.

The ruling was protested by a group of religious leaders in Austria representing the county’s Jewish, Muslin, Catholic and Protestant citizens who challenged its legality.

A letter written by Justice Minister Beatrix Karl was released this afternoon, informing doctors that they will not face criminal charges for performing religious circumcisions saying, “We only wanted to get legal certainty for doctors so they can be clear whether they face legal consequences if they perform circumcisions for religious reasons.”

A spokesman for the justice minister told Reuters that the ruling gave doctors the authority to decide if they wanted to perform circumcisions, a procedure not covered by the public health system.

Austria is currently home to 9,000 Jews and half a million Muslims.

Earlier story


Eurasia Review
July 29, 2012

Swiss Legal Experts Divided Over Circumcision

By Sophie Douez

Moves by two Swiss hospitals to suspend the practice of circumcising boys in the wake of an adverse court ruling about the procedure in Germany have sparked heated debate amongst legal experts in Switzerland.


Marcel Niggli, professor of criminal law at Fribourg University told swissinfo.ch the two hospitals had “overreacted”, and questioned why they were acting in response to a ruling in Germany which had no legal implications in Switzerland.

He said that although Swiss and German laws were similar in that they are based on the principle that medical procedures do not constitute inflicted injury when they are carried out to better a person’s health, “a court decision in Germany is not more important [to Switzerland] than one in China or Argentina”.

But professor Martin Killias, a criminologist at Zurich University, said the German ruling was simply a “point of ignition” for a debate which had been brewing for some time. He said the hospitals had “absolutely” taken the right decision in suspending the practice of circumcision.

"I think they are opening a debate and there are obviously several points to be considered,” Killias told swissinfo.ch. “Beyond criminal law, it simply asks the question whether hospitals want to do that? I could imagine that hospitals could say that according to our view this is against our ethical standards in medicine.”

Health benefits?
Although circumcision is traditionally practised as part of a religious ritual, several studies undertaken in recent years suggest that the practice could have health benefits too.

The World Health Organization says there is “compelling” evidence to suggest that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by 60 per cent and is promoting the scale-up of male adult circumcision programmes for HIV prevention in Africa .

“You can show from research done that circumcision betters the health of the person concerned, they have lower risk of contracting or transmitting specific diseases,” said Niggli. “It is not endangering life and this is also what makes the difference with female circumcision.”

He said that if you ruled that medical circumcision amounted to inflicting injury for purposes which did not improve a person’s health, then the same could be argued in the case of cosmetic surgery procedures.

“I find it rather strange that you can do whatever you want as long as it does not have a religious element,” Niggli said.

But Killias said that: “It is up to the patient to decide what he considers an improvement and aesthetical operations can also have direct [positive] psychological impacts, so I think in these circumstances, I don’t see why this [cosmetic surgery] could be problematic in terms of criminal law.”

Competing rights
Killias said although he was not a medical expert, the question of health justifications for circumcision was “controversial”. He said the key point in the debate is that the child is not able to decide for himself if he wants to undergo the procedure for either religious or aesthetic reasons.

“If circumcision was practised at the age of 16 when young people are considered mature in terms of religious self-determination, nobody would debate about it,” he said. “But if it is done with young children, I see that there is obviously a conflict between the rights of the child and the freedom of religion of the parents.”

Niggli argued that as parents, people have both the right and the obligation to act in the best interests in their child, in which case they can take the decision of circumcision on behalf of the child “because circumcision is a small thing, it’s not anything endangering life and you can show that statistically, this betters the health situation”.

As to questions of religious freedom, Killias said history had shown that beliefs within the different religions had evolved and changed over the generations, and so they should be encouraged to do on the question of circumcision as well.

“Democratic and open societies have a right to impose certain values and we do that also in other respects,” he said. “We are more and more outlawing the physical punishment of children and for me, it is hardly acceptable that it should be a criminal offence to slash a child but no problem at all to disfigure its sexual organs forever.”

Earlier story


July 27, 2012

Africa's male circumcision crusade: Boon or boondoggle?

Just imagine that a simple, harmless, one-time medical procedure could provide you, your loved ones, and all your neighbors with lifetime protection from a deadly epidemic. You’d sign up for it right away, wouldn’t you?

This is precisely what the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and countless other NGOs and government programs are offering the continent of Africa: A comprehensive adult male circumcision campaign aimed at stemming the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the WHO, “Medical male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male sexual transmission of HIV by approximately 60%.” Moreover,

Medical male circumcision offers excellent value for money in such settings. It saves costs by averting new HIV infections and reducing the number of people needing HIV treatment and care. A one-time intervention, medical male circumcision provides men life-long partial protection against HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections.

Thanks to the WHO’s lobbying and financing efforts, countries across Africa are submitting thousands of their male citizens to the operation. Uganda, which has a 6.5% adult infection rate, launched a giant voluntary circumcision program in 2010. In June, 2012, ten Zimbabwean parliament members announced that they would undergo circumcision to set an example to the population as a whole. More than a million Zimbabweans are living with HIV/AIDS.

This is indeed marvelous news. The way Bill Gates and the WHO describe it, circumcision sounds like the greatest invention since penicillin. And yet the story does raise a question: Is it true? Does circumcision really reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS, making it serve as a sort of invisible condom?

In fact, the pro-circumcision consensus the WHO implies in its statements is largely imaginary. Medical experts the world over doubt the wisdom of the campaign, and some studies suggest it is actually counterproductive. In May of 2011, the Panos Eastern Africa NGO determined that misconceptions about the procedure – specifically the widespread notion that circumcision alone, without taking additional precautions, significantly protects people from HIV/AIDS – was actually encouraging the disease to spread in Uganda. In December of 2011, an article in the Australian Journal of Law and Medicine cited grave flaws in three studies supposedly proving the benefits of male circumcision in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa: “The trials were compromised by inadequate equipoise; selection bias; inadequate blinding; problematic randomisation; trials stopped early with exaggerated treatment effects; and not investigating non-sexual transmission.”

Furthermore, the authors discovered that

In the Ugandan male-to-female trial, there appears to have been a 61% relative increase in HIV infection among female partners of HIV-positive circumcised men. Since male circumcision diverts resources from known preventive measures and increases risk-taking behaviours, any long-term benefit in reducing HIV transmission remains uncertain.

There is also a concern that the procedure itself can spread the disease among participants and their sex partners if it is not performed under completely sterile conditions and combined with qualified followup care.

So is the Great African Male Circumcision Crusade a boon or a boondoggle? In order to cast some light on what appears to an extremely murky and emotional issue, I contacted Dr. Ronald Goldman of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston to get some hard answers:

Dr. Goldman, a number of sub-Saharan African nations have begun a crash adult circumcision program aimed at drastically reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS among their populations. Their leaders, encouraged by foreign governments and NGOs, have apparently convinced themselves that a circumcised penis is practically immune to the virus. What effect do you think the mass circumcision of African men will actually have on suppressing the illness?

Many professionals have questioned the reliability and validity of studies claiming that circumcision reduces HIV transmission. African national population surveys in eight countries found a higher rate of HIV infection among circumcised men compared to men who were not circumcised. There are at least 17 observational studies that have not found any benefit from male circumcision in reducing HIV transmission. Therefore, I do not expect a reduction in HIV transmission. It's even possible that the incidence of HIV transmission will increase because the mistaken belief of protection from circumcision will result in more risk-taking sexual behavior.

In the United States particularly, circumcision has long been regarded as a sort of “magic bullet” against disease and a host of other evils. Why do so many health professionals believe the procedure is so beneficial to society as a whole?

Actually, only a relatively few health professionals believe that circumcision has significant health benefits. Most doctors take a neutral approach to circumcision, following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP is considered to be the highest authority on the subject, but their recommendations also have problems. For example, their current policy is not balanced and uses about ten times more space on the "potential benefits" than on the harm. In addition, there are many questions of harm that have not been studied. Because circumcision is common in the United States, there is a strong psychological motivation to believe it is harmless or beneficial.

Since circumcision is a religious duty among Jews and Muslims, do you see any religious ramifications to this policy? For example, could non-Muslims see it as a covert conversion campaign, or could the practitioners believe they are performing “God’s will”?

I don't think so. What is covert about the campaign is that circumcision is being promoted by circumcision advocates that have personal, religious, political, and financial conflicts of interest. They intended to find a benefit for circumcision, and they found it. As I have written elsewhere, there is a strong pro-circumcision bias among those who are circumcised, have circumcised sons, belong to circumcised groups, or have performed circumcisions.

What potential drawbacks or side effects do you anticipate from this wholesale circumcision campaign?

Many of the psychological, sexual, and social effects that I discuss in my book, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma, could become more common as circumcision becomes more common. We expect that though men may choose circumcision now for themselves (based on misinformation about protection from HIV), the campaign is moving toward forcing circumcision on infants who will then have no choice. This is the source of the trauma. Imagine being forcefully held down and having the most sensitive parts of your genitals cut off. Trauma is remembered by the body and has long-term effects. Feelings, attitudes, and behaviors are affected. For example, some men are angry that they are circumcised. Other men are angry and don't know why. That repressed anger has many effects on their lives and the lives of others.

Condoms have proven to be vastly cheaper and far more effective than circumcision when it comes to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and they also reliably prevent other sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies. Why aren’t the UN and the Western nations showering Africa with condoms instead of removing men’s foreskins in what looks like an unprecedented social engineering experiment?

There is a lot of psychological motivation behind the advocacy of circumcision. Circumcision is traumatic. Psychologists know that there is a compulsion to repeat trauma on others. Some American circumcised men have placed themselves in administrative and research positions where they can act out this compulsion and influence many others to be circumcised. They are simply using the cultural beliefs and values (e.g, medical studies and authorities that claim that circumcision has benefits, etc.) to accomplish their goal.

As most people probably know by now, so-called female circumcision (a.k.a. female genital mutilation or FGM) is a much more radical procedure than the male version, frequently including the excision of the labia and even the clitoris. Do you see a possibility that government and NGO support for male circumcision could potentially water down campaigns targeting FGM?

I do not think so. I point out that the cutting of male and female genitals are qualitatively the same thing. The harm and violation start with the first cut.

If male circumcision is as harmful as you claim, does this mean that all male Jews and Muslims, not to mention tens of millions of Americans, are essentially “damaged goods” when compared to their non-circumcised contemporaries?

What circumcised cultures do not want to know is that a natural body part, in this case a penis, functions better than a surgically reduced one. We do not need studies to know this. It's just common sense. For example, if we cut off the thumb, the functions of the hand would be adversely affected. It's the same for the penis. Most American circumcised men (and doctors) do not know what they are missing. Based on recent reports, circumcision removes up to one-half of the erogenous tissue on the penile shaft, equivalent to approximately twelve square inches on an adult. Medical studies have shown that the foreskin protects the head of the penis, enhances sexual pleasure, and facilitates intercourse. Cutting off the foreskin removes several kinds of specialized nerves and results in thickening and progressive desensitization of the outer layer of the tip of the penis, particularly in older men.

The current African circumcision drive is being generously financed by the UN and WHO, foreign and national governments, and a variety of NGOs. It is big business for those involved and money, as they say, is the root of all evil. Would it be cynical to speak of a “circumcision-industrial complex” at work in Africa?

Certainly money is an important factor. An African official said, "Profiteering has trumped prevention." A WHO researcher said that billions of dollars have been wasted. The focus on circumcision reduces support for more effective measures.

Has anyone, aside from yourself and a handful of other circumcision skeptics, openly challenged the policy and called for resistance?

There are very reputable researchers who have been published in foreign medical journals because the peer reviewers for circumcision articles submitted to American medical journals are circumcision advocates. They will not approve of an article that is critical of circumcision. The review process is as deeply flawed as the studies that advocate circumcision.

There are other serious problems that prevent a fair and open debate. Circumcision advocates have access to much money, and American media, reflecting the pro-circumcision bias of the culture, routinely ignore stories critical of circumcision and focus on reports of circumcision "benefits." Journalist regularly violate their professional principles and obligations to report different views on this controversy.

Finally, circumcision advocates are afraid to debate circumcision critics. This shows up at professional conferences where critics are not provided equal opportunity to participate. The upcoming international AIDS conference will include a one-sided commercial for circumcision. The lack of debate is also apparent in the media. For example, two circumcision advocates refused to debate me on two radio talk shows.

If the circumcision program is indeed misguided, what alternative advice would you give to African governments seeking a viable solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis?

Most HIV infection in Africa are transmitted by contaminated injections and surgical procedures. ["Most..." is open to challenge, but it is certainly true that "Much more HIV infection in Africa than is commonly believed ..."] The advice is simple: sterilize any instrument that will be used on a person's body. Condoms are better than 99% effective, less invasive, and the cost of one circumcision in Africa can pay for 3000 condoms. Unlike circumcision, condoms also have the advantage of also protecting women, and there are no surgical risks and complications. Even the pro-circumcision studies recommend using condoms in addition to circumcisions. With a condom, circumcision adds no significant additional protection value even if the advocates' protective claims for circumcision without condoms are true.

Ronald Goldman, Ph.D. is a psychological researcher, educator, and Executive Director of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, a nonprofit educational organization. Dr. Goldman is internationally known for his work on circumcision and is the author of Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma and Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective. He gives lectures on the psychosocial aspects of circumcision, counsels parents and circumcised men, and has participated in over two hundred interviews with broadcast and print media.

The bottom line - read the small print!

At the AIDS 2012 conference they were handing out samples of posters (which also illustrated the above interview) being used in Africa, designed to stigmatise intact men:

Circumcision propaganda poster

The woman's expression is happily ambiguous: She might be saying "Oh boy!" (She does not look as if she will refuse sex with "you"!) Her nails are probably more of a hazard to them both than his foreskin....

The small print -

Circumcision poster small print - use condoms

"Ministry of Health Advisory: Even with circumcision, having sex without condoms puts you at great risk of HIV/AIDS"

Note the soothing "Even with...." Here's where "even" should go: "Circumcising men may put women - already at greater risk of HIV/AIDS than men - at even greater risk.

Earlier story


TagesZeitung (TAZ, liberal-progressive, Berlin)
July 26, 2012

Religions should accept a subordinate role

Green Party member of Parliament Memet Kilic of Heidelberg grew up in Turkey. He voted against the Bundestag resolution. He finds that those affected should decide for themselves at the age of 14 what should happen to their foreskin.

TAZ (Interviewer Daniel Bax): Mr. Kilic, recently the Bundestag weighed in on a law to regulate religious circumcisions. Why did you vote against it?

Kilic: I was against it because it stifled a necessary debate. This must occur before such a decision is made. 

TAZ: Many Muslims and Jews consider the circumcision of boys as a religious obligation. Can the German state assume a right to pass judgment on that?

Kilic: Until a few weeks ago I would have said no to that. But the Cologne ruling has given me food for thought because what is preached in holy books must now be freshly interpreted in light of reason and medical progress. Indeed, one country alone cannot succeed in changing religious rituals and customs of its citizens. But it can question them and can enter into a dialogue with the religious communities.

TAZ: Didn’t the Cologne ruling make a quick political action necessary because it caused uncertainty for so many parents and physicians?

Kilic:  Absolutely. But when there are strong reasons, in Islam as well as in Judaism, circumcision can be postponed for a while. The Cologne ruling is one such strong reason – and the religious communities must respect constitutional democracy.

TAZ: A prohibition on religious circumcision could tempt many Jewish and Muslim parents to have their sons circumcised abroad. Isn’t that risking the creation of circumcision tourism into different countries?

Kilic: That already exists. For cost reasons, or because they want to celebrate the circumcision within family circles, many parents already allow this surgery to be performed in their home country. Yet, a constitutional state is therefore not tasked with making it easier in this country, but has to balance different legally protected rights.

TAZ: Whether circumcision comes with physical disadvantages is controversial. Why should the German state interfere in those questions?

Kilic: The medical benefits are not proven but if it’s medically necessary then such circumcisions should continue to be permitted. Yet I consider it questionable to rely on health arguments to justify religious commandments. Certain religious communities mark their members with circumcision. I’m all for those affected making this decision themselves when they are 14, at the age of religious consent under German law.

TAZ: Unlike Muslims, for religious Jews it isn’t possible to wait that long when the procedure traditionally happens at 8 days. Is your suggestion realistic?

Kilic:  For devout Jews this is difficult, I agree. But some Jewish communities in Great Britain have reduced circumcision to a symbolic act and postponed the operation to a later time. This seems exemplary to me.

TAZ: Should Germany of all countries, with its history, be the first to restrict a Jewish tradition?

Kilic: I’m aware that anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim sentiment may rise to the surface in such a debate.  It’s our duty to be sensitive with such issues, not only because of the Holocaust, but Germany also has signed a treaty on children’s rights. Furthermore, the Cologne ruling  is simply logical for a secular society and is much better than what it’s been made out to be because it balances many aspects. Therefore the large religious communities should not jump the gun by swinging a big stick with the slogan “You don’t want us!”

TAZ: About 30% of men worldwide are said to be circumcised. And so far there has hardly been any controversy about it. Isn’t this just an artificially created problem that doesn’t exist?

Kilic: No I don’t see it like that. It doesn’t help the argument to point to statistics. The Cologne court has ruled in a concrete case, and medical and children’s organizations have clearly spoken to this question. However, many of those involved act out of social pressures and traditions without properly reflecting upon them. Also the motivations of the circumcision industry which originated in the USA is by all means questionable.

(Translated by Bernd Vey and Tim Hammond)

Earlier story


the Sowetan
July 27, 2012

42 boys perish - but silence

By Mbuyiselo Botha and Nomonde Nyembe

THE figures of young boys dying at initiation schools are shocking. The death toll, as at July 11, was 42, in just three weeks.

According to reports, this is nearly double last years' figure of 26.

South Africa is now 18 years into democracy but the shame of young boys dying in Eastern Cape initiation schools continues unabated.

Why do we, as a caring, compassionate, democratic society, look the other way? Why do we allow certain cultural practices to rob young people of their future?

We are reminded of the work of gender activist and author Dr Gary Barker, whose comments in his book Dying to be Men describes the debilitating association of notions of manhood, issues of violence and HIV - that some young people will die for in their quest to become so-called "proper" or "real" men.

What it means to be a "proper" man and the fact that it has been reduced to the practice of circumcision is detrimental not only to the young men who go through the process but to society as a whole.

A society where manhood is ascribed only to individuals who have gone to initiation school is one that does not value men as whole beings with other aspects to their humanity. However, this does not affirm the notion that you can still be a man without being subjected to inhumane treatment.

Too often, not enough attention is paid when people's rights are trampled on with impunity. What message does the silence send to these young men who are expected to go through this route without any guarantee that they will come back alive?

It is our view that any other traditional law is subjected to our supreme law, the Constitution.

There are those who would argue that constitutional protection of culture gives them carte blanche to engage in practices that are not only harmful but may, in fact, lead to death. This is not so. Cultural and religious practices are protected to the extent that they are consistent with other rights in the Constitution (sections 15(3)(b) and 31(2)).

We are concerned that there is not a universal outcry from all of us to these statistics.

We wonder if this silence is a result of us fearing to be labelled as "Eurocentric" or "sell-outs" out there to please the white master.

The Children's Act prohibits the circumcision of young men and joins a number of other provincial [A]cts that regulate male circumcision in Free State, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.

Parents themselves are under an obligation to consent to the circumcision before it occurs.

There is a need for active citizenry in if we are to stop practices that not only harm but endanger people's lives.

We must hold our government to account and using the law to do so is our constitutional mandate. Doing otherwise would be betraying those who died for us to have those freedoms.

Earlier story


Associated Press
July 27, 2012

Austrian religious reps fear circumcision backlash

VIENNA – Senior Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives are demanding that Austria formally declare its backing for circumcisions of male infants on religious grounds.

Their call Friday comes after two provincial governors spoke out against such procedures based on a German court ruling that it could amount to criminal bodily harm.

Last month's verdict by a German regional court did not ban male circumcision of Muslim or Jewish infants. But it led the German Medical Association to recommend that no unnecessary circumcisions be performed until the legal situation is clarified. That is prompting calls for restrictions in Austria, which does not forbid the practice.

Vorarlberg Governor Marcus Wallner has told hospitals to suspend circumcisions except for health reasons while Carinthia Governor Gerhard Doerfler has called for a nation-wide prohibition by law.

Earlier story


City and State
July 25, 2012

Heard about town

* Bloomberg yesterday rebuffed rabbis’ threats of legal action if the city goes through with a proposal to restrict a controversial Orthodox Jewish circumcision procedure. “We have an obligation to keep people alive and safe and the courts have held that up repeatedly,” Bloomberg said yesterday at a press conference. “There are certain practices that doctors say are not safe and we will not permit those practices to the extent that we can stop them. You don’t have a right to put any child’s life in danger, and this clearly does.” His comments came in response to Orthodox rabbis who defended the controversial practice of “metzitzah b’peh” at a New York City Health Department public hearing this week. ...

Earlier story


Here's hoping!

Washington Post
July 26, 2012

Orthodox rabbis fear circumcision restrictions could spread across Europe after German case

BERLIN — A group of Orthodox rabbis warned Wednesday that the ancient Jewish practice of infant male circumcision could face further restrictions in Europe after some hospitals in Austria and Switzerland suspended the procedure by citing a German court ruling that it could amount to criminal bodily harm.


“Of course we in Switzerland aren’t directly affected by the Cologne ruling, but it sparked a debate about how to deal with the medical and ethical issues involved,” said Marco Stuecheli, a spokesman for Zurich’s Children’s Hospital.


“Our fears that the court ruling in Cologne could have a knock-on effect across Europe are now being realized,” said Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis.

He said Jewish leaders across the continent would seek out lawmakers and government officials to impress on them how central the practice is to their faith, and to forestall further restrictions elsewhere.

While Muslims, too, commonly circumcise their sons at a young age, in Judaism the procedure must take place eight days after birth. According to religious law, an uncircumcised male isn’t considered fully part of the Jewish community, Goldschmidt said.

“In order to change that we would have to convene a supreme Jewish religious court, which has not convened for the last 2,000 years,” he told The Associated Press.

The German government is expected to propose a bill this fall which would ensure that circumcision remains legal in the country.

The Children’s Hospital in Zurich said it hopes to reach a decision next month about whether to resume circumcisions. So far, the suspension has delayed only two planned operations, because many Jewish parents prefer to have their sons circumcised privately, Stuecheli said.


Earlier story


City & State
July 23, 2012

Rabbis Defend Controversial Circumcision Practice to City Health Officials

By Wilder Fleming

At a hearing yesterday in Queens, New York City rabbis defended a controversial circumcision practice that has been blamed for infecting infants with herpes, in some cases causing their death.

The practice, called “metzitzah b’peh,” requires the circumciser, or mohel, to suck the infant’s wounds after circumcision, and has led to at least two cases of infant death in New York since 2000. The city wants to amend the health law to require mohels to obtain written consent from parents indicating they are fully aware of the risks involved in the ritual circumcision, or bris.

“I myself have performed 25,000 circumcisions, and, thank God, we have not had one single incident … our guidelines are, I think, much stricter than the medical profession,” said Rabbi A. Romi Cohn, a mohel and a Holocaust survivor who represented the American Board of Ritual Circumcision at the hearing.

But Cohn admitted that some people who are not certified according to Jewish law masquerade as mohels in order to make money, sometimes as much as $500 to $1,000 per bris.

“This is completely forbidden, but unfortunately they are doing it,” Cohn said. “These people don’t know what sterility means. They don’t know about infection. We try to tell parents that if they choose a circumciser, he should be board-certified.”

Mohels argued the city’s proposed changes would infringe on their religious freedom, but city health officials are pushing back.

“The concept of informed consent puts more of the decision-making power and more of the information in the hands of the parents,” said Susan Blank, the assistant commissioner of the STD Control Program at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Blank said she was confused by rabbis’ opposition, which she argued allowed them their religious freedom while simultaneously allowing parents greater control over their child’s welfare.

“The Department has received multiple complaints from parents whose children may not have been infected who were also not aware that direct oral suction was going to be performed as part of their sons’ circumcisions,” according to a notice from the New York City Board of Health.

The city’s interference in the ritual could lead to legal action, the mohels said.

“Being a mohel is a religious status…I cannot follow an outside authority,” said Rabbi Levi Heber, the director of the International Bris Association. [Translation: "I believe I am above the law."]

Heber said that if the city enacted the proposed amendment the mohels would take legal action to stop it.

“If we feel that our religious freedom is being restricted, we have the right to challenge it in court … we are ready, if needed, to challenge this,” he said.

The Board of Health plans to reach a decision on the proposal in September.

[The Gothamist headline: Rabbis: Pry These Foreskins From Our Cold, Dead Lips]

Earlier story


the Huffington Post
July 24, 2012

Some Austrian Hospitals End Religious Circumcision

VIENNA -- The governor of Vorarlberg has told hospitals run by Austria's westernmost province to suspend circumcisions motivated by religious custom, citing a German regional court ruling that the practice amounted to causing criminal bodily harm.

Markus Wallner says he sees the German decision last month, arising from the case of a child whose circumcision led to medical complications, as "precedence-setting judgment."

He told provincial hospitals Tuesday not to perform the procedure except for health reasons until the legal situation is clarified in Austria.

The decision does not affect religiously motivated circumcisions performed outside hospitals run by the Vorarlberg government.

the Telegraph
July 24, 2012

Circumcision row hits Austria as doctors advise against it even on religious grounds

A row over circumcision has spread to Austria from Germany after a state governor advised doctors against performing the procedure, even when it is on religious grounds.


Wallner's move meanwhile was slammed as an "attack on religious freedom" by Fuat Sanac, head of the Islamic Community of Austria (IGGiOe), according to comments due to be published in Wednesday's Der Standard daily.

The move "is not worthy of Austria", Sanac said, calling circumcision "a tradition going back thousands of years". Oskar Deutsch, the head of Vienna's Jewish Community, said that the practice was "protected by the constitution".

A spokesman for the centre-left Social Democrats - in a coalition at national level with Wallner's Austrian People's Party - accused the state premier of "giving in to populism".

In Graz, the capital of the southeastern state of Styria, the children's hospital has decided not to carry out any more circumcisions that have not already been scheduled.


Washington Post (Live Blog)
July 22, 2012

Battle over circumcision

By Pamela Constable

An impassioned battle over male circumcision emerged at the conference Monday, where advocates said the procedure would help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in impoverished countries, but opponents asserted it would undermine the use of condoms while doing nothing to stop virus transmission.

Male circumcision has become increasingly accepted in Africa and Asia as awareness of AIDS has spread. A display by the AIDS Council of Zimbabwe featured photographs of boys in tribal costumes at a mass circumcision ceremony. Constant Karma, a doctor from Papua, Indonesia, led a delegation that promotes circumcision among religious communities there. He handed out brochures quoting Biblical verses and illustrated with traditional drawings of priests circumcising men. Karma said the former Dutch colonial rulers in Indonesia banned traditional circumcision for generations, but the AIDS epidemic has spurred activists to re-introduce a modern version.

“We are going to every church and mosque with our message. We have to do everything we can to stop the spread of AIDS,” Karma said through a translator. “We know how important this is, but even now there are groups preaching against it.”

Outside the convention center, protesters had erected banners that said “Circumcision is Torture” and “Intact Genitals are a Human Right.” Natalie Erdossy, 29, an activist from Reston, said circumcision is not the answer to AIDS, and that it can lull men into thinking wrongly that they are protected against the virus.

“People are touting studies from Africa saying circumcision reduces HIV infection,” she said. “That is totally flawed. Only condoms protect people from it. If a man in Africa hears that circumcision can protect him, he’ll think, ‘Hot dog, now I don’t have to use a condom.’”

Brochures handed out by Erdossy and a group called NOCIRC said male circumcision might actually increase the rate of HIV/AIDS transmission and place female partners at greater risk, because circumcised men may believe it provides an “invisible condom.” They also said there is frequent risk of infection from surgical complications.


July 23, 2012

Penile foreskin is immunologically complete: raises new vaccine possibilities for HIV vaccine

Rhesus macaque monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) harbor immunoglobulin G (IgG) and SIV-specific antibodies and T cells in the foreskin of the penis, according to a study in the July 2012 Journal of Virology. This is the first time antibody secreting cells, antiviral antibodies or antiviral T cells have been reported in the foreskin of any primate.

Although "it has been known for some time that there was a population of immune cells in the surfaces of the human penis, and in all skin, for that matter, the potential functions of these cells, especially with regard to anti-HIV activity, had never been determined," says principal investigator Christopher J. Miller of the University of California, Davis. The new finding, he says, could lead to vaccine strategies designed to elicit HIV-specific immunity in the foreskin. [...and thereby rendering circumcision {even more} unnecessary.]

Cells which are targets of HIV are present in multiple epithelial tissues of the penis, and the foreskin—the skin of the penis that is lost during circumcision—is thought to be an especially important route of HIV transmission. "…the presence of an intact foreskin is associated with an approximately 50 percent increased risk of HIV acquisition," the researchers write, citing [the usual] seven studies. Although HIV-specific antibodies and T cells are present in semen of HIV-infected humans, very little research has investigated mucosal immune responses of the surface of the penis, says Miller.

Male rhesus macaques are good models for the human reproductive system immunity. "…based on histology, there is no difference in the numbers or locations of CD4+ cells in the inner and outer foreskin of adult [rhesus macaques] or men," according to the report. "In addition to CD4+ T cells, the foreskin and glans of the human penis have a complete population of immune cells, but antigen-specific immune responses in these tissues have not been described [until now]," says Miller.

Miller's lab was also the first to report antiviral T cells in the female genital tract, research which led to efforts to develop vaccines that could elicit anti-HIV immunity in the female reproductive tract.

More information: K. Rothaeusler, Z.-M. Ma, H. Qureshi, T.D. Carroll, T. Rourke, M.B. McChesney, and C.J. Miller, 2012. Antiviral antibodies and T cells are present in the foreskin of simian immunodeficiency virus-infected rhesus macaques. Journal of Virology 86:7098-7106.


Gatestone Institute
July 22, 2012

Germany Debates Male Circumcision

By Peter Martin

In violation of their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, doctors are interpreting a medical practice in purely religious terms - choosing religion over science.

[The opposite of this statement makes more sense: Following their Hippocratic oath to do no harm, doctors are interpeting a religious practice in purely medical terms - choosing science over religion.]


The verdict was applauded by many organizations. Deutsche Kinderhilfe, a non-profit organization to aid children, said that the wellbeing of children had been served by the court. The German Institute for Pediatric Surgery stated that the verdict conformed to medical ethics. The Professional Union of Pediatricians warned "for the trivialisation of this form of physical damage by the circumcision defenders" and said that the right of children to physical integrity should be society's primary concern.

The International League of Non-Religious and Atheists also welcomed the verdict, stating that religiously motivated circumcision is a form of physical damage and mutilation. Terre des Femmes, an international women's rights organization, also applauded the Cologne verdict. It said the physical integrity of children should not be restricted for religious reasons.

In the German media, psychotherapists stated that circumcision on six- or seven-year old boys can have a traumatic effect. Jewish organizations pointed out that Jews have been circumcising boys on the eighth day after birth for thousands of years, without any Jewish men later complaining about harmful side-effects. They also emphasized that male circumcision cannot be equated to female genital mutilation.


Earlier story


July 22, 2012

Zimbabwe: Stamps Scoffs At Circumcision

By Rutendo Mawere

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's health advisor, Timothy Stamps, has rubbished claims that male circumcision reduces HIV and Aids prevalence rate at a time the country had embarked on a foreskin cutting crusade, ostensibly to lessen chances of contracting the deadly disease.

The former minister of health said circumcision did not make any difference to the adult prevalence rate, noting researches had shown that countries with a higher number of circumcised men, like the US, also had a high HIV prevalence rate.

[That is not his strongest suit, but the rate in Zimbabwe itself.]

Zimbabwe - more circumcised men had HIV in 2005 and still do
Click to enlarge

He said instead of channelling funds towards circumcision, the money must be used to save pregnant mothers who die in huge numbers in this country.

"When we are losing 960 mothers for every 100 000 pregnancies, should circumcision be a priority?" said Stamps.

He said circumcision had led to men being more reckless in sleeping around.

"Young men are happier to take risks and chances without the use of condoms or any other preventive measures because they are told circumcision will protect them," he said.


Earlier story


Germany-born US babies are still at risk

Stars and Stripes
July 23, 2012

German court's circumcision ban does not affect US military clinics

By Nancy Montgomery

HEIDELBERG, Germany — U.S. military doctors will continue performing circumcisions on male infants when parents request it, officials say, despite a controversial German court decision that banned the procedure as inhumane.

The June decision by a court in Cologne applies only in that jurisdiction, not in any of the German states in which U.S. military clinics are located, said Ed Rohan, a spokesman for Europe Regional Medical Command.

“If another jurisdiction in which we have military treatment facilities were to pick up the same legal reasoning, there is a possibility that it would apply to health care providers” there, he said.

“At this point they will continue to perform circumcisions, but our legal experts will continue to follow this issue and provide advice based on any other court or legislative actions,” Rohan said.

U.S. facilities may be among the few places now in Germany to do the procedure that removes some or all of the foreskin from the penis. After the June court ruling, the head of Germany’s medical association said he was advising colleagues throughout the country against performing circumcisions to avoid any risk of criminal prosecution.

Even before the ruling, however, many German pediatricians would not perform them.

“For example, in Heidelberg, all circumcisions (on Americans) are performed in the Army Health Clinic. But in Stuttgart, about half were performed by host nation providers in the local community,” Rohan said.

Rohan agreed that the ruling had muddied the legal waters surrounding the procedure, which has never been embraced in Europe, but since the 1900s had been done on the majority of U.S. male babies.

Teams of U.S. and German lawyers had been discussing the implications of the court ruling, Rohan said, and had “reached varying conclusions as to its impact” on U.S. military facilities, he said. “The general consensus, however, is that we will not see a wave of prosecutions based upon this singular and narrowly applied interpretation of law.”


It’s not the first time circumcision has been subject to restrictions in Europe.

In 2001, Sweden passed a law allowing only people certified by the National Board of Health to circumcise infants. Swedish Jews and Muslims objected to the law and the World Jewish Congress called it “the first legal restriction on Jewish religious practice in Europe since the Nazi era.”

In 2006, a Finnish court ruled the circumcision of a 4-year-old boy to be an illegal assault, but in October 2008 the Finnish Supreme Court ruled that the circumcision, “carried out for religious and social reasons and in a medical manner,” was not criminal.

The swiftness of the German parliament’s response seeking a law allowing circumcision is attributed to the sensitivity surrounding Germany’s Nazi past.

Circumcision rates vary throughout the world. The U.S. has had one of the highest rates: The conventional view was that a foreskin-free penis was healthier and cleaner. But the procedure became increasingly controversial, with some arguing that it was a sort of mutilation that conferred few benefits and caused harm, such as pain to the baby and later decreased penile sensitivity.


Rohan said circumcision rates in the U.S. were falling, from some 63 percent in 1999 to 54.5 percent in 2009. The German circumcision rate is about 20 percent, he said. [That sounds improbably high.]

In 2011, 518 boys were born at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, officials there said, and 145 of them were circumcised [only 28% - much lower than in the US] shortly after birth, which is when doctors say it is least traumatic [- contrary to the evidence].


Earlier story


the Observer (Uganda)
July 22, 2012

Circumcision not enough to curb HIV - Museveni

By Wilber Muhwezi

President Yoweri Museveni has said it is not enough to promote circumcision as an effective strategy in fighting HIV/AIDS, without continued emphasis on behaviour change.

Campaigns aimed at reducing infection levels, he says, ought to concentrate on advocating good behaviour: abstinence for unmarried people and faithfulness among those in wedlock. [and condoms]

“I have witnessed Muslims and other people from tribes that cherish circumcision like the Bagisu, die of Aids. Therefore, who told [health workers and leaders] that circumcision [prevents] HIV [infection]? ” he said.


“[Leaders and health workers] are busy spreading confusion of circumcision, instead of concentrating on behaviour change,” he said.



July 22, 2012

German circumcision row heading for new legal battle

Germany's constitutional court may have the last word on religious circumcision, the justice minister said in remarks to appear Monday, after lawmakers called for a legal framework to protect the practice.

Their resolution on Thursday came after a court in the western city of Cologne sparked nationwide debate by ruling last month to criminalise the practice - observed by both Muslims and Jews on religious grounds - deeming it tantamount to grievous bodily harm.

"It's more complicated than adding a simple little phrase somewhere," Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the weekly Der Spiegel.

"I wouldn't be surprised after this emotional debate if the law landed before the German constitutional court," said the minister, who belongs to the liberal Free Democratic Party, part of the government coalition.

MPs of the lower house Bundestag adopted a cross-party motion Thursday calling for legislation by this autumn that would guarantee the right to religious circumcision as long as it does not entail "unnecessary suffering."

Two opposition lawmakers who spoke to the Sunday weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung voiced scepticism that legislation could be hammered out so quickly.

Social Democrat Marlene Rupprecht, a children's advocate, said more than half of the party's parliamentary group thought the resolution was hasty.

Her counterpart for the Greens, Katja Doerner, said many in her party agreed.


In an interview with the weekly Focus to appear on Monday, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, said the debate had "nothing to do" with anti-Semitism.

But he said he was surprised at the apparent ignorance of many Germans about religious rites, while hailing the Bundestag resolution.


Earlier story


Where male cutting is not common, anti-female-cutting organisations Get It:

With (he)art against FGM (Pressemeldung)
20, Juli 2012

Nein zur Straffreiheit bei Beschneidung im Kindesalter!

Mit ‚großer Sorge" beobachtet die private Kampagne With (he)art against FGM, in der sich Künstler, Musiker und Autoren zusammengeschlossen haben, die aktuelle Diskussion um die Straffreiheit von Beschneidungen. Isabel Henriques, Initiatorin des Projekts, sagt: „Wenn Jungen mit gesetzlicher Erlaubnis rituell beschnitten werden dürfen – warum dann nicht auch Mädchen?" Das, so Henriques, würde alle Bemühungen um ein Ende weiblicher Beschneidung zunichte machen.

Die Kampagne stellt klar, dass sie nicht gegen Religionen und Riten vorgehen will. „Wir respektieren und achten Juden und Muslime, die durch den Gesetzentwurf in die Diskussion geraten sind."

Das geplante Gesetz betrifft in Deutschland nur die Beschneidung von Jungen. Die Kampagne verweist auf die USA. Dort gab es im Jahre 2010 einen riesigen Aufschrei, als die American Academy of Pediatrics (Kinderärzte) auf Verlangen religiöser Kreise eine rituelle Beschneidung (ritual nick) als mögliche Alternative zu einer vollständigen Ablehnung der weibliche Beschneidung vorgeschlagen hat. Damit wollten die Kinderärzte den Mädchen die Eingriffe in ihren Heimatländern ersparen, die dort oft unter katastrophalen hygienischen und medizinischen Bedingungen stattfinden – und nicht selten den Tod des Kindes zur Folge haben. Auf Druck der weltweiten Menschenrechtsorganisationen hat die Academy diese Empfehlung rasch zurückgezogen.

Isabel Henriques dazu: „Wir kritisieren und verurteilen nicht die rituelle Beschneidung, sondern dass diese Beschneidungen an Kinder durchgeführt werden, die noch nicht in der Lage sind, selbst eine bewusste Entscheidung zu treffen oder sich dagegen wehren zu können. In unseren Augen sollte es nach wie vor die Aufgabe der Regierung sein, das Recht auf körperliche Unversehrtheit im Kindesalter zu bewahren, und nicht irgendeinem Druck nachzugeben, egal von welchem Kreis er kommt, oder welche Argumente herangezogen werden."

Die Initiative erinnert daran, dass in Afrika auch Jungen beschnitten würden, unter denselben schlimmen Bedingungen wie Mädchen. Auch böten die Krankenhäuser in der dritten Welt den Kindern oftmals keinen Schutz. Doch selbst in hochmodernen Kliniken in den USA oder Europa seien die Kinder nicht vor medizinischen Schäden oder dem Tod gefeit.Wie der traurige Fall in Köln, der letztendlich diesen Streit ausgelöst hat, deutlich zeigt.

With (he)art against FGM Press Release
July 20, 2012

No to impunity for circumcision in childhood!

"With 'great concern' the private campaign with (he) art against FGM (in which artists, musicians and authors have joined together) has observed the current discussion about the impunity of circumcisions. Isabel Henriques, initiator of the project, says: "If boys may be ritually circumcised with legal permission - then why not girls also?" That, says Henriques, would negate all efforts to end female circumcision.

The campaign makes it clear that it will not take action against religions and rites. "We respect and regard Jews and Muslims, who are advised by the draft law in the discussion."

The proposed Act concerns only the circumcision of boys in Germany. The campaign refers to the United States. There was a huge outcry when the American Academy of Pediatrics, at the request of religious circles, proposed a ritual nick in 2010 as a possible alternative to a complete rejection of female circumcision. Thus, the pediatricians wanted to spare the girls the procedures often held in their own countries - under catastrophic hygienic and medical conditions there, and often resulting in death. Under pressure from global human rights organizations, the Academy rapidly withdrew this recommendation.

Isabel Henriques added: "We do not criticize or condemn ritual circumcision, but carried these restrictions to children who are not able, even to make a conscious decision or [in any way] to defend themselves. In our view it should be the task of the Government to preserve the right to physical integrity of the child, and not to give in to any pressure, no matter what county it comes from nor what arguments will be used."

The initiative pointed out that in Africa boys would also be cut under the same bad conditions as girls. Also the hospitals in the developing world often offer no protection to children. But even in modern clinics in Europe or the United States, the children were not immune against medical damages or death. Clearly shows how the sad case in Cologne, has ultimately triggered this dispute.

Earlier story


July 21, 2012

9 Ivorian women sentenced over genital mutilation

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — An Ivory Coast official says nine women have been sentenced to two years in prison each for involvement in female genital mutilation, marking the first time such a case results in jail time in the West African nation.

Justice ministry official Jean-Luc Molo said Friday courts previously convicted defendants for genital mutilation but pressure from local communities hindered them from imposing prison sentences.

He said the women from the northern town of Katiola were found guilty of carrying out the genital mutilation on a "groups of young girls" over an extended period. He could not provide an exact number of victims or their age.

Female circumcision is banned in Ivory Coast since 1998 but the practice remains widespread. The United Nations say the practice violates fundamental human rights and endangers girls' health.


Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
July 20, 2012

Editorial: Too many young men are dying

The proliferation of illegal initiation schools is a threat not just to cultural practices or even young men's lives, but to public health in general.

Judging by the number of deaths – approaching 50 this year – and hospitalisations, it is clear that the cultural practice of initiation in the Eastern Cape is under severe threat from its commodification, which has resulted in the proliferation of illegal schools. At risk are not just lives, or cultural practices, but potentially important public health gains.


But the health department and institutions of traditional leadership need to work together to ensure that initiates are not endangered, and that circumcision is performed in a way that confers its health benefits on initiates.

And both sides need to be held responsible for stopping the needless deaths and mutilation of so many young men.



Europe News
July 20, 2012

Danish parliament: Majority against religious circumcision

"If the Danish parliament would vote on whether religious circumcision of male children should be prohibited, there is strong evidence that such a ban would be enacted. Spokesmen from the three largest parties in Denmark (Liberals, Social Democrats and Danish Peoples' Party) express that they and their parties are skeptical about the current practice where Jewish and Muslim boys may lawfully be circumcised, if there is a doctor present when surgery is performed.


'It will be difficult to find a doctor who will claim that it is a risk free procedure. ... Based on the fact that it can cause medical complications, I think it is a procedure that should only be made when the person is adult and can decide himself,' says Sophie Løhde (Liberals). ...

The Danish Council of Ethics and the Danish Children's Council has recommended a ban. Also the two parties Green Alliance and Liberal Alliance has declared themselves in favor of a ban."


Der Spiegel
July 20, 2012

Support for Religious Traditions

Politicians Welcome German Circumcision Motion

Germany's parliament approved a resolution on Thursday that called on Berlin to create legislation that would ensure that circumcision of boys remain legal in the country. The move is intended to quiet international outrage over a recent German court ruling that criminalizes the tradition.


The co-head of Germany's opposition Green Party also supported the measure. "A circumcision ban would disregard and ostracize long cultural and religious traditions that are part of Jewish and Muslim life," said Claudia Roth, who called for expedited legislation ensuring that circumcision remains legal.

Child Rights Groups Oppose Quick Law
But not all were pleased by the decision, including the Federation of German Criminal Police (BDK). "Our constitution cannot be limited by a simple law, as parliament is currently trying to do in panic," BDK chief André Schulz told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. "The freedom of parents to practice religion will nevertheless be limited by a child's more important right to physical integrity."

Meanwhile, a group of child-protective organizations has also issued a petition calling for a two-year delay on any new law on circumcision so that the issue could be debated more intensely by experts. The groups include the BDK as well as Deutsche Kinderhilfe (German Children's Aid) and the German Association of Physicians in Child and Adolescent Medicine. In the petition, they warn that a working group should be created before taking any legal steps that could permit the "serious and irreparable intrusion on the physical integrity of a child." The petition claims that complications arise in 10 percent of circumcision cases.

In Germany, public opinion is mixed over circumcision. A survey conducted this week by pollster YouGov for the German news agency DPA found that 45 percent of Germans support a ban on circumcision of boys, whereas 42 percent were opposed to it and 13 percent undecided. Fifty-five percent said they did not believe a national ban on circumcision would damage Germany's image abroad, compared to 33 percent who thought it would.

Earlier story


the Australian
July 21, 2012

Some Swiss hospitals follow German circumcision ruling

A GERMAN court ruling that branded circumcision as grievous bodily harm has created waves in Switzerland where a second hospital announced a possible halt to the procedure.

The announcement, by St Gall hospital in the country's northeast, follows a decision on Thursday by the Zurich children's hospital to temporarily suspend the operation, media reported.

"We are in the process of evaluating the legal and ethical stance in Switzerland," Marco Stuecheli, spokesman for the Zurich hospital, told AFP.

"There can be complicated cases where the mother of a child wants a circumcision but the father is opposed to it."

The development is unlikely to affect the practice in Switzerland, where it can be carried out in any hospital for a fee, the spokesman added.

"Most Jewish patients go to specialist doctors known within their community," the spokesman said, adding that the hospital carried out "only one or two circumcisions for religious reasons per month".

A senior executive at the St Gall teaching hospital said a decision would be taken after the summer holidays, Beobachter magazine reported.

In French-speaking Switzerland, a spokesman for Lausanne's university hospital expressed surprise at the level of debate surrounding the issue.

The hospital carried out the operation because it was important that it took place "in the best medical conditions possible", said a spokesman.

The Swiss reaction follows a June ruling by a court in the German city of Cologne ...


Earlier story


So it doesn't work on men? Do it to babies!

New Zimbabwe
July 19, 2012

Newly-born babies to be circumcised

By Phyllis Mbanje

ZIMBABWE is planning to expand its circumcision campaign to include newly-born babies as part of the country’s fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS, a senior health ministry official has confirmed.

The ministry’s AIDS and TB unit co-ordinator, Getrude Ncube, said a pilot project targeting babies between one and 28 days old would be launched before year end with the full programme likely to be rolled out in 2014.

"The project will start in Harare and Bulawayo," Ncube said adding that, gradually, all maternity sites across the country would be circumcising newly born babies by 2014.

[No mention of parental consent.]

"Although circumcising neonates will not have an immediate an impact, results will show in 20 years’ time. Our sole aim is to try and reduce new HIV infections."


Circumcised men are said to be 60 per cent less likely to get infected with HIV but the latest Zimbabwe Demographic Survey indicated that the prevalence rate among circumcised men was higher than that of those who were uncircumcised.

[And so did the 2005 one, before the circumcision campagin began.]


Women are now looking for men who are circumcised and they do not want to use condoms. We do not want to create false hope.”



Is anyone surprised?

VOA News
July 19, 2012

Ugandan Circumcision Campaign Goes Awry

July 19, 2012

MBALE, Uganda – Uganda’s national campaign to help reduce HIV/AIDS transmission through male circumcision has taken an unexpected turn in eastern Uganda, where Bamasaba tribesmen forcibly circumcised more than 20 men in recent weeks.

Traditional male circumcision is an important cultural tradition for the eastern Ugandan ethnic group, for which the procedure represents entry into manhood. Every other year, the tribe holds a ritual circumcision ceremony called Imbalu. Although the decision to be circumcised is supposed to be voluntary, men have consistently been pressured to participate. Now that pressure has spread beyond the tribe.

Seeking work, Charles Mukwana arrived in Mbale, a town in the heart of Bamasaba lands, from a neighboring region. It was after he started driving a motorcycle taxi that he overheard other drivers at the staging area talking about forcibly circumcising the transplant.

“I feared, because they were bothering me," he says. "I heard them talking about me when they wanted to force me. They were asking me why I’m staying here and I’m not circumcised in their land."

Mukwana avoided forced circumcision by voluntarily undergoing an operation at a local health facility, but others weren't so lucky. [Lucky? That's lucky?] For several days at the end of May and beginning of June, local officials say more than 20 men were forcibly circumcised, a half-dozen of whom were hospitalized. Many of those targeted were outsiders like Mukwana, who had come to Mbale in search of work.

Officials say dozens of people have since fled Mbale, and several businesses owned by non-Bamasaba remain shuttered more than a month later.

John Martin Okware, another motorcycle taxi driver, was part of a group that encouraged four men to undergo circumcisions. There was no specific intention to drive outsiders away, he says, but only to reduce their risk of getting infected or transmitting HIV.

"We were taking them to circumcise, because they get HIV very fast," he says. "A person who is not circumcised, he gets HIV very fast. The person who [is] already circumcised, he cannot get that disease immediately at that time."

Attacks Coincide With Campaign
In Uganda, where more than 75 percent of the population is uncircumcised, the Ministry of Health has been encouraging men to undergo the procedure. Research has shown circumcision can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by up to 60 percent, and the attacks come amid an ongoing national campaign for safe male circumcision.

Since the campaign launched, the Bamasaba have been praised for already practicing circumcision, although the region’s HIV infection rate is only slightly less than the national average of 7.3 percent. By forcing men to get circumcised, Okware says, he is doing his part to reduce HIV transmission and uphold tribal tradition.

But Charles Siango would disagree. As Bamasaba minister of culture, heritage and sports, he says forced circumcisions do not represent the tribal culture. Circumcision, he says, has always been a decision men make voluntarily in consultation with their family and that uncircumcised outsiders are welcome.

“We quickly went to radio and told people concerned -- circumcisers, those surgeons, the rest of them -- to stop, because that’s not the way our cultural things should be taken," he says.

But recent attacks still raise questions about the ritual practice of Imbalu, during which, Siango says, trained professionals perform the circumcisions, albeit in an area outside of town and away from medical facilities.

Local officials says they are working with the Bamasaba to make next month’s Imbalu as medically sound as possible, and district health educator Deborah Alupo recommends seeking circumcision at a health facility, even if the advice contradicts cultural norms.

“You have to undergo that process," she says. "But if you go to hospital and it is done there, they say you’re a coward ... [that] the way the hospital cuts is not [in keeping with the] cultural way.”

She hopes expansion of safe male-circumcision facilities, a part of the government’s health campaign, might help to change attitudes.

Earlier story


Reuters, Jerusalem Post
July 19, 2012

German parliament defends circumcision after ban

Resolution to protect religious circumcision passes first hurdle in German parliament, decision would overrule Cologne court.

Germany's lower house of parliament passed a resolution on Thursday to protect the religious circumcision of infant boys after a district court ban on the practice outraged Muslims and Jews and sparked an emotional debate in the country.

The main political parties have criticized the ruling by a Cologne court and Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has promised a new law to make clear doctors or families will not be punished for carrying out the procedure.

The speed with which lawmakers agreed on the terms of the motion underscored sensitivity to charges of intolerance in a country haunted by its Nazi past.

The resolution, jointly filed by Merkel's conservatives, their liberal coalition ally (FDP) and the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), demanded that "the government present a draft law in the autumn ... that guarantees that the circumcision of boys, carried out with medical expertise and without unnecessary pain, is permitted".

The new law would overrule the Cologne court decision.

Lawmakers noted in the resolution that the court ruling had deeply unsettled Muslims and Jews in Germany, as they feared the practice would now be outlawed, while doctors were alarmed at the threat of prosecution if they performed operations.


An overwhelming majority of lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution, although the small opposition Left party opposed it, suggesting that infant boys could have a "symbolic circumcision" then undergo the actual operation when older.


The bill was rushed through in the same sitting as a vote on aid to Spain for which lawmakers were recalled from their holidays. [And are those events unconnected? Merkel's panic seems disproportionate to the number of people actually affected by an age-restriction.]

July 19, 2012

Germany's parliament endorses resolution supporting circumcision right

Though it has no legal status, resolution aimed at calming outcry against court's verdict banning circumcision of a minor; government to draft legislation later this year.

Germany's parliament passed a resolution Thursday endorsing the right of Muslim and Jewish parents to have sons circumcised.

The resolution, passed by a large majority on a show of hands, has no binding legal effect.


The government is expected to draft legislation later this year to protect doctors performing male circumcisions from prosecution.

Although Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that prohibiting the religious practice would make Germany a laughing stock, surveys show large numbers of Germans are hostile to circumcision and want it outlawed.

Christine Lambrecht, a Social Democratic legislator, said many Germans had written to her charging that a legal exemption for Jews and Muslims would also permit a practice in some African and Middle Eastern nations known as female circumcision.

"Genital mutilation has nothing to do with the circumcision of boys," she said. "That is a crime and it will stay that way."

The Left Party opposed infant circumcision on the grounds that a baby cannot consent. One of its legislators, Jens Petermann, told the parliament: "A decision by the parents cannot prevail over the consent of the child himself."

A survey by the YouGov polling company for dpa found 45 percent of Germans want circumcision to be outlawed, 42 percent want it kept legal and 13 percent had no opinion.

Some 55 percent said they did not believe a legal ban on circumcision would lead hostility to Germany abroad. The circumcision of boys for non-religious reasons is rare in Germany.

The parliamentary resolution was jointly drafted by legislators from Merkel's coalition and opposition Social Democrats and Greens.

"The Bundestag urges the government to propose a bill in autumn 2012 which, taking account of the constitutional values of child welfare, physical freedom from injury, religious freedom and parents' upbringing rights, ensures that the medically competent circumcision of boys without unnecessary pain remains basically permissible," it said.

Earlier story


Business Week
July 18, 2012

Germany to Pass Law on Circumcision to Counter Judges' Ruling

By Patrick Donahue

German legislators will pass a law this year permitting the circumcision of boys in response to global protests by religious groups reacting to a district court ruling that the practice amounts to bodily harm.

Social Democrat Burkhard Lischka, who sits on parliament’s legal-affairs committee, said his opposition party and the environmental Greens reached agreement with the governing coalition to seek draft legislation, probably by October. He said a “broad majority” will approve a resolution in the lower house, or Bundestag, tomorrow.

[Maybe the Japanese should just tell the Greens that killing whales is part of their religion....]

“You have two world religions that view the circumcision of boys as a constitutive path to join a community of faith,” Lischka said today in a phone interview in Berlin.

[If it's to join a community of faith it can wait until the person is old enough to have a faith.]

Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations this month decried a May 7 Cologne court decision that circumcising boys constitutes battery even if parents consent to it, creating legal uncertainty and the prospect that doctors could be committing a crime by performing the procedure. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned party colleagues this week that Germany risks being branded a “nation of buffoons” if it becomes the only country to prohibit the practice, Bild newspaper reported.

Lischka said the legal situation was “somewhat complicated” by balancing the constitutional right of bodily integrity with freedom of religion. The resolution language will permit circumcision of boys by a trained professional in situations that avoid inflicting “unnecessary pain.”

Justice Ministry spokeswoman Mareke Aden said today that a draft law is planned by the fall and that the issue “can’t be pushed off” amid global scrutiny.

Vacations Interrupted
Bundestag lawmakers are interrupting their vacations to attend an emergency session tomorrow to approve as much as 100 billion euros ($123 billion) in bailout aid for Spain. The legislative process on circumcision will probably begin in late September after parliament reconvenes on Sept. 10.

European rabbis held a three-day emergency meeting last week ...


Earlier story


the Foreigner
July 3, 2012

Norway minister discounts anti-circumcision move

By Michael Sandelson

Norwegian Ministry officials sent a legal proposal to allow ritual neo-natal circumcisions at hospitals out for hearing in May 2011 aimed at preventing the practise going underground. The issue of permitting this is to be discussed in Parliament after the summer recess.

Child Ombudsman Reidar Hjermann has also argued for the imposing of a minimum age requirement of 15.

Whilst tri-partite coalition member the Centre Party (Sp) has officially vetoed the multi thousand-year tradition, the minister told VG, “We’d be the only country in the world to forbid ritual circumcision if we moved for this. I cannot, therefore, think that this will apply.”

[Where have we heard that before? How many countries "can't go first" before one can?]

A Cologne District Court Judge recently ruled ...


Meanwhile, Norwegian Health Ministry advisor Tord Dale explained that the government proposes that a Mohel performs the procedure in hospital supervised by medical staff, with strict hygiene, and pain relief requirements, before the child travels home following birth.

Muslim male circumcisions have no fixed age and are carried out according to familial, regional, and national traditions. Jews circumcise male children on the eight day to recall their covenant with God.

“The most important is that it is carried out in a safe way. A Mohel performs far more of these than most Norwegian doctors do,” said Tord Dale.

[But there is no evidence that ritual circumcision is any safer than other kinds.]


Deutche Welle
July 17, 2012

'Wait until later,' say pediatricians

By Dagmar Breitenbach and Joanna Impey

Children have to be old enough to give their consent to a religious circumcision, says leading pediatrician Maximilian Stehr. But the law does not need to be changed.

Maximilian Stehr is a pediatric surgeon at the University Hospital in Munich and chair of the working group on pediatric urology at the Germany Association for Pediatric Surgery.

DW: What has been the effect as far as pediatricians are concerned of the ruling by the court in Cologne regarding the religious circumcision of boys who are not yet able to give informed consent?

Maximilian Stehr: To start with, one should note that this ruling has not changed the law, it has merely interpreted existing law and applied it. There has of course been an effect on colleagues working in the field of pediatric surgery and urology in that the ruling has led to a public discussion, and, should similar charges be brought against a doctor in future, it will not be possible to argue [as in this case] that the doctor could not be expected to know that his actions were illegal. I know of many doctors who are currently not carrying out any circumcisions of boys who are not able to give informed consent.

What is your advice to doctors who ask whether they should carry out this operation?

I've always given the same advice, even before this ruling. I've always held the view that this medical intervention cannot be regarded as conforming to current law or current medical ethics. And so I continue to advise doctors not to carry out this operation; instead, if religiously-motivated circumcision is to be carried out, it should only be carried out at an age when the child or the young person is able to permit it himself or at least consent to it.

Would you see the issue of the inability of the child to give its consent as a bigger issue than that of the child's physical integrity?

I don't think you can separate the two. Physical integrity is certainly the highest value. That goes without question. There are certainly medical conditions and situations in which people want to decide for themselves that they would like to change something about their body. That is standard procedure in cosmetic surgery - it's the same in pediatric surgery, for example, when we correct protruding ears. For that, the child has to be able to judge for itself the seriousness of the operation, as well as its risks and side-effects, and that is only possible when the child is 14 or 16 years old.

How far is this an issue of medical ethics?

Medical ethics is very closely related to the Hippocratic Oath. All our actions as doctors must work towards healing and towards the benefit of the patient to the best of our knowledge and conscience. A further principle is never to cause any harm. Both these principles are imperiled when one carries out the circumcision of a boy who is unable to give consent.

That means it's an unnecessary operation?

It is an unnecessary operation. All the benefits which are said to come from circumcision, some of which are certainly valid - for example, concerning sexual infections or penile cancer or the development of tumors - are all reasons which argue for circumcision as a possible preventative measure - but not at this age.

The German government wants to find a speedy solution to the problem, and it has hinted that it plans to introduce a law which will continue to permit religious circumcision. Would you consider that any solution must include restrictions as to age?

I don't see any reason to pass a new law - one just has to apply existing law and existing medical ethics. There's no need for anything else. Then you come to the situation we have at the moment, that, if one wants to carry out such an operation which has no medical justification, it requires the consent of the patient. I would find extremely dangerous if there were to be a special law to permit such an operation to be carried out on, for example, Jewish children. That would go entirely against the principle of equal treatment. One could then certainly argue that this in itself would be discrimination.

Currently, though, it's the case that the parents can decide, since they have legal custody.

The legal custody of the parents only allows decisions which are clearly for the benefit of the child. That's why I consider this medical intervention to be illegal. It can only be dealt with if the religious communities can agree that the operation can be delayed until the child is old enough to decide for itself or to give its consent. There has to be a compromise, but I don't see any compromise possible which involves special laws for specific religious communities or other groups. That would go against the principle of equal treatment and would backfire in the end.

Earlier story


Cross-party support forms in Germany to cut babies' genitals - boys only

Europe Online magazine
July 17, 2012

Cross-party support forms in Germany to back circumcision

By Jean-Baptiste Piggin, Axel Hofmann

Berlin (dpa) - Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s supporters and the main opposition parties are in behind-the-scenes talks to endorse the Muslim and Jewish practice of circumcising boys, insiders said Tuesday.

They are jointly drafting a resolution to be passed on Thursday by the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, asking the government to overrule a court which ruled last month that circumcision is a form of assault.

There has been an international outcry over the trial of a Muslim doctor, who was let off but told that his circumcision of a young boy had been a crime because the child was too young to give consent.

Merkel‘s government has already said it will introduce legislation that explicitly allows circumcision, but this may take months. The urgent parliamentary resolution is seen as necessary to calm Jewish and Muslim anger on the issue.

Legislators said Merkel‘s Christian Democrats, the Christian Social Union and the Free Democrats (FDP), as well as opposition Social Democrats and Greens, were helping draft the broad resolution.

"Parliament has to do its bit to ensure that the religious beliefs of Muslims and Jews are respected," said Joerg van Essen, the FDP parliamentary whip. "The row shows we have to settle the law as quickly as possible."

Sources said all the parties agreed it was permissible to circumcise boys if the operation was done to a high standard. The resolution would at the same time condemn female circumcision. [Thus it will break the Basic Law 3.2 "Men and women shall have equal rights."] Other details had still to be negotiated.

While some commentators have supported the court ruling, Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germany would be a laughing-stock if it became the sole country in the world to ban the practice. [So other countries should ban - or rather, age-restrict - the practice, Dumkopff!]

July 17, 2012

... But the court ruling has drawn support from some, including Britain's Secular Medical Forum which has written to Merkel urging her to resist pressure to make non-consensual circumcision lawful.


"We are shocked that religious groups deny the harm (caused by circumcision) and at the distorted and disingenuous claims made by those opposing the court's decision, wrongly suggesting that it is an indication of anti-Semitism," the chairman of the Secular Medical Forum, Dr. Antony Lempert, said in the letter.

"We urge you not to let such emotional blackmail persuade you to change the law or criticise the court's decision. As it stands, the court's decision ensures that today's children will be free to grow up to make their own decisions," it said.

Echoing such comments, Ronald Goldman, head of the U.S.-based Jewish Circumcision Resource Centre which opposes the practice, cited studies he said show that circumcision causes considerable pain and trauma.

"The majority of the world does not circumcise because of an instinctive awareness of the harm, analogous to cutting off any other healthy body part," it said in a statement entitled "The German Circumcision Ruling: What about the harm to the child?"

The German court ruling applies only to the city of Cologne and its environs - home to a large Muslim minority - but Jewish and Muslim groups fear it could set a precedent and the ban could spread to other parts of Germany.

German doctors have also urged politicians to act to clarify the legal situation, fearing the ruling may force circumcisions underground and increase health risks for young boys.

[This has never been offered as a reason to allow any female genital cutting - except briefly and abortively by a committee of the AAP in 2010 - though the health risks to them from backstreet FGC are much greater.]


Earlier story


July 16, 2012

HIV-prevention drug Truvada approved by US

US health regulators have for the first time approved a drug to prevent HIV infection.

Truvada can be used by those at high risk of infection and anyone who may engage in sexual activity with HIV-infected partners, said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Studies showed the drug reduced the risk of contracting HIV by up to 73%.

[But unlike circumcision, it will work for women and men who have sex with men.]

Some health workers and groups active in the HIV community opposed a green light for the once-daily pill.

There have been concerns the circulation of such a drug could engender a false sense of security and mean people will take more risks. There have also been fears that a drug-resistant strain of HIV could develop.

In a statement, the FDA stressed that the drug should be used as part of a "comprehensive HIV prevention plan", including condom use and regular HIV testing.

In May, an advisory group of health experts recommended approval for the pill.


Studies from 2010 showed that Truvada reduced the risk of HIV in healthy gay men - and among HIV-negative heterosexual partners of HIV-positive people - by between 44% and 73%.

Michael Barton of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said there was good trial evidence that the drug could significantly cut the risk of the infection being passed on, but only if the tablets are taken consistently.


But he said the new drug might be useful in situations where, for example, a woman has a partner with HIV who is unwilling to take antiretrovirals or use condoms.



July 14, 2012

Penis war „uneben" und „zerfressen"

Vierjähriges Kind musste nach Beschneidung in die Notaufnahme

Der Fall des beschnittenen vierjährigen Jungen, der die Debatte über die Rechtslage für religiös begründete Beschneidungen ausgelöst hat, war medizinisch offenbar brisanter als bisher bekannt. Nun wurden Details aus einem Arztbrief bekannt.

Der Vierjährige sei zwei Tage nach seiner Beschneidung mit Nachblutungen in eine Kindernotaufnahme eingeliefert worden. Das berichtet die „Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung“ und beruft sich auf einen Arztbrief über die dann erfolgte Behandlung. Daraus gehe hervor, dass eine „urologisch-chirurgische Revision“ der Beschneidung „in Vollnarkose“ erfolgte.

Nach dem neuerlichen chirurgischen Eingriff sei der Junge für mehrere Tage auf eine Kinderstation gekommen, heißt es in dem Bericht weiter. Drei Verbandswechsel hätten „in Narkose“ stattgefunden. In dem Arztbrief stehe außerdem, dass die freiliegende Penisoberfläche und die Eichel „uneben, zerfressen und fibrinös belegt“ gewesen seien. Der Junge sei insgesamt zehn Tage in klinischer Behandlung gewesen.

Beschneidung wurde „nach den Regeln der ärztlichen Kunst durchgeführt“
Die medizinischen Details seien dem Kölner Landgericht bekannt gewesen, bislang aber nicht der Öffentlichkeit, heißt es in der „FAS“. Ein Gutachter, der vom Landgericht Köln beauftragt worden war, habe dem Arzt, der die Beschneidung vornahm, bescheinigt, dass der Eingriff „nach den Regeln der ärztlichen Kunst durchgeführt“ worden sei. Die Nachblutungen, so der Gutachter, seien mögliche Komplikationen nach Beschneidungen.


July 14, 2012

Penis was "uneven" and "worn"

Four-year-old child had to go to Emergency Room after circumcision

The case of the circumcised four-year boy who has triggered the debate on the legal situation of circumcision for religious reasons was apparently more explosive medically than previously known. Now details have become known from a doctor's letter.

The four-year-old was admitted to a children's emergency room two days after his circumcision with bleeding. So reports the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday" newspaper, citing a doctor's letter about the treatment that was then carried out. Apparently a "urological surgical revision" of the circumcision "under general anesthesia" followed.

After the surgical intervention the boy spent several days in a children's ward, it says in the report. Three dressing changes had taken place "under anesthesia". In the doctor's letter also states that the exposed surface and the glans penis was "uneven, eroded, and fibrinous occupied". The boy was ten days in clinical treatment.

Circumcision was "conducted under the rules of medical science"
The Cologne district court was aware the medical details, but they were not yet public, says the "FAS". One reviewer, who had been commissioned by the Cologne Regional Court had attested to the physician who performed the circumcision, that the intervention had been " carried out "in accordance with the rules of medical science. Bleeding, according to the experts, is a possible complication after circumcisions.


Earlier story


Right, but for the wrong reason ...

the Times (Swaziland)
July 16, 2012

Preacher attacks circumcision programme


LUDZELUDZE – Preachers had to be called to order at the vigil of Dr Zonke Amos Khumalo after one of them used the platform to attack the circumcision programme called Soka Uncobe. ["Circumcise and conquer"]

A preacher identified as Majahonke Tshabalala said the campaign to encourage men to circumcise was misleading people as they now thought that when one was circumcised he had conquered death.

He said this was misleading as there was nowhere in the Bible where it states that one can conquer death through circumcision.

The man of the cloth told mourners that for a person to conquer death they must accept Jesus Christ as their saviour and forget about circumcision.

He also came hard on people being instructed to go public after they were circumcised. Tshabalala shocked mourners when he claimed that Jesus Christ yelled once ...


The only ones laughing will be happy babies!

Arab News (AFP)
July 16, 2012

Circumcision ban could make Germany 'laughing stock': Merkel

BERLIN: Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told her party the country risked becoming a “laughing stock” over a court ruling calling religious circumcision a criminal act, according to a report Monday.

The mass-circulation daily Bild said in an article to be published Tuesday that Merkel warned the board of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that Germany must restore legal protection for circumcision.

“I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world in which Jews cannot practise their rites,” Bild quoted Merkel as saying, citing several CDU members who attended the meeting.

“Otherwise we would make ourselves a laughing stock among nations.”

Merkel’s center-right government has pledged to take quick action to protect the right of Jews and Muslims to circumcize baby boys on religious grounds, and voiced concern about the ruling by the court in Cologne published in June.

The court said the removal of the foreskin for religious reasons amounted to grievous bodily harm and was therefore illegal, in a judgment that prompted an outcry at home and abroad. Diplomats admit that the ruling has proved “disastrous” to Germany’s international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past, following uproar from religious and political leaders in Israel as well as Muslim countries.

Earlier story


Berlin to Deny Protection from Ritual Circumcision

the Wall Street Journal
July 13, 2012

Berlin to Protect Right to Ritual Circumcision

By Vanessa Fuhrmans

BERLIN-Germany's government pledged Friday to pass a law to protect the ritual circumcision of young boys, seeking to calm a fractious debate over the religious rights of the country's Jews and Muslims that has erupted since a German court ruled the practice amounted to illegal bodily harm.


The German Medical Association earlier this week said the decision poses a legal quagmire for doctors and advised them not to perform such operations because of the risks of being prosecuted. The court ruling "isn't about banning religious rights," he said. "It's about delaying a religious act to ensure that children's rights are also protected."

Its president, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, warned the court's decision also could threaten children's health. One hospital that already has stopped performing religious circumcisions is the 250-year-old Jewish Hospital of Berlin. Last year, it performed roughly 300 circumcisions, on Muslim and Jewish boys. Since the Cologne court's ruling, though, the hospital said it has had to cancel five planned procedures.

"There is now the danger that laypeople will carry out the procedure instead, and that that will lead to considerable complications from the often unhygienic conditions alone," Dr. Montgomery said.

Holm Putzke, a German law professor from the University of Passau whose writings have played an influential role in Germany's legal debate over ritual circumcision, however, called the government's plans for legislation a "hasty reaction" that risked running afoul of Germany's constitution. Protecting the bodily harm of a child as a religious act opened the door to sanctioning other, more controversial practices under the guise of religious freedom he said.

[Indeed, how can Germany uphold

  • cutting of male babies
  • NO cutting of female babies
  • AND equality of the sexes?]


Grundgesetz / Basic Law:

Article 1
[Human dignity]
  1. Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
  2. The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.
  3. The following basic rights shall bind the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary as directly applicable law.
Article 2
[Personal freedoms]
  1. Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law.
  2. Every person shall have the right to life and physical integrity. Freedom of the person shall be inviolable. These rights may be interfered with only pursuant to a law.
Article 3
[Equality before the law]
  1. All persons shall be equal before the law.
  2. Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.
  3. No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

Earlier story


Ending Unnecessary Circumcision in the UK
July 14, 2012

Birmingham Hospital Bosses Stay Silent As Botched Circumcisions Put 100 Boys In A&E

By Glen Poole

Two boys a week are being admitted to the Emergency Department in Birmingham Children’s Hospital and one boy [a] month comes close to death as a result of male circumcision.

The startling information was uncovered by a Freedom Of Information request which also revealed that Hospital bosses are remaining silent on the issue.

Rob Checketts, Director of Communications at Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has confirmed that the hospital conducted an audit of 105 boys admitted to the Emergency Department with circumcision related complications in 2009. He said the audit has been sent to commissioners at Birmingham & Solihull NHS Cluster but that the commissioners had not replied.

He said the audit was produced because the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Emergency Department wanted to investigate if the appropriate aftercare was being provided to the high volume of boys being admitted with circumcision-related complications.

Mr Checketts also confirmed that in 2011, 11 baby boys aged 0-1 years old were admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit with life-threatening complications directly caused by circumcision.

The circumcision complications they were treated for included life threatening haemorrhage, shock and sepsis (which is the body’s immune system overacting to an infection)


Can you buy the law in Germany?


„Ich liebe meine Vorhaut"

New Yorker demonstrieren für deutsches Urteil zu Beschneidung

July 13, 2012

"I love my foreskin"

New Yorkers demonstrate in support of German ruling on circumcision

NY Demo FOR German age-restriction


Die Befürworter des Kölner Beschneidungs-Urteils um Jonathan Friedman (Mitte) demonstrieren vor dem deutschen Generalkonsulat in New York. Auf Friedmans T-Shirt steht der Aufdruck „I love my foreskin” („Ich liebe meine Vorhaut”)

Nach heftiger Kritik aus dem Ausland gibt es jetzt auch Unterstützung für das Kölner Gerichtsurteil zur Beschneidung von Jungen.

Ein Häufchen jüdischer Demonstranten baute sich am Freitag vor dem deutschen Generalkonsulat in New York auf – um für das Urteil zu protestieren.

Protestinitiator Jonathan Friedman sagte: „Wir sind für eine Genitalautonomie.“ Er trug ein T-Shirt mit dem Aufdruck „I love my foreskin” („Ich liebe meine Vorhaut”). [Nein, nur "Ich liebe Vorhaut" - er ist beschnitten]

„Eine Beschneidung ist ein erheblicher Eingriff. Der wird millionenfach bei kleinen Kindern vorgenommen, die sich nicht wehren können, aber ihr ganzes Leben davon beeinflusst werden.“ Seine Gruppe habe gut 30 Mitglieder, sagte Friedman.

Laut „Financial Times Deutschland“ bereiten jüdische Organisationen eine Kampagne gegen das Urteil vor. Das Geld kommt aus Europa, USA und Israel und soll die notwendigen Lobbyisten und Anwälte finanzieren.

Spender sollen bereits Millionen in einen Fonds eingezahlt haben, darunter der Multimillionär Edi Gast. Er allein soll laut FTD 10 Millionen Euro gegeben haben.

Proponents of the Cologne circumcision ruling flanking Jonathan Friedman (center) demonstrate in front of the German General Consulate in New York. Friedman's T-shirt bears the inscription "I love [my] foreskin"

After heavy criticism from abroad, there now appears to be support for the Cologne court ruling on the circumcision of boys.

A small bunch of Jewish demonstrators assembled on Friday in front of the German General Consulate in New York - to protest in favor of the verdict.

Protest organizer Jonathan Friedman said. "We support genital autonomy". He was wearing a T-shirt on which were printed the words "I Love [My] Foreskin"

"Circumcision is a significant intervention. It's done to millions of small children who can't defend themselves, but their lives are affected by it." His group has over 30 members, said Friedman.

According to the Financial Times Germany, Jewish organizations are putting together a campaign against the verdict. Money is coming from Europe, the United States and Israel to finance the necessary lobbyists and lawyers.

Donors, among them multimillionaire Edi Gast, are reported to have already contributed millions of Euros to a fund for the campaign. Gast alone is reputed to have given 10 million Euros.

[Europe's prosperity at this moment is well-known....]

Earlier story


Mass. Lawyers Weekly
June 21, 2012

Infant sustains partial amputation during bris

Parents say they suffered severe emotional distress; $700,000 settlement

[So how much will the baby - and the man - get for his emotional distress?]

An 8-day-old baby suffered an amputation of a portion of the ventral glans of his penis at a Jewish brit milah circumcision ceremony, or bris, at a private residence. The plaintiffs maintained that the doctor/mohel was negligent in his performance of the procedure.

The doctor/mohel allegedly failed to re-examine the child between the ceremony and the time that the child left for the hospital....

The child was released from the hospital the following day with a catheter inserted into his penis, only to return to the hospital later that night because the catheter had fallen out. After a lengthy effort to re-insert the catheter, during which time the child screamed in agony, a decision was made to have family members insert a tube into the child’s penis numerous times a day over a 10-day period.

The child suffers from a permanently disfigured penis, hypospadias and remaining foreskin. He has experienced night terrors and may require further surgery for medical and/or cosmetic reasons.

His parents, who claimed to have suffered severe emotional distress, fear the emotional difficulties the child will face as he matures and deals with, among other things, school locker rooms and/or romantic relationships.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel Denies Freedom From Circumcision To Germany's Babies

Huffington Post
July 13, 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Promises Freedom For Circumcision To Germany's Jewish And Muslim Communities

By Stephen Brown

(Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman promised Germany's Jewish and Muslim communities on Friday they would be free to carry out circumcision on young boys despite a court ban which has provoked concerns about religious freedom.

[Not a ban, an age-restriction.]

In a country that is especially sensitive to allegations of intolerance because of the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, the government said it would find a way around the Cologne court ban in June as a matter of urgency.

[German's Basic Law (~Constitution) is strong on human rights precisely because of the Holocaust.]

"For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert. "Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment."


"It is well know that in the Jewish religion early circumcision carries great meaning, so it is a matter of urgency that this right be restored," said Seibert, adding that Merkel's own office would be involved in efforts to resolve the problem.

"We know a quick decision is needed and that this cannot be put off. Freedom of religious practice is a very important legal right for us," he said.

[More important than individuals' rights to undisturbed possession of their genitals?]


Earlier story


Huffington Post
July 12, 2012

Rabbis Urge German Jews To Continue Circumcisions

By David Rising

BERLIN — A German court's decision that ritual circumcision amounts to criminal bodily harm threatens religious freedom in Europe, a group of European Orthodox rabbis said Thursday.

The ruling, handed down last month by a Cologne court, has prompted widespread criticism from Jewish and Muslim groups alike, despite German government attempts to allay fears that it could lead to a national ban on circumcisions.

Despite the government's assurances, the president of the German Medical Association this week recommended that doctors cease performing circumcisions for religious reasons until the law can be clarified.

Following an emergency meeting in the German capital of some 40 rabbis from across Europe to discuss the issue, the head of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, called circumcision "the foundation" of the Jewish faith.

[If that were true there would be something seriously wrong with the Jewish faith. Therefore that cannot be true....]

Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow, said that while the rabbis recognized the ruling does not set a nationwide precedent, it has raised fears among the Jewish community that members could be prosecuted if they circumcise their sons.

Goldschmidt cited France's ban on face-covering Muslim veils and Switzerland's ban on the construction of new minarets for mosques in saying the Cologne decision was part of a wider trend aimed at limiting religious traditions in largely secular Europe.

[No, one was about women's rights, the other abour town planning.]

"I don't think that today there is a quasi-ban of circumcision in Germany, but it is an attack on circumcision – a big attack on circumcision – and I am here because I think that this is not only a problem for Germany but a problem for Europe," Goldschmidt said.

[No, only a problem for those who are determined to cut non-consenting people's genitals.]


In a joint statement from Brussels earlier this week, a group of rabbis, imams and others said that they consider the ruling against circumcision "an affront on our basic religious and human rights."

[There is a human right to cut genitals?]

In its decision, the court said that circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to bodily harm even if parents consent to the procedure.

The ruling came in the case of the circumcision of a 4-year-old Muslim boy that led to medical complications, and both German Jewish and Muslim groups have spoken out against it.


"Circumcision is for us a duty, and the basis for a Jewish child to be a part of the Jewish people," he said. [Women and girls are invisible again....] "Religious freedom is being curtailed, and that is something we cannot accept here in Germany."


"For us the deadline is not tomorrow, but yesterday," Goldschmidt said of possible changes to the law. In the meantime, however, "we say to the Jewish community ... keep performing the brit milah, and have no fear."

[And what became of "Dina de-malkhuta dina" - The law of the land is the law?]


Earlier story


July 14, 2012

Live Chat: The legal and ethical debate over male circumcision

Mogen Clamp

Tools used in circumcision. Is circumcision a violation of the rights of an individual (a baby) who cannot consent, or is it a religious freedom that must be protected? Have your say in our live chat.

[The central instrument is a Mogen Clamp, which has caused three botches so bad the lawsuits drove the Mogen Company out of business in 2010]

Photograph by: Aaron Lynett/National Post

A recent ban by a court in Cologne, Germany on the circumcision of boys for religious reasons has touched off a new debate on the subject. Opponents of the ban say it sets a dangerous precedent for what they feel are attacks on religious freedom. Some who support the ban say male circumcision is as dangerous and barbaric as female circumcision. Complicating matters is the fact that there are doctors on both sides of the issue who say their side is right. What do you think? Is the circumcision of baby boys a violation of personal rights or the upholding of religious freedom? What are the legal ramifications of the recent German ban? To find out more and have your say, join our live chat with Ronald Goldman, executive director of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, Dr. Margaret Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law in Montreal, and Dr. Tanvir Hussain, a cardiologist and adjunct professor of bioethics at the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California. Be a part of the discussion, Friday at 2 p.m. ET.


International Business Times
July 11, 2012

Zimbabwe Forced Circumcision and Kidnap Ordeal: Tribesman Jailed for Six Years

By Ewan Palmer

A Zimbabwean tribesman who kidnapped a 59-year-old villager who was collecting firewood and circumcised him against his will has been jailed for six years.

Masenyani Mandhalele, 29, and nine other Shangaan tribesmen kidnapped John Chakabaya and forced him through the surgical procedure in a makeshift clinic in Chilonga, Shurugwi.

Mandhalele was arrested in June after nearly two years on the run. The other nine suspects are still at large.

Mandhalele pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and indecent assault but was convicted by magistrate Tinashe Ndokera.

Ndokera said: "I understand that the accused is a first offender and a family man, but on the other hand it is difficult to overlook the manner the offences were committed. Both offences were committed in deplorable ways," reported New Zimbabwe

The court heard how Mandhalele and his gang went into the bush where Chakabaya was collecting firewood during their annual circumcision festival.

When he realised who they were, he stopped his chores as a sign of respect for their traditions but despite this the group forced him to a circumcision clinic for the procedure.

[A clinic? Don't they have something to answer for?]

The court heard Chakabaya was left naked for 12 days as punishment for not being a member of the Shangani.

Chakabaya was forced to sit on a rock for two hours every day and was denied medication, decent food and shelter, the court heard.


Herald Sun (Melbourne)
July 12, 2012

Father wants eight-year-old son to be circumcised

By Katie Bice

A MAN considering having his eight-year-old son circumcised has been warned he may face a courtroom fight.

A judge has ordered he give his former partner six weeks' notice of any plan to send the boy for the operation.

The Family Court allowed the mother, 45, liberty to appear again if she wanted a court order to stop it. Justice Ian Loughnan said the mother should be given adequate time to consider her position and intervene with the father or the court.

"Whatever might be said about the practice at birth, it's not an insignificant procedure for an eight-year-old boy," he said.

The judgment did not contain details of why the father, 37, wanted the procedure done. The father came to Australia from Iraq in 1999 before beginning a six-year relationship with the boy's mother. Justice Loughnan said both were loving parents but the mistrust between them made it impossible for them to communicate.

[This is a further precedent for the principle that authorisation by both parents is required.]


The Africa Report
July 11, 2012

Zimbabwe: Concern over high HIV rates among circumcised males

By Janet Shoko

Health officials in Zimbabwe are worried that the massive drive to have 1, 2 million men circumcised by 2015 might backfire following indications that HIV prevalence is high among men that have undergone the procedure.


National Aids Council (NAC) public health officer Blessing Mutede said authorities were concerned about the high rate of infection among the circumcised.

Health officials say most men, after circumcision, harbour the false impression that they have been equipped with an invisible condom.

[As we predicted. But how do they know what most men think?]

"It is a worrying development that at a time when we are promoting male circumcision as a preventive measure to combat HIV, we are recording a high prevalence rate amongst the group that has been circumcised largely due to uninformed risky compensatory behaviours," Mutede said.


On Wednesday, it was reported that condom users in Zimbabwe were in danger after it emerged that equipment used to test the quality of condoms was out-dated and no longer had capacity to produce accurate results.

Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe director, Gugu Mahlangu said the "equipment was 15 years old".

"We are supposed to test 6-8 sample batches of condoms with the air inflators but at the end we only test three batches because of the backward technology" she said.

[Or maybe more vigorous thrusting after circumcision bursts faulty condoms more? This guess is as good as theirs.]

Earlier story


The Times of Israel
July 9, 2012

The right to rites

German envoy: There's little we can do about circumcision ban

By Raphael Ahren

German parliamentary system won’t allow for unambiguous legislation affirming right to Jewish ritual, MKs told; court ruling already having an impact in Berlin, Cologne

While some German lawmakers are considering drafting legislation that would enshrine parents’ rights to circumcise their children, there is little else the German government can do about last month’s decision by a local court that effectively outlawed the procedure, Berlin’s ambassador to Israel said Monday.

“I ask for your understanding that the federal government — I represent Germany’s federal government here in Israel — respects the independence of the German judiciary. That is no different by us than it is with you. Therefore, my abilities to comment on this judgment are limited,” Ambassador Andreas Michaelis told the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.

Yet Michaelis emphasized there is no law in the German books that prohibits circumcisions and that the controversial court ruling only applies locally. “This verdict is not binding for other courts. It’s a decision based on a single case,” he said.

[No specific law, no, any more than a law against cutting off earlobes. But the Basic Law (~Constitution) is clear.]

Last month, the District Court of Cologne ruled that parents who had their sons circumcised could be prosecuted for causing bodily injury, even if they did so for religious reasons. In their decision, the judges stated that neither the rights of parents nor the constitutional freedom of religion could justify the procedure’s “severe and irreversible interference into physical integrity.”

As a consequence of the Cologne ruling and the resulting “lack of legal clarity,” the Jewish Hospital of Berlin announced it would cease to perform circumcision “until further notice.”

Oded Wiener, the director-general of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, said the rabbi of Cologne, Jaron Engelmayer, told him that the repercussions of the court’s decision were already being felt, as the mohel, or ritual circumciser, who usually performs the rite in the city is now afraid to do so.

“The German government will study this judgment very thoroughly and carefully consider possible consequences of this decision,” Michaelis said at Monday’s Knesset session. He also sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, in which he reiterated that circumcisions are “accepted legally and societally in Germany” as a medical procedure, if a child’s parents agree to have the operation performed.

But the more than half-dozen MKs [Members of the Knesset] in attendance were unsatisfied with Michaelis’ pledges and took pains to reiterate their message regarding the importance and urgency of the situation.

“We are very worried. It’s an important issue to the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” said MK Danny Danon, who chairs the committee. “I understand that this legal case is closed and that we cannot reopen it. Therefore we expect to see a legislation process in the German parliament, and if this issue comes up in other parts of Europe, also there. We expect this legislation to be absolutely unambiguous so there shall remain no doubt about the ability to perform circumcisions.”

While at least three parties in the Bundestag are considering drafting legislation that would allow religious groups to perform circumcisions, Michaelis said it was not clear that this would be possible. Some German lawmakers pointed out that the German legal system is based on a “principle of prohibitions” — as opposed to laws permitting certain actions — he said. That means that complete legal certainty regarding the performance of circumcision might remain elusive, he added.

MK Shlomo Molla said the centrality of circumcisions is one of the few issues on which there is a consensus among Jews across the world. MK Marina Solodkin said there was no reason to explain to anyone why the ritual is important to Judaism, and called on Diaspora Jews to immigrate to Israel.

A mohel himself, MK Haim Amsallem recalled that his father risked his life performing the procedure during World War II in Algeria, saying that Jews always sacrificed their lives rather than forgo the commandment of circumcision.

‘In the case of Germany, especially because of the special guilt for the Holocaust, I understand all the more that you are justifiably sensitive’

MK Yisrael Eichler also brought up the dark chapters of German-Jewish history. He told the story of a woman who, on the day the Nazis came to kill her, ran to her rabbi to demand a knife. “’What do you need a knife for?’ the rabbi asked. ’I have a baby who hasn’t been circumcised. I want to circumcise him before he goes to his death.’ ‘He’s going to die, why do you need to circumcise him, the rabbi asked. She answered: ‘I want him to die as a Jew.’”

“Circumcision is the root and the foundation of the Jewish people,” Eichler concluded.

Michaelis replied by saying that he appreciated the MKs’ remarks and that he would convey them to his superiors in Berlin.

“I understand the sensitivities felt by you and by Jews outside Israel. In the case of Germany, especially because of the special guilt for the Holocaust, I understand all the more that you are justifiably sensitive,” he said.

Michaelis pointed out that the Cologne court had ruled that circumcisions are merely considered a minor bodily injury. Had the court defined the procedure as a severe bodily injury, all local prosecution offices in Germany would have been obligated to look for offenders. In the current situation, a mohel would only be subject to penalty if someone actually took him to court in the jurisdiction of the Cologne district court.

“I know that this is not satisfying, and that a feeling of legal uncertainty persists in the Jewish communities,” Michaelis told the Israeli lawmakers. “Your colleagues in Germany are already on summer break but I am sure that this question will be picked up again if we assess that this judgment genuinely creates legal problems in Germany.”

The Cologne court case has been widely discussed in the German media as well as Jewish communities across the world, with countless Jewish leaders and German politicians and opinion makers condemning the court’s decision.

The president of Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, called the judgment “outrageous and insensitive,” and called upon the German Bundestag to “create legal protection and thus safeguard freedom of religion from such attacks.” In response to the general outcry, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, reiterated that his country was committed to protecting the “free exercise of religion.”

The issue brought together representatives of Jewish and Islamic communities in Europe, who are both affected by the ruling. “We consider this to be an affront on our basic religious and human rights,” a joint delegation of Jewish and Muslim officials declared Monday. “We will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition and call on the German Parliament and all political parties to intervene in overruling this decision as a matter of urgency.”

Some Jewish groups outside Germany went as far as accusing the country of “overt and explicit anti-Semitism.” An online petition by the US-based Jewish Press newspaper asserting that Germany “has absolutely no moral or ethical right to pass any laws or make any statements regarding Brit Milah (circumcision) or on any other Jewish practice,” was signed by more than 10,000 people. The Jewish Press said it planned to hand the petition, which calls the circumcision ban a “mark of shame on the German people,” to Berlin’s embassy in Tel Aviv.

[A counter-petition in support of the law.]

Earlier story


Milah b'li Brit? (Cutting without Covenant?)

Israel National News
July 10, 2012

Tzohar to Make Circumcision Secular-Friendly

The Tzohar organization has launched a program to assist secular Israelis in conducting brit mila (circumcision) ceremonies for their sons. The organization currently assists in running Jewish marriage ceremonies for secular couples, and has played a part in 35,000 weddings.

“Beyond the physical aspects of the Brit Milah which parents naturally find stressful, we know that secular couples in particular can find the rituals associated with this process to be confusing and even alienating,” said Rabbi David Stav, Chairman and co-Founder of Tzohar.

Rabbi Stav noted that in recent years, some Israelis have chosen not to circumcise their sons. “This is a tradition which has defined our people for thousands of years and any threat to its continuation, particularly here in the modern Jewish State, should be confronted before the numbers of Jewish boys being denied a Brit Milah grows to even more troubling proportions,” he said.


And therefore Carthage must be destroyed

The Canadian Press
July 10, 2012

Doctor urges circumcision as urinary tract infection preventative

[Nowhere in the article does any doctor urge any such thing.]

By Sheryl Ubelacker

Urinary tract infections are far more common in uncircumcised boys than in their circumcised counterparts, but whether their foreskin is tight or more retractable makes no difference in how prone they are to becoming infected, a study suggests.

Data has shown that uncircumcised boys have a 10-fold higher risk of getting a urinary tract infection, compared to those who have had their foreskins removed.

[The "10-fold" figure seems to come from Wiswell, whose research is distinctly dubious. A meta-analysis of studies - including Wiswell's - found that it would take 111 circumcisions to prevent one UTI.]

Some previous research has suggested that the increased risk might not be related only to a boy being uncircumcised, but also to whether his foreskin is tight or more retractable. A new study, led by Montreal's Dr. Sasha Dubrovsky, set out to find out if there is any correlation.

The study found the risk of getting a urinary tract infection was pretty much equal among uncircumcised boys, no matter the state of their foreskin, said Dubrovsky, a pediatrician at Montreal Children's Hospital.

[From the study: "Of the 393 boys included in the analysis, 40 were uncircumcised with a completely visible meatus, 269 had a partially (106) or nonvisible (163) meatus, and 84 were circumcised." That's 21.4% circumcised in this convenience sample, 6.6 times as high as the circumcision rate in Quebec; 3.2% in 2003 and trending down, according to Régie de l'assurance-maladie du Québec. Their sampling method enhances this effect: if anything, non-circumcised boys would be more likely to be referred for testing than circumcised boys.

Singh-Grewal et al found it would take 111 circumcisions to prevent one UTI.

Dubrovsky found that 4.8% of circumcised boys in his sample had positive urine culture compared to 25% of intact boys. This does not translate into a real-world comparison because of all the convenience sampling, but if it did, that would reduce the much-touted 10-fold reduction of UTIs to a 5.2-fold reduction, and presumably double the Number Needed to Treat.]

"So whether they had a tight foreskin or not a tight foreskin, it didn't change that risk."

[Which casts more doubt on the hypothesis that circumcision prevents UTIs.]

The issue is of particular importance for doctors when diagnosing children brought to the emergency department with symptoms of a possible UTI, one of the most common and serious bacterial infections in children, say the authors, whose study was published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"The interesting part of the article is that many of us were under the misconception that it was the covered penis, and primarily the urethra, that was responsible for infant males' urinary tract infections," said Dr. Martin Koyle, a pediatric urologist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

"And we thought that once the foreskin retracted, that risk was no longer there. This article seems to refute that."

[It actually seems to refute that circumcision has anything to do with UTIs.]

If left untreated, UTIs can cause a potentially fatal infection of the blood; repeated untreated infections over time can leave the kidneys scarred, potentially leading to renal failure in adulthood. [Shroud-waving. So don't leave them untreated!]

When young children are brought to the ER with persistent fever, doctors must consider whether they are dealing with a cold or other virus that will likely run its course or a potentially serious bacterial infection requiring treatment, Dubrovsky said from Montreal.

"And nowadays, in the postvaccine era, the most common serious bacterial infection is the urinary tract infection," he said. "So we'd like to have some methods of figuring out who is that high-risk kid when we're seeing them."

There are a number of guidelines on how to stratify the risk, among them circumcision status, Dubrovsky said. "Our study just confirms that it is uncircumcised, period, not uncircumcised boys with a tight foreskin. So one does not need to consider the retractability of the foreskin or how tight it is. That has no bearing on it."

He said uncircumcised boys are more prone to UTIs because the bacteria that cause them tend to stick to area and multiply, especially when children are in diapers that hold in heat and moisture. [This is pure conjecture if there is not in fact a correlation.] "The kids who do get urinary tract infections, it's not a question of cleanliness versus not cleanliness. It's a part of life, it's just one of those things that happen," he said, offering this advice to parents of uncircumcised boys: "You give them their bath, you don't need to retract anything, pull anything. Nothing should ever hurt when washing that area."

[Several other studies spun the study to "Circumcision prevents UTIs" but no other went so far as fabricating a recommendation.

Atypically, Fox News has got the body of the story almost right.

It still gets the subject wrong: "Study confirms uncircumcised boys' UTI risk".

But it does say, "But [UTIs'] absolute risk is still low, said Dr. Alexander Sasha Dubrovsky, the lead researcher on the new study. ... According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an uncircumcised boy has about a one in 100 chance of developing a UTI in his first year of life. The risk for a circumcised baby is one in 1,000. ...Dubrovsky stressed that the study was not set up to inform the debate over circumcision. ... "Our study doesn't answer any questions on the potential benefits of routine circumcision," Dubrovsky said.]


The edifice starts to crumble. But in the meantime, blame the victims.

The ZimDiaspora
July 8, 2012

HIV infection rate higher on circumcised men

According to the latest Zimbabwe Health Demographic Survey (ZHDS 2010/2011), the prevalence rate among the circumcised is 14 percent while that of the uncircumcised is 12 percent.

By Shamiso Yikoniko

The HIV prevalence rate among circumcised males between the ages of 15 and 49 in Zimbabwe is higher than that of the uncircumcised males owing to the misconception that circumcision completely shields people from HIV infection.

[There is no evidence that this is the reason.]

According to the latest Zimbabwe Health Demographic Survey (ZHDS 2010/2011), the prevalence rate among the circumcised is 14 percent while that of the uncircumcised is 12 percent.

[The figures were similar - circumcised 16.6%, non-circumcised 14.2% - in 2005, before the circumcision campaign began in 2009.]

Zimbabwe - more circumcised men had HIV in 2005 and still do
Click to enlarge

The circumcision status of participants was established during pre-test counselling.

However, the country’s overall prevalence rate for the same age group declined to 15 from 18 percent, according to the same survey.

National Aids Council (Nac) public health officer Dr Blessing Mutede said authorities were concerned about the high rate of infection among the circumcised.

He said it was largely a result of “risk compensation behaviours”.

Most men, after circumcision, harbour the false impression that they have been equipped with an invisible condom, he added.

“It is a worrying development that at a time when we are promoting male circumcision as a preventive measure to combat HIV, we are recording a high prevalence rate amongst the group that has been circumcised largely due to uninformed risky compensation behaviours,” he said.

“Most people forget that being circumcised will only safeguard a person from contracting HIV up to a certain percentage and they are still at a 40 percent risk of contracting the virus.

[His use of this figure shows that he doesn't understand the statistics.]

“What we encourage everyone, circumcised or uncircumcised, is to practise safe sex all the time.”

During the survey, a sample of 5650 men aged between 15 and 49 were tested for HIV. They were also asked about their circumcision status. The information was, thereafter, used to determine the relationship between HIV prevalence and circumcision. [And it clearly shows circumcision does not protect.]

The World Health Organisation recommends circumcision for HIV prevention in “generalised epidemic settings” where prevalence of the virus is high and male circumcision is low.

Zimbabwe embraced the recommendation and anticipates that it will prevent 42 percent of all new infections between 2015 and 2025 if 80 percent of males in the country are circumcised. The country also hopes to reduce HIV prevalence to about 7 percent, in addition to other benefits. [Yet the figures clearly show no such thing.]

The country has carried out about 70 000 circumcisions since the programme began in 2009.

Experts claim the procedure can reduce HIV infection risk, in part because of physiological differences that decrease the susceptibility to infection among circumcised men. [It doesn't matter why they think it can if it can't.]


The New Age (South Africa)
July 5, 2012

Beatings, death of initiates baffle heartbroken parents

By Neo Mvubu

“Sorry for going without saying goodbye. Mama I love you.” These were the words of Mthandazo Kuzwayo, 19, as he defied his mother to go to be circumcised in the mountains against her wishes.

Kuzwayo is one of four boys who died at the initiation school in Botshabelo, Free State.

The boy left a note to his mother and went to one of the initiation schools in Botshabelo. All four boys died in the same month.

According to police spokesperson Const Consolation Mokoale, the boys were allegedly beaten and left to die by their initiation nurses on the mountain.

Four men who were arrested for the killings appeared in the Botshabelo Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of murder.


According to Mokoale, the police received information that one boy was taken to Botshabelo hospital, where he died. “We then followed up on the information and went to the school where two more boys were found dead in an open field in the mountains.”

She said that 30 boys were found at the school and 11 of them taken to hospital with serious injuries.

“The boys buttocks were allegedly burned with hot irons and they were assaulted by their teachers if they did not do as instructed,”said Mokoale.

The initiation school was not registered.

Mthandazo’s mother, Ruth, did not want him going to the initiation school, especially after her neighbour’s son died in the mountains recently.

“I did not want him to go to the mountains, we even took him to the medical doctor to get him circumcised hoping he would reject the idea of going to the mountain,” she said.

Kuzwayo said his friends were teasing him, saying “he was not a man because he had not gone to the mountain”, said Ruth Kuzwayo.


“One of the boys he was with said Mthandazo was struggling to breathe but the teacher said they must leave him alone and continue singing,” said the mother.

Another initiate, Morena Potsane, 17, also died at the initiation school. ...

According to Ngotshane, the family received no explanation about his death and were on their way to the mortuary to identify the body.


Earlier story


At last! A local voice actually says 'Stop!'

Times Live (South Africa)
July 4, 2012

Ritual's death toll is a disgrace: iLIVE

By Barbie Sandler

The death of 20 initiates after being circumcised is a national disgrace ("Ritual's death toll hits 20", July 4).

In any other country in the world there would be a huge outcry if healthy, young men died after undergoing botched operations every year.

Traditional leaders are to blame.

They say: "Leave our cultures and customs alone."

But this is one custom that seriously needs examination.

The time has come for the government to stop this practice, unless it is done under sterile conditions.

Earlier story


National Secular Society
July 6, 2012

Ritual circumcision: religious rights of parents are at odds with the best interests of the child

By Dr Antony Lempert, Secular Medical Forum

On 26th June a district court in Cologne made a landmark ruling that parents do not have the right to circumcise their children without a medical reason.

The case centred on a 4 year old boy ...

In the same week, significant new evidence emerged in the UK of the serious complication rate from ritual circumcision. It is already well known that circumcision removes one of the most sensitive parts of the penis, affects sexual function for life and will often cause additional side effects such as bleeding, infection, urinary difficulties, and psychosexual difficulties.

As a result of a freedom of information request, it was found that, in one hospital alone in 2011, 11 baby boys needed to beadmitted to the hospital's paediatric intensive care unit with serious, life-threatening complications following circumcision. In this age group there is rarely a medical reason for circumcision so it is likely that all of these babies' lives were threatened by an operation on their normal bodies that they did not need.

In February 2012, a baby boy died in North London as a direct result of bleeding complications two days after a ritual circumcision. In this case the coroner ruled that it was a tragic, 'unforeseen' accident and that the rabbi who performed the circumcision was not to blame.

Religious justifications for ritual circumcision rest on the bankrupt premise that all baby boys born to Jews and Muslims will themselves identify with those religions and that they would want this to have been done to them in childhood. Further, the harms caused by this operation are frequently denied or diminished. Those men who dare to speak out are often humiliated and dismissed or ridiculed for daring to compare the assault on their normal genitals with the suffering of girls and women even though there is a wide spectrum of harm in both girls and boys when their genitals are cut for no therapeutic reason and the ethical principle is identical.

Circumcision apologists and advocates will often say that they have never heard any men complain so they don't believe there can be a problem. There is a problem, and it's time we addressed it.


Earlier stories: German law; death


Bullying fails - men prefer condoms - so target babies

Alaska Despatch
July 5, 2012

Adult circumcision push fails in AIDS prevention campaign

By Alex Duval Smith

EZULWINI, Swaziland — At a working men’s bar in a down-at-the-heel part of town, a group of laborers are ordering a round after a long day when the talk turns to the uncomfortable subject of adult male circumcision. The procedure is being carried out as part of a campaign to reduce the spread of HIV here in this tiny kingdom in southern Africa, which has the world’s highest prevalence rate for the AIDS virus.

For S.K. Maseko, a 41-year-old father of five who works as a caddie at a local golf course, the decision to lose his foreskin in March was a good one.

Like most men interviewed for this story, Maseko explained that apart from a moment of pain from the jab of a localized anesthesia and a bit of discomfort for a few days of healing, the process of circumcision was relatively painless. And, he added, there are distinct benefits beyond that fact that it affords protection against HIV.

"Sex is better now,” he says.

"With circumcision, my wife is happy," he adds with a smile.

But his drinking buddies at the Makhonkhosi Wine & Malt bar are not convinced and not certain they would volunteer for the procedure – even if it could save their lives at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in southern Africa.

Billy Saulus, 49, an auto mechanic, has refused to go, fearing that he may already be HIV positive.

''What if I go along to be circumcised and the doctors insist I be tested? What if I am HIV positive and the wound does not heal properly? I think I will just continue with condoms,'' said Saulus, who has three grown children.

In an ambitious goal – some would say audacious – the United States wants to accelerate the pace of male circumcisions to support 4.7 million procedures in the developing world by the end of next year, up from 1 million at the beginning of this year. But its failures in Swaziland have given everyone – even the US global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby – great pause whether that goal announced by President Obama can be reached.

Late last month, Goosby said the US could still do it, but he acknowledged that scaling up male circumcision was much harder than expanding AIDS treatment or protecting newborns from infections by their mothers.

The goal here was to circumcise 80 percent of all men aged 15 to 49 in a year. The result was that roughly one in four underwent the procedure.

What went wrong? What are the lessons from this landlocked country between Mozambique and South Africa with a population of just 1.3 million?

Here, say experts, a concoction of long-entrenched local traditions, false rumors, economic pressures, and gender imbalances added up to falling far short of the goal.

[And the bland assumption that they know better than the men what is best for them.]

But there was another problem: the US government and others simply misjudged how long it takes to institute a procedure in a culture that has no history with circumcision. US experts set expectations far too high, many believe.

Since 2007, the United States, through the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), has spent more than $140 million from 2007 through 2011 on every aspect of the battle against AIDS in Swaziland, including institutional support, training, care and prevention. But prevalence rates have remained high. Among men between 15 and 49 years of age, 26 percent are HIV positive.

Based on evidence from other African countries that female-to-male transmission of the virus can be reduced by 60 percent if men are circumcised,

[Oh really?


HIV Rates:

Circumcised men


Intact men


Source: www.measuredhs.com


PEPFAR last year added an additional $15.5 million in funding for an ambitious ''accelerated saturation initiative'' to circumcise 80 percent of HIV negative men between ages 15 and 49. A year later, 23 percent had undergone the procedure. Some critics suggest the campaign, called Soka Uncobe (''circumcise and conquer''), may have been counter-productive to on-going efforts to promote condom use and behavior change.

Tough Sell
Muhle Dlamini, a 50-year-old environmental health scientist with the Swaziland National Aids Programme, which is part of the health ministry, said that officials knew the campaign would be a tough sell.

''We are not, culturally, a circumcising country,


The country is culturally polygamous, but economic hardship has led to the decline of legal marriages in favor of sex with multiple partners.

''Men cannot afford dowry payments,'' said Dlamini, ''but they continue to have sex … So you find that multiple concurrent partners are increasingly the norm. Economic pressures also lead to more inter-generational sex with so-called 'sugar daddies' and other sex for money or favors.''


The 2011 mass circumcision effort started from a low base, and there appeared to be considerable demand from men. The government, as well as several non-government organizations — such as the long-established Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS) and Population Services International (PSI) — had begun promoting and offering adult male circumcision in 2006.

Zelda Nhlabatsi, director of the Family Life program, said her organization could not keep up with demand.

''People had heard of the Orange Farm experience, a celebrated study in South Africa in 2002 to 2004 which found that circumcision cut transmission (by as much as 60 percent). [But only from women to men, if that.] South Africa being next door, people felt that if it worked for them it could work for us. The government brought in Israeli doctors to train Swazi doctors in how to circumcise under local anesthetic. PEPFAR supported the renovation of our clinics. Demand was enormous. We were really keen to take the program to scale.''

Enter the Futures Group, a Washington, DC-based company that was awarded a contract by PEPFAR for the $15.5 million circumcision program without a competitive tender. The project management firm was tasked with using the $15.5 million in funding to turn the culturally conservative, non-circumcising Swaziland into a land where 160,000 men would be willing to volunteer for the procedure. It was a tall order to begin with.

US army mobile surgical tents were brought in and about half the total budget was spent on hiring expatriate surgeons to train 200 clinicians. Celebrity endorsements were secured from a leading musician and from “Mr. Swaziland,” the annual winner of a national pageant for men. Matchboxology, a South African advertising agency with a track-record in AIDS messaging, produced films, livery for minibus taxis, flyers, and billboards.

The Futures Group seemed to have thought of everything, including royal backing. In July 2011, King Mswati III stood before an audience of 3,000 people and declared, ''Soka Uncobe must be the motto now for all men to go for male circumcision.''

Mixed Messages
Yet ask Swazi AIDS professionals about the campaign and many will privately — for fear of jeopardizing future US funding — term it a ''disaster,'' a ''nightmare'' and ''an exercise in bullying.” Prominent AIDS activists said the regular meetings they attended were used by Futures Group to rubber stamp decisions, rather than consult.

Mahlubi Hadebe, prevention coordinator with Swaziland's National Emergency Response Council of HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), was among those critical of the Futures Group and its approach.

Hadebe said, ''It went wrong from the outset. Futures Group just would not listen. The promotional materials featured drawings of people. But I as a Swazi, want to see a real Swazi's face. The demand-creation approach was all wrong: To convince a Swazi man you need time, you need to go and see him. You have to identify thought leaders in communities and use them to convey the message. Billboards do not work.

''Some of the messaging hit the wrong note. 'Lisoka lisoka ngekusoka' — which literally means 'the lover boy is a lover boy thanks to circumcision' — appeals to the playboy in the man. It is off-putting to married men,'' said 47-year-old Hadebe.

Family Life’s Nhlabatsi said the Soka Uncobe name sent the wrong message.

''To me it does not to so much mean 'circumcise and conquer' but more 'circumcise and be done with it' which is a dangerous message. It could be interpreted as meaning that once men are circumcised they no longer need to use condoms,'' said Nhlabatsi.

Studies in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda have found that circumcised men are at least 60 percent less likely to pick up HIV. [It's like a drumbeat, isn't it?] Still, the groups carrying out the circumcisions must grapple with conveying the message that even after the procedure — which requires men to abstain from sex for six weeks — condom use remains crucial.

Rhoy Shoshore is a 31-year-old doctor with the Family Life association who has carried out the procedure on more than 1,000 Swazi men.

He said, ''We talk to the clients about the importance of condoms before the operation. … But you can never be sure how much they are taking in. And with teenagers it is difficult as the Education Ministry does not want us to talk about condoms in schools, only fidelity and abstinence.''

Emma Llewellyn, the British HIV technical services director at PSI, previously worked in Kenya where she spearheaded the country's first ''rapid results'' circumcision campaign in 2009, but she said Swaziland’s culture has presented challenges to the campaign.

In Kenya, she explained, ''We did 30,000 men in 30 days. The campaign is now repeated by local organizations during every Christmas holiday. But Kenya is very different. The majority of the country's 42 tribes traditionally circumcise.''

Futures Group’s Shannon Hader, the organization’s director of health and systems solutions, told GlobalPost that the results of Soka Uncobe had indeed been something of a disappointment. But she dismissed most of the criticism of Futures Group’s approach, and particularly its failure to consult the Swazis themselves.

Hader said, ''This was the first time any country, starting from a fairly low base, tried an accelerated saturation initiative aiming to capture essentially a whole population in 12 months. We learned — and this was a global 'learn' that will serve us elsewhere — that it is not because you build the service that you create the demand.”

She specifically denied that the campaign had led to risky practices, adding, ''I have not seen any evidence that that is what played out.”

Moving Forward
At the US embassy in the capital, Mbabane, PEPFAR country coordinator Chris Detwiler insisted that Soka Uncobe had been born out of a request from the Swazi government in February 2010. He explained that Futures Group was awarded a contract without a competitive bidding process based on the need to ''implement a stand-alone, time-limited campaign that did not overburden an already strained health system.”

Detwiler denied the campaign had misfired, saying, ''We have heard that accusation but the process was not a top-down approach. It was driven by the Swazi government and came with extensive consultation in the form of weekly and monthly meetings. We will do better going forward.''

Around the country, three months after the Soka Uncobe campaign ended, publicity material is still visible on some billboards and minibuses. Clinics have large boxes full of its distinctive orange leaflets. But PSI and others say they are in a ''taking stock'' phase.

''We have to look at how to move forward,'' said Llewellyn. ''We need to look at what we do with the Soka Uncobe brand, which after all, the king launched.”

Both PSI and the Family Life association are concentrating on 'back to school' campaigns.

'Teenagers are an easy target group,'' said Nhlabatsi. ''You get parental approval and then you have a busload of them.''

The future, said NERCHA's Hadebe, is in expanding the circumcision of baby boys within seven days of birth.

[With no evidence whatsoever that this has any effect on HIV.]

''I think we may just have to accept that we are going to miss much of the population which is currently sexually active,” Hadebe said. “I think we need to put our energy into neo-natals. But even there we have obstacles to overcome.

We are still legally obliged to obtain paternal approval to circumcise a boy

. This is a challenge given the number of single women giving birth.''

[Paternal or parental? But it sounds like they'd do it without asking if they could.]

The men at the bar in Ezulwini have other concerns. One man, a divorced 45-year-old lawyer who did not wish to be named, said he used condoms with all his partners, except his steady girlfriend. ''She does not want me to be circumcised because she thinks it will make me reckless,” he said. “She believes I will take less care to use condoms. Personally, what makes me reluctant is the requirement that you have to go without sex for six weeks. I would find that difficult.”

The motor mechanic Saulus added that he had heard stories of circumcision clinics selling foreskins to witchdoctors. Someone he had spoken to knew someone who had become sterile, he claimed. Saulus and several other people at the bar also said the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, condemns the practice. In fact, the Hebrew Bible is consistently in favor of circumcision, which is still observed in modern secular and religious Jewish communities.

[Who'd have thought that "Hebrew" would become a weasel-word. Few of these men will be Jews, many will be Christians, and the New Testament does condemn (religious) circumcision.]

But Maseko dismissed his buddies' claims. Sex, he insisted, was better than ever and he said he would be sure to continue telling his friends.

Asked whether he had continued to use a condom since the operation, he said he hadn't because he had only had sex with his wife.

''They are all just afraid of the pain,” he said of his drinking buddies. “They will come around to it.''


Liberian Observer
July 4, 2012

Traditional Chiefs Warn Montserrado Supt...

By Leroy M. Sonpon

Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Tee Kpan's recent condemnation of female circumcision has earned her a strong rebuke from traditional chiefs and elders of Liberia.

The Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor, warned Superintendent Kpan to desist from condemning the culture and norms of the land.

He told Superintendent Kpan to "never ever" condemn the "Sande Bush" and call it "an evil practice."

Speaking at their headquarters on 24th Street in Sinkor, Chief Karwor said, "Let this serve as a warning to that Montserrado Superintendent to move her mouth from our thing…. If she does not know what to say, let her shut up. This is a message from the chiefs of the 15 counties."

Superintendent Kpan is one of the Pastors of the Life Tabernacle Outreach Churches of which her husband, Rev. S. Oliver Kpan, is the General Overseer or Bishop.

Few days ago, the Montserrado Superintendent briefing visiting members of the United Nations Security Council in Kortu Town in suburban Monrovia, stated that Sande Bush is "evil and demonizing" and poses "threats" to national security.

Mrs. Kpan explained that the practice "of the female genital mutilation is also evil."

She told the UN officials that she needed assistance in abolishing the Sande, the secret society of the women, and that she has already set up 59 camps for "Sande prostitutes, who pose as a threat to national stability."

Few days after her remarks, several callers on a radio program last week denounced her action before key UN members. But Pastor Kpan said she had 'no regrets' for asking the Security Council members for help in carrying out the destruction of the Sande society throughout the country.

Two lawmakers, Rep Moses Kollie and Senator Gbehzohngar Findley, have demanded an apology from Supt Kpan for making an "underrated statement that insults one of West Africa's oldest traditions."

"I frown at Supt Kpan's statement that our cultural practice is evil. Since the inception of this country, we have had our cultural practice; it has not harmed anyone," Rep. Kollie intoned. "So, for someone to come out and demonize our culture at the highest level in the presence of UN officials, we condemn it in the strongest term."

Rep. Kollie, who hailed from Lofa County that is among the bastions of the Sande practice in Liberia, argued: Superintendent Kpan "has no moral grounds to demonize our culture. In fact, she must make a public apology. People go to churches, mosques…people go to mountains, and people join societies at their volition. So, she has no right to condemn anyone for practicing his or her society. If you don't want to associate, it's your right as a citizen."

Despite the rebuke, Superintendent Kpan remained undaunted when she said she had no regret for making such remarks.



Sounds like men haven't been buying it ...

The Star (Kenya)
July 3, 2012

New boost for male circumcision

By Samuel Otieno

More than 200 scientists, nurses, doctors, counsellors, advocates, journalists and community members from at least 15 African countries have joined a campaign to build support for voluntary medical male circumcision. The campaign, “Africans telling the truth about male circumcision,” brings together Africans who support VMMC as an evidence-based tool to help end the spread of HIV infection.

[How many "scientists, doctors and nurses" are there, who are actually involved in the field, and how many are "useful idiots" to make up the numbers?]

Angelo Kaggwa the programme coordinator says that the campaign is a uniquely African contribution to the global effort to stem the AIDS epidemic. The campaign has begun on social media but plans to use other channels to reach more people at the grassroots level.

[Uniquely African? Or is someone like Dr Robert Bailey driving it from behind?]


Letter to The Times (not published)
July 4, 2012


By John Warren

Doctors throughout Europe, where there is no tradition of infant male circumcision in medical practice, have been faced in recent years by an increasing demand for this service, due to the immigration of families from other parts of the world where male circumcision has been a cultural norm.   There is confusion over how to respond to this demand, both among the medical and also the legal professions.   The ruling in Germany, reported in The Times on 28 June, illustrates this problem.   In this case a state court ruled that circumcision on non-medical grounds of a child amounted to grievous bodily harm.   In The Netherlands, the Royal Dutch Medical Association has issued a report stating that non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys amounts to a violation of a child’s physical integrity, and so contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Article 11 of the Dutch constitution.   In Norway, the Centre Party has proposed an outright ban on non-therapeutic male circumcision of under-age boys, provoking a heated debate.

Here in the UK , there has so far been little debate, despite the fact that large numbers of boys are being circumcised for non-therapeutic reasons, some within the NHS,  some in private clinics, and some by non-medically qualified operators.   It is impossible to determine accurately how many.   However, the medical literature shows a complication rate of anywhere between 2 and 20%.   These do not include late problems discovered by adult men who were circumcised as infants, and our records at NORM-UK include many examples of both physical and psychological problems that appear to result from this operation.

Earlier this month (June) the Westminster coroner gave a verdict of accidental death in the case of a one month old baby boy who died of haemorrhage from his wound two days after circumcision.

The General Medical Council does not have a position on the issue of non-therapeutic male circumcision of children.   It states: We do not have general authority to determine public policy on issues that arise within medical practice – these are matters for society as a whole to determine, through the parliamentary process.

There are four principles of medical ethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice.   Clearly a child’s autonomy is breached by a non-therapeutic procedure permanently altering his anatomy.   Regarding beneficence, no medical organisation in the world recommends routine infant circumcision for health reasons.   Non-maleficence refers to not doing harm;  the possibility of complications mentioned above shows that there is considerable potential for harm from this procedure.  Justice asks the question ‘is it fair?’   Would you do the same to a girl?   Would you do the same to an adult male without his consent, that is tie him down and forcibly remove his foreskin, possibly without anaesthesia?

In my view the UK needs a debate involving doctors, lawyers, ethicists, politicians, representatives of religions and the wider public on the subject of non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.   And the General Medical Council should consider coming off the fence and  consider carefully whether its lack of position on this topic is consistent with its role:  to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine.


Dr John Warren
(Chairman NORM-UK)


Circumcision Ruling

Bavarian Broadcast Network (Bayerischer Rundfunk)
June 29, 2012

"Protection from violence is more important than religious rites"

Because of an article four years ago, he finds himself now seriously threatened: Professor Holm Putzke of the University of Passau speaks out against the circumcision of boys. The recent judgment of the District Court in Cologne rests on his findings. "It's really a question of postponing a religious act," he explains in an interview with BR.de.

BR.de: How do you view the judgment of the District Court in Cologne?

Holm Putzke: The judgment of the District Court in Cologne is correct. The court came to its conclusion, after an intensive analysis of the jurisprudential debate, that religious freedom ends where physical safety of children is irreparably impacted, in this case due to unnecessary and risky surgical procedures. It should be self-evident that we simply don't allow this in a society that emphasizes the protection of children from forceful or violent acts.

The verdict
The District Court in Cologne determined that the circumcision of a minor boy for religious reasons in June 2012 was an injury. The judges argued that religious circumcision is a permanent and irreversible intrusion on the child. Jewish and Muslim groups criticized the decision as impermissible encroachment on the freedom of religion.

BR.de: What significance does it have?

Holm Putzke: It's a brave decision, because the wave of indignation was predictable and the climate of discussion almost always suffers when it comes to any criticism of religion. Despite the this ruling being non-binding on other courts or prosecutors, the ruling could send a signal and - more importantly - finally lead to a long-overdue public discussion.

BR.de: Isn't this a very western, and therefore one-sided, view of things?

Holm Putzke: It's not actually a one-sided view of things, because the court doesn't simply make an assertion. Rather, it reaches a judgment after a careful weighing of the constitutionally protected rights to self-determination and bodily integrity against the parents' right to free exercise of religion. You also can't really say this is a " typically western" view, since in other parts of the world enlightened people are thinking the same way.

BR.de: What does the ruling now mean for doctors? Should they decline to do circumcisions for religious reasons?

Holm Putzke: The risk of doctors being held criminally liable in case of complications, or losing their insurance coverage, is now elevated. However, as a doctor I wouldn't simply decline to do these circumcisions because they're religiously-motivated, but rather because performing medically unnecessary surgery on children who can not defend themselves is ethically incompatible with the medical profession.

BR.de: What message do the court judgment and your legal commentaries send to the religious communities?

Holm Putzke: The point of my early 2008 article, dealing with legal culpability in the religious circumcision of boys, was not to criminalize doctors and parents, or really even religious groups. Rather, I was hoping that a broad public debate might get underway about how much religiously motivated violence against children is tolerable. Neither the judgment nor the overall viewpoint it favors prevents anyone from exercising their religion. It's not about discrimination against religious groups or the total prevention of religious practice; it's really just about postponing a religious act.

BR.de: Is this whole thing a typical German debate? How do you think this topic will be handled in Europe and globally?

Holm Putzke: In other countries, especially in the U.S., there has been a strong movement for decades that criticizes medically unnecessary circumcision on non-consenting children as unethical. Even Israel has seen intense debate over whether religious circumcision of children is ethically justifiable. I have received numerous letters from Israel, where parents have told me that despite their ongoing religious affiliation to Judaism they've abstained from infant circumcision, and prefer to wait until their child is able to make his own independent decision about it. So it seems that if it's supposed to always be the case, as the Central Council of Jews here in Germany claims, that infant religious circumcision remains essential and indisputable in Judaism... then they're really only telling half the story.

BR.de: There's a good chance you're going to be reviled and threatened over this ruling. How do you plan to handle it? [Threats to Prof. Putzke have included drowning and forcible circumcision.]

Holm Putzke: It would be naive to think that my critiques, and the skeptical views of what is by now the majority in the medical and law professions, will only be discussed in a rational, calm and composed manner. Any criticism of religion has always triggered emotional reactions. Insults and threats don't bother me really, if for no other reason than some people are simply hiding behind them when they can't express their displeasure any differently. Good arguments, however, are much more likely to impress me.


Earlier story


July 5, 2012

Amicable exchange of views in Rotterdam

A day-long seminar in Rotterdam last week generated an amicable exchange of views.

The seminar, "The Doctor and the Foreskin" was organised by the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) parallel to the conference of the International Association of Bioethics. It came hard on the heels of the decision of the District Court of Cologne that non-therapeutic infant circumcision was contrary to the German Basic Law.

The first presentation of the day was by Gabriela Gomez, from Venezuela, about "scale up" of "voluntary medical male circumcision" and saw no problem with this. She thought talk of "mutilation" was unhelpful.

Michel Garrene's presentation was provided a measured response to the African HIV research. He acknowledged that the authors had proved efficacy at the individual level but demonstrated that that they had failed to prove effectiveness at a population level.

Anton van Niekerk, a moral philosopher from South Africa, pointed out that if someone produced a vaccine that was only 60% effective they would be laughed out of the arena.

Tom de Jong, a Danish Paediatric Urologist, gave a synopsis of how foreskin problems should be tackled, as opposed to circumcision.

Morten Frisch gave details of his research on the sexual effects of circumcision. He also mentioned his experience with Brian Morris as a reviewer of his paper.

Trond Markestad gave a synopsis of the situation in Norway. The religious communities, including the Church of Norway, had concluded it should be permitted, whereas the human rights organisations had concluded it should not.

Three different proposals have emerged:

  1. Prohibit circumcision under age of 16, supported by the Centre Party, Humanists and the Children’s Ombudsman.
  2. Permit circumcision of children by anyone, supported by Jews, Moslems and the Church of Norway.
  3. Permit circumcision of children, but only by a doctor, supported by Norwegian Medical Association, who are concerned that a ban would drive the practice underground, thus resulting in more harm to children.

One Jewish man observed that not being circumcised had no bearing on whether or not someone was a Jew. An Israeli woman said that an increasing number of Israeli parents were opting against circumcision and that change would take place from the bottom up.

Arie C Nieuwenhuuijzen Kruseman, President of KNMG, concluded with a conciliatory tone.


IOL (South Africa)
July 3, 2012

MEC concerned by circumcision deaths

Eastern Cape - The number of deaths at circumcision schools in the Eastern Cape is rising, traditional affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said on Tuesday.

"It has come to our attention that at least 20 young men died in a number of our schools within a short space of time," Qoboshiyane said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The fact that many young boys are circumcised without consent and knowledge of their parents creates a fertile ground for deaths, amputations and (the) hospitalisation of initiates."

The MEC called on men in rural communities to help single women find reliable and legitimate circumcision schools for their children.

"This is an important aspect of our life that must not be left to chancers who want to make money out of youngsters. We need to restore the dignity of traditional circumcisions, so as to build responsible and healthy young men in our province."

The circumcision death toll in the province was not provided.

In December, hospitals in Mthatha were inundated with young men injured from botched circumcisions.

The health department's spokesman Sizwe Kupelo at the time said the All Saints hospital in Engcobo had admitted 33 initiates, and had to arrange referrals for their injured friends as the wards were full.

Earlier story


PIX11 News
July 2, 2012

Another Baby Gets Herpes After Controversial Circumcision


Rabbis in the city’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities are resisting a possible change to the city and state health code, which would require parents to sign a consent form, before their infant boys undergo a controversial type of circumcision.

The ritual, known as metzizah b’peh, involves a mohel using his mouth to remove blood from the baby’s penis. The New York State Health Department has renewed concerns, after another infant recently was diagnosed with herpes, shortly after undergoing a metzizah b’peh.

The Orange County baby, who is one month old, was transferred to New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center for treatment.

Last September, a two-week old Brooklyn baby died from herpes at Maimonedes Medical Center, shortly after he underwent metzizah b’peh. The family refused to tell health officials the name of the mohel who performed the ritual.

A study released in June by the federal Centers for Disease Control showed 11 baby boys contracted herpes simplex between 2000 and 2011 in New York City, where there’s been a cluster of cases. Two of the infant boys died, and two suffered brain damage. The CDC noted that circumcisions “should be performed under sterile conditions.”

Yet observant Jews in some of the city’s most ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods continue to defend metzizah b’peh.

“You can’t change the tradition we have had for thousands and thousands of years,” said Pinchas Kohn, who told PIX 11 he has 50 grandchildren. “You have to check the mohel,” he said. When PIX 11 asked if mohels should be tested for herpes, he replied, “I think so. I think so.”

The ritual is not something most in Borough Park wanted to talk about. This is the community where the two week old baby died last September.

But at least one resident was concerned enough to supply Jewish Week—and then PIX 11—with “audio” tapes of phone calls made to some mohels earlier this year.

One mohel said he tries to kill infection this way. “What I do usually is, I pour wine on it. Wine is alcoholic. I use strong wine.”

The “undercover” caller was horrified when a mohel who was banned by New York State from performing metzizah b’peh indicated he was still doing the ritual in Rockland County, outside of New York City limits. Yitzchok Fischer was ordered to stop doing this type of circumcision back in 2007, not long after he was tied to herpes infections in 3 infants, including a boy twin who died. An infant’s immune system is usually not developed enough to fight off a herpes infection effectively.

Fischer was recorded by the caller saying of the ritual, “I can only do it in Rockland County.” When asked about some of the alarming stories, he said, “There’s nothing to worry about.”

Prosecutors have not had an easy time making cases against mohels who infect babies, because the families often protect the mohels’ identities.

The Orthodox community member who made the tapes said of the Brooklyn family who lost their infant son last September, “They’re covering up for a mohel who killed their child.”

Earlier story


When men refuse, they go for babies....

July 2, 2012

Kenya: Nyanza Residents Warm Up to Infant Male Circumcision

By Samuel Otieno

THE National Male Circumcision taskforce got a major boost in its strategy to focus circumcision on infants after 92 percent of the parents agreed to the strategy. The research, conducted by the University of Illinois and the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society to assess the acceptability of infant male circumcision, said many parents want their children to be circumcised at certain ages.

[This sounds like two independent bodies, but the Secretary of the Board of the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society is Dr Robert Bailey, who is a Professor of Epidemiology and an adjunct professor of Anthropology in the University of Chicago at Illinois. Prof. Bailey also led the Kenya study that claimed to find circumcising men reduces their risk of contracting HIV. Can you say "one man band"?

Bailey is also the man who admitted that the circumcised men in the trials got additional counselling if they indicated they were not practising safe sex.

It's a neat strategy, to conduct a "push" poll (a well known tactic in politics, a poll with questions loaded to give the answers you want) about parents' willingness to circumcise infants. Then spin the results as if they are good reasons to circumcise infants. There is no evidence whatsoever that infant circumcison has any effect on the transmission of HIV. (The studies claiming reduction were carried out on adult volunteers.)]

Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programmes like Kenya's focus on reducing HIV infections by increasing uptake of male circumcision among adult men and adolescents. The study, published in the Paediatrics journal, sampled 627 women and 493 men in Nyanza and found out that Fathers are the primary decision makers on whether to circumcise their infant sons. [No infant ever volunteers to have part of his or her genitals cut off.]

The study was conducted from March to October 2010 at five government hospitals focussed on reality of acceptability and decision-making among parents who had accepted or declined the offer of IMC. Mothers were approached individually and asked whether they would like to have their infant sons circumcised. Those who accepted were asked by the researchers for permission to contact their husbands.

The research found out that mothers appeared to belief that circumcised men experience more sexual pleasure, while fathers were more likely to accept IMC if they thought women enjoyed sex more with circumcised men. Mothers also cited protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, penile hygiene and religious reasons.

Fathers gave similar reasons, but many cited penile hygiene as the main reason for accepting IMC. Reasons given against the IMC by mothers were pain, risk of injury or complications, deferring circumcision to an older age, opposition by the father and reluctance to go against cultural tradition.

Fathers cited going against tradition as their main reason against circumcision. Most parents did not oppose male circumcision while 92 percent want their sons to be circumcised at some age. IMC is rarely practised in Eastern and Southern Africa.


July 1, 2012

Law tightened on female genital mutilation

By Susan Vogel-Misicka

A change to the Swiss penal code on female genital mutilation comes into force on Sunday which aims to prevent Swiss-based families from having their daughters circumcised, whether in Switzerland or abroad.

“Thanks to the new provision in our criminal law, mutilation of female genitals can be prosecuted and punished by a Swiss judge, even in cases where the offence has taken place abroad and even when not punishable under that country’s law,” Andrea Candrian, vice head of the Federal Justice Office’s international criminal law unit, told swissinfo.ch.

Under the new legislation, any person who carries out an act of mutilation can be held responsible and punished.

“In addition, persons who have assisted in such a crime or contributed in another way can be prosecuted as well. For example – if a girl’s family has organised a mutilation – then not only the circumciser but also the family members involved can be prosecuted,” Candrian explained.

While the goal is not to target instances of FGM carried out in other countries, the legislation should help deter parents from forcing their daughters to undergo the painful and debilitating procedure.

The degree of mutilation (see box at right) along with the personal circumstances of the perpetrators will determine the severity of the sentence, which could involve up to ten years in prison or substantial fines.


Unmistakable signal

“The new article is a clear and unmistakable signal that Switzerland does not tolerate this violation of human rights. FGM is a violation of human rights and a severe violation of children’s rights, which explicitly guarantee the right of physical integrity,” Katrin Piazza, spokeswoman for the Swiss National Committee of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) told swissinfo.ch.


Cultural superiority?
Yet some wonder whether all the fuss over FGM in Switzerland is simply a matter of activism.

“I called community representatives and interpreters from countries where FGM is practised. I asked if they had ever heard anything about FGM going on here and they all said ‘no’,” countered Abdul Abdurahman, a canton Aargau-based social worker and board member of Second@s Plus – an organisation that represents second- and third-generation foreigners.


“I asked them about the tradition of FGM, and they told me that they’d never do to their daughters what was done to them,” he told swissinfo.ch.


Abdurahman has also spoken with a number of men about the topic of FGM. “I asked whether they wanted a circumcised wife or not and they said, ‘No, it’s better for the sexuality in our marriage’. They don’t want a woman who is suffering.”

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