13 Jun 2011

Religious groups say proposed circumcision ban is attack on religious freedom, but ignore a child's right to be free from religion

Globe and Mail   -  Canada     June 10, 2011

Russell Crowe launches Twitter tirade: Circumcision is ‘barbaric’


Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is not a fan of circumcision.

“Circumcision is barbaric and stupid. Who are you to correct nature?” Crowe tweeted on Thursday. “Is it real that God requires a donation of foreskin? Babies are perfect.”

Crowe went on the tirade after one of his Twitter followers asked whether he should get his son circumcised.

Then, Crowe appealed to his Jewish friends, including the director Eli Roth, to end the traditional practice of circumcising children.

“I love my Jewish friends, I love the apples and the honey and the funny little hats, but stop cutting your babies,” he wrote. “I will always stand for the perfection of babies. I will always believe in God, not man’s interpretation of what God requires,” he added. “Last of it, if you feel it is your right to cut things off your babies please unfollow and f--k off; I’ll take attentive parenting over barbarism.”

Not surprisingly, the messages have landed Crowe in hot water. His tweets have been deleted, and early Friday morning the actor apologized to anyone he may have offended.

“I have a deep and abiding love for all people of all nationalities. I’m very sorry that I have said things on here that have caused distress. My personal believes aside I realize that some will interpret this debate as me mocking the rituals and traditions of others. I am very sorry.”

Roth has been defending Crowe on his Twitter feed since the scandal broke, saying it was just a joke and that Crowe is “NOT antisemitic.”

This article was found at:


CNN   June 10, 2011

San Francisco's proposed circumcision ban galvanizes religious opposition

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - The nation’s largest evangelical Christian umbrella group has come out against San Francisco’s proposed circumcision ban, evidence that the voter initiative is beginning to galvanize national religious opposition.

Thursday’s announcement from the National Association of Evangelicals was noteworthy because unlike Jews and Muslims, Christians are not religiously mandated to practice circumcision.

“Jews, Muslims, and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Biblical circumcision begins with Abraham,” said National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson. “No American government should restrict this historic tradition. Essential religious liberties are at stake."

"The proposed ban violates the First Amendment’s guarantee to exercise one’s religious beliefs," Anderson said in a statement.

How much of a national issue the ban becomes is yet to be seen. An effort to put a circumcision ban on the ballot in Santa Monica, California was abandoned last week.

Many Jewish and Muslim groups have come out against San Francisco’s proposed ban on the procedure that removes the foreskins of infant boys.

Jewish groups have suggested anti-Semitic motives behind the ban. Here’s Nancy J. Appel, associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League:

This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible.

And here’s influential Los Angeles Rabbi David Wolpe:

Some involved are simply opposed to religion (there are after all some misguided Jews arguing for the ban as well), some wish to target both Muslims and Jews. But can anyone doubt that there are anti-circumcision advocates who seize on this as a chance to hurt Jews and the Jewish tradition?

Many Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, alleged that a comic book called “Foreskin Man,” created by the proposed San Francisco ban’s author,draws on centuries-old stereotypes about Jews. [see related articles links below]

Just as the National Association of Evangelicals did Thursday, some Muslim groups have called the ban an attack on religious freedom:

A ban that specifically targets a religious practice of Muslims and that has been proven to be medically beneficial is a violation of First Amendment rights that guarantees all Americans the right to religious freedom.

The proposed ban would make it "unlawful to circumcise, excise, cut, or mutilate the whole or any part of the foreskin, testicles, or penis" of anyone 17 or younger in San Francisco.

Violators could be jailed for a year or fined up to $1,000.

The group that drafted the ban's language says the procedure has adverse physical and psychological effects and likens it to female genital mutilation, a claim that doctors generally reject.

In November 2010, CNN reported that medical evidence had shown mixed risks and benefits of circumcision:

Apart from the San Francisco proposal, circumcisions are under scientific scrutiny.
While widespread in the United States, circumcision rates could be falling, according to recent surveys. About 65 percent of American male infants born in hospitals were circumcised in 1999, according to latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While nationally the circumcision rate has remained steady, the most dramatic decline occurred in the West, where it fell from 64 percent in 1974 to 37 percent in 1999.
Earlier this year, there were unconfirmed estimates that the circumcision rate had fallen to fewer than half for boys born in U.S. hospitals, The New York Times reported last summer, citing a federal report at the International AIDS Conference.
The American Academy of Pediatrics task force on circumcision has been reviewing recent research before it issues an official new position on the issue, probably next year, one panel member said.
"In the past, we've said newborn circumcision has benefits and risks," Dr. Douglas Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, told CNN last year. "Given the fact that neither the risks nor benefits are particularly compelling, this is a decision to be made by parents."

This article was found at:


TIME  -  June 13, 2011

San Francisco's Circumcision Ban: An Attack on Religious Freedom?

By Adam Cohen

In the 1960s and '70s, the San Francisco Bay Area was where the counterculture really started — the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury, gay rights in the Castro. Today, the Bay Area is challenging the larger culture in a new and controversial way: there will be a referendum on the ballot in November that would make it the first major city in the U.S. to outlaw circumcision.

The San Francisco debate over circumcision initially centered on the value of the procedure itself — opponents call it barbaric, supporters point to its long tradition and say it prevents disease. But increasingly the debate is becoming one about religion, in which critics accuse backers of the referendum of bigotry and insist a ban would violate the First Amendment's religious freedoms.

There is plenty of reason to oppose the ban on its own merits. There is no need for a law: if people do not believe in circumcision, they should not have it done to themselves or their children. And even if there were to be a circumcision ban, this one is poorly constructed because of the well-founded religious objections that are being raised.

The anticircumcision debate began in April when a group of self-proclaimed "intactivists" — people who believe strongly that infant boys have a right to keep their foreskins intact — submitted enough signatures to put a circumcision ban on the ballot. The intactivists have taken up the language of international human rights: they are fighting, they say, for "genital autonomy" and "male-genital-integrity rights." Framed this way, it seemed like an appropriately earnest next step for a city that last year banned any kind of Happy Meal that paired toy giveaways with fast food.

The intactivists argue that circumcision needlessly inflicts pain on newborns, and they compare it to female genital mutilation — which is, in fact, a far more serious procedure. (Female genital mutilation can produce severe harm, including infertility and an increased risk of newborn deaths.)

Supporters of circumcision argue that there is a long tradition behind it, both religious and nonreligious, and that the pain involved is fleeting. They also say circumcision has proven health benefits. Removal of the foreskin has been found to help prevent the spread of HIV and other infections. In clinical trials in Africa, the incidence of HIV infection was 60% lower in circumcised men. The World Health Organization has said circumcision is an important component in fighting HIV infection.

Still, the drafters of the San Francisco referendum could have avoided the religious issue — and kept the focus on the harms and benefits of circumcision — if they had included an exception for circumcisions done for religious reasons. Jews, whose religious traditions require male children to be circumcised eight days after birth, and Muslims, who also practice circumcision, are a small part of the city's population.

Instead, the referendum expressly states that the ban would apply equally to religious circumcisions. If it passes, Jewish parents in San Francisco who hold a traditional bris, or circumcision ritual, could be sentenced to a year in jail.

This strict policy certainly seems insensitive. Jews who circumcise their sons trace the tradition back thousands of years. It is a sign, they believe, of a covenant with God, and an affirmation that the Jewish people will survive. There are accounts of circumcisions performed in the direst of circumstances, including in concentration camps. The intactivists aren't swayed by such arguments and insist it's gone on long enough.

Claims of insensitivity, however, have recently turned into charges of outright anti-Semitism. One of the referendum's key supporters has written a comic book, Foreskin Man, that portrays a blond, Aryan-looking superhero doing battle with "Monster Mohel." (Mohels are people trained to perform ritual Jewish circumcisions.) The bearded, prayer-shawl-wearing mohel leers manically at defenseless infants. As one rabbi blogger put it, "Hey San Francisco, 1930's Germany Called — They Want Their Anti-Semitic Propaganda Back!"

Jews and Muslims are not the only religious groups opposing the ban. The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 45,000 churches, declared last week that while their faith neither requires nor forbids circumcision, "Jews, Muslims and Christians all trace our spiritual heritage back to Abraham. Circumcision begins with Abraham. No American government should restrict this historic tradition."

If the referendum passes, it is unclear whether it would survive a constitutional challenge. The First Amendment protects people against laws that unduly interfere with their religious rituals. The question is, How would the courts see this particular interference? In 1972, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Amish parents to not send their children to school past the eighth grade. Yet more recently, it held that the "free exercise" clause does not protect Native Americans who want to engage in ritual use of peyote, an illegal drug. Under the logic of the peyote case, the ban could well survive. The ban could also be challenged under California's state constitution, which might contain broader religious protections than the U.S. Constitution.

On one level, the stakes in the San Francisco vote are small. If the referendum passes, parents can easily take their children out of the city to be circumcised. The danger, though, is that intactivism could spread — and that more localities, and eventually states, will enact bans.

On the other hand, the intactivist movement could come to a quick end. Last week, an activist who had been collecting signatures to put a similar referendum on the ballot in Santa Monica, Calif., announced that she was halting her effort because, she said, a cause that was not intended to be about religion had become a religious issue.

Cohen, a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board, is a lawyer who teaches at Yale Law School. Case Study, his legal column for TIME.com, appears every Monday.

This article was found at:



Initiative to ban male circumcision in San Francisco gets enough signatures for November ballot

Circumcising children without their consent violates their human rights and religious freedom

Jewish groups vow to fight voter initiative that would make male circumcision illegal in San Francisco

Is male circumcision a violation of children's rights or a procedure that prevents disease and saves lives?

Mutilating babies through circumcision is cruel, barbaric medical and religious child abuse

Vancouver man guilty of criminal negligence for botched circumcision of son gets one year in jail

Religiously deluded father guilty of negligence causing bodily harm for botched home-circumcision of 4-year-old son

Man accused of circumcising own children

Jury can't decide whether Mormon polygamist is guilty of child abuse for circumcising two sons at home with box cutter

Dad never charged in botched home circumcision of 3-month old in 2008 now charged with murdering 2nd son 


One of the most common human rights abuses is the grotesque sexual torture of girls for religion and tradition

Canadian mom fighting legal battle to protect 3 daughters from ritual abuse of genital mutilation in Nigeria 

New Canadian immigration guide says multiculturalism no excuse for barbaric practices like honour crimes, forced marriages, genital mutilation 

10 year old Nigerian girl facing deportation from UK attempts suicide to avoid cultists and genital mutilation 

Thousands of British girls tortured by genital mutilation, no perpetrator yet prosecuted despite longstanding laws 

Thousands of girls mutilated in Britain 

Female genital mutilation common place in Kurdish Iraq, motivated mainly by a false religious imperative

A Cutting Tradition

Police plea on genital mutilation

American Academy of Pediatrics issue new policy that essentially promotes female genital mutilation

Follow-Up To: American Academy of Pediatrics issue new policy that essentially promotes female genital mutilatio

Egypt forbids female circumcision

Islamic scholar opposes ban on female circumcision

Witch hunt: Africa's hidden war on women

Famous Egyptian feminist tackles religious fundamentalism to protect women and girls, but gets no honour in her own country 

Author challenges feminists to take on major religions that subjugate and abuse women and children


  1. San Francisco judge removes circumcision ban from ballot By Madison Park, CNN July 28, 2011


    San Francisco residents will not be voting on whether male circumcisions should be banned in the city this fall.A Superior Court judge ordered Thursday that the proposed measure, which had initially made it onto the November 8 city ballot, be removed entirely.

    The measure proposed banning male circumcisions with the penalty of jail time or a $1,000 fine. It would not have granted religious exemptions.
    From the beginning, the controversial ballot measure faced strong resistance from medical, religious and civil liberties groups.

    Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi wrote that male circumcision is "a widely practiced medical procedure" and that medical services are left to the regulation of the state, not individual cities. The judge's ruling was hailed by the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Anti-Defamation League and others who had sued to remove the measure from the ballot.

    "While we are confident that the overwhelming majority of San Franciscans would have voted to defeat this extreme measure and are grateful for the outpouring of support from every sector of the community, we believe the right decision was made in the right venue," said Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of Jewish Community Relations Council.

    The plaintiff's efforts were also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and San Francisco's Medical Society. And even the San Francisco City Attorney's office expressed concerns about whether the measure was constitutional. "It's unusual for a judge to order an initiative off the ballot, but the proposed circumcision ban presented that rare case where the court should block an election on an initiative," said ACLU Northern California staff attorney Margaret Crosby in a released statement. "Not only is the ban patently illegal, it also threatened family privacy and religious freedom. The court's order protects fundamental constitutional values in San Francisco."

    Anti-circumcision advocates who had gathered more than 7,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot expressed disappointment and said they would appeal. "To remove an initiative before it comes on ballot is an extraordinarily irregular thing to do," said Lloyd Schofield, who is part of a Bay Area advocacy group that says the surgery violates human rights and likens it to "male genital mutilation."
    "To go to this length to have it struck from the ballot is undemocratic," he said. "It's very, very unfortunate."

  2. Circumcision: ‘Mutilation’ or an ‘act of love’?


    Rebecca Wald is “100% Jewish.” She celebrates the high holidays, her children attend Hebrew school, she lights candles on the sabbath and she was married to a “100% Jewish” man under a chuppah at a traditional Jewish wedding.

    But unlike most Jews, from the most secular to the ultra-orthodox, she did not circumcise her son. She has never attended — will never attend — a bris, the age-old ceremony where a Jew trained in circumcision (a ‘mohel’) removes the foreskin of an eight-day-old Jewish boy as a sign of his covenant with God.

    “All of the babies I saw growing up — whether cousins or the kids I babysat — were circumcised, and it seemed like that was the way things were supposed to be,” said Ms. Wald, who in December launched Beyond the Bris, a website for Jews who question circumcision. “It took having a son, who is intact, for me to really accept how normal [the uncircumcised penis] is.”

    The South Florida mom is among a growing and vocal minority of Jewish “intactivists” who are challenging the 4,000-year-old ritual because, they say, the procedure inflicts unnecessary pain without any health gains, causes long-term psychological harm, hinders sexual function and pleasure, and strikes at the core of consent. They say there are Jewish women who silently pray they will not bear a son, and that the question, ‘When’s the bris?’ is too presumptive.

    Ms. Wald has not yet told her young son about her decision — she did not want to disclose his age. “Like many Jewish parents of intact sons, we’re not thrilled to publicly discuss the status of our own children’s sex organs,” she said — but said she assumes he will “at some point” learn about it.

    “I imagine he’s going to be thankful that we spared him from this mutilation,” said Ms. Wald, adding that had she been born a boy, her “forward-thinking” parents would not have circumcised her.

    Beyond the Bris has attracted more than 9,000 visitors from 89 countries in the past eight months, chiming into the burgeoning chorus of like-minded Jewish groups such as Jews Against Circumcision, the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center, the Israeli Association Against Genital Mutilation, and the Israel-based group Kahal.

    Intactivist organizations like these have existed for years — one of which was criticized as anti-Semitic for its comic series called Foreskin Man, with characters such as Dr. Mutilator and Monster Mohel. But this latest slew of opponents is unique in that they are led by people whose own religion demands circumcision.
    “If the Jewish identity comes down to whether or not you have a piece of skin on your penis, then that’s a very sad thing for the Jewish people,” Ms. Wald said, pointing out that a child is Jewish if he or she is born to a Jewish mother.

    “There are no religious consequences of not being circumcised — the boy could still have a bar mitzvah, for example,” echoed Eli Ungar-Sargon, the Jewish filmmaker whose tour starts in Los Angeles in September, with stops in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver in October. “The consequences are imagined and invented. They’re not actual.”

    He said there has been a “cultural shift” since his film launched four years ago, and said the issue “caught fire” with Lloyd Schofield’s attempt to ban circumcision in San Francisco this year — a ban he supports in principle.

    read the rest at the link above

  3. Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision (Abridged

    The critically acclaimed documentary on male circumcision by Chicago filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon.


    For the unabridged version, please buy the DVD at:


  4. Brown signs bills on male circumcision and synthetic pot

    The circumcision bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, aims to 'protect parental rights and liberties.'

    By Anthony York October 2, 2011

    Reporting from Sacramento -- Local governments will be unable to ban male circumcision under a new state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

    The bill, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), was drafted in response to a proposed San Francisco ballot measure that would have prohibited any foreskin cutting that was not deemed medically necessary in that city. That proposed ordinance was struck from the ballot by a Superior Court judge in June, amid protests from doctors and religious groups. A similar measure was proposed in Santa Monica but was later pulled back by proponents.

    Gatto said his measure, signed Sunday, would "protect parental rights and liberties."

    The bill was one of 44 measures approved by Brown, who has hundreds more on his desk that must be approved or vetoed by Oct. 9. Brown also vetoed four bills Sunday.



  5. Controversial Jewish filmmaker brings his documentary "CUT: Slicing Through theMyths of Circumcision" to Vancouver

    October 13, 2011 (FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE) — Jewish filmmaker Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon opposes infant circumcision, and he is taking his hard-hitting documentary "CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of
    Circumcision" on a two-month screening tour to spread his message across North America. On October 24, Vancouver’s Canadian Foreskin
    Awareness Project (in association with The WHOLE Network) will present CUT at a special one-night event at the Roundhouse Community Centre.

    Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, Ungar-Sargon reached adulthood so disturbed by the ritual of infant circumcision that he ultimately
    dropped out of medical school to make CUT. A powerful and deeply personal film, CUT examines infant male circumcision from religious,
    scientific, and ethical perspectives, exploring the conflict between personal ethics and what many believe is a religious obligation.
    Combining contemporary research with revealing interviews with rabbis, philosophers, scientists, and family members, CUT challenges viewers to confront their biases by asking difficult questions about this ancient and increasingly controversial practice.

    “If you’ve never seen a circumcision and you’re contemplating doing this to another human being, I think you owe it to yourself to watch
    something like this.” - CUT director Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, SF Weekly, September 22 2011

    Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project founder Glen Callender jumped at the chance to screen CUT in Vancouver, because he feels it represents
    an important Jewish perspective that is too often overlooked by the news media. “Journalists typically portray Jews as having a uniformly
    pro-infant circumcision point of view,” states Callender. “CUT reveals that, in reality, many Jews have difficulty reconciling infant
    circumcision with modern values of personal freedom and human rights.”

    “If you really understand what circumcision is, and the issues around it, you are forced to question what kind of Jew you want to be.”
    - Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, Boulder Weekly, October 13 2011

    Joining Ungar-Sargon for a post-screening discussion will be Dr. Paul Tinari, the only Canadian man to date who has received a
    government-funded foreskin restoration. (Additional participants TBC.)

    Preview CUT at http://cutthefilm.com/Cut_Website/The_Film.html

    "CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision" will screen in Room B of Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) Monday October 24 at 8:15pm sharp. Director Q&A and discussion will follow. Admission free/by donation. Underground parking available (enter off Drake

    Media contacts:

    Director Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon: 312-925-9819 / cutdocumentary@gmail.com

    CAN-FAP founder Glen Callender: 604-628-7012 / GlenCallender@gmail.com

    Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project (CAN-FAP)

    Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision

  6. Senegal Curbs a Bloody Rite for Girls and Women

    By CELIA W. DUGGER NYT October 15, 2011

    SARE HAROUNA, Senegal — When Aissatou Kande was a little girl, her family followed a tradition considered essential to her suitability to marry. Her clitoris was sliced off with nothing to dull the pain. But on her wedding day, Ms. Kande, her head modestly covered in a plain white shawl, vowed to protect her own daughters from the same ancient custom. Days later, her village declared it would abandon female genital cutting for good.

    Across the continent, an estimated 92 million girls and women have undergone it. But like more than 5,000 other Senegalese villages, Sare Harouna has joined a growing movement to end the practice. The change has not yet reached Ms. Kande’s new home in her husband’s village, but if elders there pressured her to cut the baby girl she is taking into the marriage, she said, “I would resist them.” Her parents back her up.

    “They would never dare do that to my granddaughter, and we would never allow it,” said Ms. Kande’s mother, Marietou Diamank. The movement to end genital cutting is spreading in Senegal at a quickening pace through the very ties of family and ethnicity that used to entrench it. And a practice once seen as an immutable part of a girl’s life in many ethnic groups and African nations is ebbing, though rarely at the pace or with the organized drive found in Senegal.

    The change is happening without the billions of dollars that have poured into other global health priorities throughout the developing world in recent years. Even after campaigning against genital cutting for years, the United Nations has raised less than half the $44 million it set as the goal.

    But here in Senegal, Tostan, a group whose name means “breakthrough” in Wolof, Senegal’s dominant language, has had a major impact with an education program that seeks to build consensus, African-style, on the dangers of the practice, while being careful not to denounce it as barbaric as Western activists have been prone to do. Senegal’s Parliament officially banned the practice over a decade ago, and the government has been very supportive of Tostan’s efforts. “Before you would never even dare to discuss this,” said Mamadou Dia, governor of the Kolda region where this village is located. “It was taboo. Now you have thousands of people coming to abandon it.”

    read the full article at:


  7. Cult blamed for growth in female circumcision

    By JOYCE KIMANI, Daily Nation - Kenya
    November 22, 2011

    A religious cult has been blamed for rising cases of female circumcision in Naivasha and its environs.

    Women say although the tradition is almost extinct in the area, the cult is forcing its members to circumcise girls.

    Most take place in Naivasha, Maai Mahiu, Kinangop and Narok.

    It is expected that there will be an increase in female circumcision cases in Narok and the rest of Maasai Land because they hold on strongly to their culture.

    Councillor Esther Njeri has mobilised people in these areas to fight what is considered in the region to be an important and ancient rite of passage from girl to womanhood.

    They will be seeking to arrest traditional circumcisers who force young girls to be circumcised.

    Ms Njeri said that they had started persuading members of the religious organisation to end the circumcisions.

    She said many school-age children had come out and confessed that they were forced.

    “The children call us and tell us when they learn that their parents are planning to circumcise them. So far, we have rescued more than 10 girls from members of the religious sect,” she said.

    The councillor said that most of the girls are circumcised during the December school holidays.

    She said that in some Maasai primary schools, girls are told to write a composition on the dangers of female circumcision, Ms Njeri said.

    Naivasha district commissioner Hellen Kiilu cautioned women who still practise the female cut that they were breaking the law.

    She said a crackdown had been launched to curb the practice.


  8. Infant male circumcision is genital mutilation

    by Martin Robbins, The Lay Scientist December 6, 2011

    There are still many people who like to pretend that infant circumcision and genital mutilation are not the same thing. Some of them apparently work at Indonesia's health ministry, the Departemen Kesehatan, who recently issued guidelines for 'safe' female circumcision and wheeled out a spokeswoman to dispense the following words of wisdom: "I would like to stress that female circumcision is not genital mutilation, which is indeed dangerous. They are two things that are very different."

    This nonsense comes from the same ministry that recently pushed the idea that swine flu was an American conspiracy - a sinister plot to achieve something or other through some improbable chain of unlikely events – and it isn't surprising that logic isn't their strong point. And yet the same attitude is widespread in Britain. Thousands of people believe, against all logic and reason, that male infant circumcision is somehow not genital mutilation.

    Mutilation is a loaded term, so let me be clear what I mean. I don't mean that circumcision is mutilation. If consenting adults want to modify their bodies by snipping a bit off here or adding a bit there, then that's their right, and beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder.

    Infant circumcision is a completely different matter. Infant circumcision involves performing surgery without consent to permanently alter an individual's genitals. In many cases this is done without good medical justification, for example to force the infant to conform to the expectations of a particular religion. Just as we call sex without consent 'rape', circumcision without consent or reasonable justification should be called 'mutilation'.

    The practice became popular in the United States as a 19th century tool to stop boys masturbating. Female circumcision is ultimately a brutal means of oppressing women's sexuality, and male circumcision was intended to achieve the same.

    Writing about the practice in 1978, Karen Paige suggested that, "When a custom persists after its original functions have died, it may be accorded the status of a ritual." Circumcision failed to stop masturbation, but became engrained in the American consciousness as a bizarre rite-of-passage, a throw-back to the burnings, whippings and cuttings still practised in other tribes around the world.

    Divorced from its original purpose, circumcision has become a treatment in search of a disease, and post hoc justifications abound. Surveys suggest that the two most common rationalizations invoked by parents are hygiene and appearance. The hygiene argument is self-evidently daft – for no other part of the body do we advocate "chop it off" over "wash it more thoroughly" as the preferred option for improving hygiene. As for aesthetics, for a parent to be that concerned about the cosmetic appearance of their baby son's sexual organs is frankly a bit disturbing, but surely it should be for the individual to decide?

    Health benefits of circumcision are commonly cited, but tend to evaporate when challenged, with medical professional bodies tending to dismiss it as a question of personal choice. The British Medical Association for example states that, "the medical harms or benefits have not been unequivocally proven but there are clear risks of harm if the procedure is done inexpertly." ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  9. Dad who botched circumcision loses court appeal

    The Canadian Press December 22, 2011

    A B.C. man who performed a botched circumcision on his four-year-old son on the kitchen floor of his home has lost an appeal of his conviction and been found guilty of a more serious charge.

    The B.C. Court of Appeal has stayed the man's conviction for criminal negligence causing bodily harm and convicted him of aggravated assault.

    Court heard the boy was born premature at only 2.5 pounds and could not be circumcised at the time, nor did his parents request it.

    But the court found the boy's father "changed his world view" over the ensuing years.

    "He came to understand that there was great utility in keeping the laws of Moses, including that of circumcision," the appeal ruling said.

    The trial judge found "that the accused decided that because so many disasters had befallen his family, he had to 'make things right with God."'

    The man, who had no medical training, tried to do the circumcision in 2007 after doctors refused to do it on the grounds the operation would require a general anesthesic, which couldn't be justified on a boy that age.

    Court documents say the man gave alcohol to the boy, referred to only by the initials D.J., and used a blade that was not as sharp as a surgical instrument. To stanch the bleeding, the man used a veterinary powder suitable only for livestock.

    The boy was taken to hospital four days later and required corrective surgery, including a proper circumcision. The surgeon testified his penis would have healed to be badly deformed.

    Among her reasons for convicting the man, the trial judge, who is not named, noted that the man had tried to circumcise himself a few years before he undertook the procedure on his son.

    His actions caused "his foreskin to bleed in nine places, requiring the assistance of 911 and sutures in hospital," resulting in an infected penis.

    "The accused was aware of the dangers of performing a circumcision on his son," the trial judge wrote.

    The man, who was not named, was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon for the incident with his son.

    At the man's original trial, the judge in the case convicted him on the negligence charge but acquitted him on the assault charges.

    He appealed his conviction, arguing his religious beliefs should have allowed him to do the procedure, but the Appeal Court rejected the appeal.

    "The accused's religion did not demand that the circumcision be performed by the accused himself, nor did the trial judge find that religious necessity dictated that the circumcision be performed immediately so that the accused was left with no alternative but to perform the operation himself," the appeal court ruling said.

    "Thus, it is not the accused's religious beliefs that are at issue, but the rights and best interests of D.J. with respect to whether he should have been subjected to an attempted circumcision by his father in the circumstances and conditions under which it was attempted."

    The Crown appealed the acquittals on the assault charges and while the appeal court rejected the charge of assault with a weapon, it imposed a conviction on the charge of aggravated assault.

    The court has ordered new sentencing for the man, who was originally given two years in prison under the criminal negligence charge.


  10. Victory in sight for revolution over female genital mutilation

    by Nina Lakhani, The Independent UK February 6, 2012

    Amid the horrors surrounding female genital mutilation (FGM) there is a quiet revolution, which experts hope could lead to the eradication of the practice.

    Thousands of rural communities across Africa, which have practiced FGM for centuries, are starting to abandon the tradition in response to grass-roots education programmes. Analysts are even daring to talk of eradication within two generations – something that was unimaginable even five years ago.

    Another 2,000 communities in countries including Sudan, Somalia and Egypt rejected the practice in 2011.

    FGM is a harmful social convention in which part, or all, of a girl's external genitals are removed. Each year around three million girls – 8,000 a day – face FGM. An estimated 130 million girls and women are living with painful complications.

    FGM occurs within 28 African countries, but also the Middle East, in Yemen, Oman and UAE, and parts of Asia including Malaysia. Girls are generally aged between five and 11; most girls are cut without anaesthetic using an unsterilised blade.

    Tostan, a community-based human rights organisation, which originates in Senegal, has an FGM abandonment success rate of 77 per cent and is working in eight other African countries. The first community rejected the practice in 1997.

    Traditionally, an uncut girl is considered unsuitable for marriage and maybe rejected by her community. This is why the community-based approach used by the NGO Tostan has succeeded where many others have failed. It involves whole communities, including the men, in rejecting the practice.

    Julia Lalla-Maharajh, founder of UK charity Orchid, which supports Tostan, said: "The exponential rise in communities rejecting FGM means we can start to think about eradication in our lifetime. In 1899, 94 per cent of Chinese girls had their feet bound; by 1919 this was down to zero.

    "We know that Tostan's approach works, so it is now a matter of resources."

    Latest figures from the UN show that 8,000 communities have abandoned both FGM and forced marriage. This includes 5,315 in Senegal, 670 in Sudan, 600 in Guinea, and 92 in Djibouti.

    In 2008, the UNFPA, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, and UNICEF, the UN children's fund, asked members to donate $40m (£25.3m) to fund an initiative called Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM. It has received only half of the money so far.

    The Minister for International Development, Stephen O'Brien, witnessed first-hand the impact of FGM during a recent visit to Senegal. The UK currently funds projects in Senegal and Kenya. "Tostan's success has shown the world what can be done, and gives us confidence that even behaviour so deeply embedded in culture can be changed. It means the DfID is looking a lot more to help stamp out this millennia-old practise... and part of that will be supporting research to see how we can scale up what Tostan does without losing its community essence."

    In the most extreme form of FGM, the entire external genitals are cut away. The wound left will be sewn up, with only a tiny hole left for menstrual blood and urine. Around the time of her wedding, a young woman will be cut open, just enough for penetrative sex. She is also further cut to give birth, then re-sewn.


    62%: Amount of 15 to 19-year-olds subjected to FGM in Ethiopia, compared to an 81 per cent rate among 35 to 39-year-olds.

    140m: Estimated number of women globally subjected to FGM

    5,315: The number of villages in Senegal that were known to use FGM – that have signed public declarations abandoning it.

    17: African countries to pass laws banning practice


  11. Brooklyn DA Looking Into Infant's Death From Controversial Bris Practice

    Hella Winston, Special To the Jewish Week March 5, 2012

    After the death of an infant who contracted herpes during a controversial circumcision practice, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said it is investigating the case as a possible criminal matter.

    Jerry Schmetterer, the spokesman for Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, told The Jewish Week Monday, “Our Crimes Against Children Bureau is looking into this situation. I would not assume what any possible charges would be.”

    As the Daily News reported on Sunday, a 2-week-old infant died at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital in September after contracting the herpes simplex virus Type 1 during the practice of metzitzah b’peh, otherwise known as “oral suction,” or the suctioning of blood from the circumcision wound directly by mouth.

    Neither the name of the child nor that of the ritual circumciser, or mohel, who performed the ritual has been released to the public. However, “herpes infections in infants aged 60 days or younger” are on the list of communicable diseases that require reporting to the New York State Department of Health.

    The new death, which follows the herpes-related death of another infant in 2005 tied to the ritual practice, reignited calls this week for the government to regulate or ban the practice.

    “The state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of children and needs to step in on an emergency basis to make sure this practice is halted immediately,” Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo law school and an expert in church-state matters, told The Jewish Week.

    “The DA should step in and this mohel should go to jail [for a felony],” Hamilton continued, adding that the state should create a criminal penalty for such behavior, which would be constitutional as long as it does not target direct oral suction as a Jewish behavior.

    In response to a request by The Jewish Week for comment on this latest case, David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel, noted that in 2006, the New York State Department of Health and a “broad array” of Orthodox rabbis signed off on a Circumcision Protocol Regarding the Prevention of Neonatal Herpes Transmission.

    “We have no information whether the mohel [in the new case] took the precautionary hygienic steps outlined in the DOH Protocol, whether an investigation was done to determine the cause and source of the child’s infection, or what any such investigation may have determined,” Zwiebel said. “Until we know those things, I think it is premature for us — or anyone, for that matter — to offer public comment.”

    The state guidelines were the subject of heated controversy at the time they were signed, as doctors and other medical experts claimed that the practices they outlined — including requiring mohels to sanitize their hands and rinse their mouths with mouthwash — did nothing to guard against the transmission of the herpes virus. Indeed, even the city’s health commissioner at the time, Dr. Thomas Frieden, expressed serious reservations about the sufficiency of the guidelines.

    In fact, the website of the city’s Health Department currently notes that “there is no proven way to reduce the risk of metzitzah b’peh” and that, while “a mohel may use oral rinses or sip wine” before performing the ritual, “there is no evidence that these actions reduce the spread of herpes.” The site also states that “[a] mohel who takes antiviral medication may reduce the risk of spreading the virus during [the ritual], but there is no evidence that taking medication eliminates the risk.”

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    According to state Health Department estimates, 54 percent of people in the U.S. are carriers of the virus, which remains dormant within the nerve cells between outbreaks and can still be transmitted absent any obvious signs and symptoms. Therefore the department has noted that “it is likely many mohelim performing metzitzah b’peh may place infants at risk of infection.” Because of the virus’ association with the nervous system, it poses significant threat of complications in newborns and can result in brain damage and even death.

    Despite these warnings, metzitzah b’peh remains legal and continues to be practiced in some ultra-Orthodox circles, which view it as mandatory. Indeed, while early rabbinic law lists direct oral suction as one of the three steps involved in performing a bris, many decisors of Jewish law believe that it was never seen as an essential aspect of the bris, but something done to prevent health risks to the child after the circumcision.

    In the 19th-century Rabbi Moshe Schreiber (The Chasam Sofer) ruled that direct oral suction is not an integral part of circumcision and, as such, other methods of drawing the blood were permissible. Rulings by 19th-century rabbis, including Samson Raphael Hirsch and Azriel Hildesheimer, publicized a ruling that metzitzah could be performed using a glass tube. Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918), instructed mohels in Brisk not to do the suctioning with direct oral contact.

    Several years ago, Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a microbiologist and professor of Talmud and medical ethics at Yeshiva University, argued that the known health risks associated with direct oral suction prohibit its practice under Jewish law.

    News of this latest death comes nearly seven years after the death of an infant and the infection with the herpes virus of his twin and another child sparked a heated public controversy about the practice. Each of these three children underwent metzitzah b’peh by a prominent mohel, Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer. The city filed a legal complaint against Fischer to compel him to stop engaging in the practice while it investigated his connection to the infections, but he did not comply and the matter was ultimately referred by the city to a beit din, or religious tribunal, for review.

    It is not known whether Fischer was involved in this most recent death. A 2010 form letter to rabbis from the state health commissioner notes that in July of 2007, the commissioner “restricted the practice of one mohel who was epidemiologically linked to several such cases,” though it did not name the mohel.

    On the heels of the revelations about the cases linked to Fischer, the city’s health department issued a public warning about the practice, which touched off a firestorm in the ultra-Orthodox community. Some among the rabbinic leadership accused the health department of overstepping its authority and infringing on religious freedom and rabbis’ rights to regulate ritual practice. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Frieden, the health commissioner — both non-Orthodox Jews — were compared to Nazis and Russian czars.

    Ultimately, the mayor intervened, promising to study the matter and, according to a story in The New York Times, noting that “it is not the government’s business to tell people how to practice their religion.” At the time, Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg told The Times that “the Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years.”

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    When it came to light that two more babies had been infected (apparently not by Fischer), Frieden issued an “Open Letter to the Jewish Community,” which recommended — but stopped short of requiring — a cessation of the practice altogether, instead endorsing alternatives to the practice, like using a sterile glass tube (which is done in modern Orthodox circles).

    Frieden’s letter was met with renewed outrage by the ultra-Orthodox community. And, once again, the health department came under fire for what the community considered an overstepping of its bounds.

    Agudath Israel’s Zwiebel told The Jewish Week at the time that, rather than advising parents to consult their mohel and pediatrician about the procedure, “[the letter] probably would have been more respectful to have said ‘consult your rabbi.’ It’s almost as if the health department didn’t want to encourage people to speak to their rabbi and figure out with him their traditional regulations.”

    Zwiebel also told a well-regarded Jewish blogger that because “we … know … that any incidence of neonatal herpes after metzitzah b’peh is extremely rare, and that any incidence of serious harm is rarer still … given the fact that we’re talking about an essential religious practice, we feel it was inappropriate for the Health Department to issue this type of public warning.”

    For its part, the state health department — then headed by Antonina Novello, appointed by Republican Gov. Pataki, who himself had strong ties to the Orthodox community — reached its own agreement with chasidic leaders in June of 2006, hailed by Rabbi Niederman in a press release as a “historic protocol” and the one to which Zwiebel referred to above.

    The 2010 letter to rabbis from the commissioner of the state health department, referenced above, noted that “over the past five years” there have been “several documented cases” of herpes simplex Type 1 viruses in newborns who underwent metzitzah b’peh in New York City.

    Calls and e-mails to Rabbi Niederman had received no response as of Monday afternoon. The current commissioners of the state and city health departments also did not provide comment in time for publication.

    According to Rachel W, a chasidic woman who lives in Brooklyn and works in the health care field, but did not want to use her full name for fear of appearing to challenge the rabbis, “any government ban will only drive [metzitzah b’peh] underground, making neonatal herpes even less likely to be reported and treated.”

    “If it is deemed unlawful,” she added, “it will also become an issue worth fighting over for my people. That’s why gaining the cooperation of the rabbis is the way to go.”

    Cardozo’s Marci Hamilton, however, disagrees.

    “This is an issue that absolutely cannot be left to the religious authorities. It is a violation of the child’s right to life and just basic moral values.”


  14. Female circumcision anger aired in India

    By Rupam Jain Nair | AFP – April 24, 2012

    Eleven years ago, Farida Bano was circumcised by an aunt on a bunk bed in her family home at the end of her 10th birthday party.

    The mutilation occurred not in Africa, where the practice is most prevalent, but in India where a small Muslim sub-sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra continues to believe that the removal of the clitoris is the will of God.

    "We claim to be modern and different from other Muslim sects. We are different but not modern," Bano, a 21-year-old law graduate who is angry about what was done to her, told AFP in New Delhi.

    She vividly remembers the moment in the party when the aunt pounced with a razor blade and a pack of cotton wool.
    The Bohra brand of Islam is followed by 1.2 million people worldwide and is a sect of Shia Islam that originated in Yemen.

    While the sect bars other Muslims from its mosques, it sees itself as more liberal, treating men and women equally in matters of education and marriage.

    The community's insistence on "Khatna" (the excision of the clitoris) also sets it apart from others on the subcontinent.

    "If other Muslims are not doing it then why are we following it?" Bano says.

    For generations, few women in the tightly-knit community have spoken out in opposition, fearing that to air their grievances would be seen as an act of revolt frowned upon by their elders.

    But an online campaign is now encouraging them to join hands to bury the custom.

    The anti-Khatna movement gained momentum after Tasneem, a Bohra woman who goes by one name, posted an online petition at the social action platform Change.org in November last year.

    She requested their religious leader, the 101-year-old Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, ban female genital mutilation, the consequences of which afflict 140 million women worldwide according to the World Health Organisation.

    Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is the 52nd Dai-al Mutalaq (absolute missionary) of the community and has sole authority to decide on all spiritual and temporal matters.

    Every member of the sect takes an oath of allegiance to the leader, who lives in western city of Mumbai.
    When contacted by AFP, Burhanuddin's spokesman, Qureshi Raghib, ruled out any change and said he had no interest in talking about the issue.

    "I have heard about the online campaign but Bohra women should understand that our religion advocates the procedure and they should follow it without any argument," he said.

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    But over 1,600 Bohra Muslim women have since signed the online petition.

    Many describe the pain they experienced after the procedure and urge their leader to impose a ban.

    "The main motive behind Khatna is that women should never enjoy sexual intercourse. We are supposed to be like dolls for men," 34-year-old Tabassum Murtaza, who lives in the western city of Surat, told AFP by telephone.

    The World Health Organisation has campaigned against the practice, saying it exposes millions of girls to dangers ranging from infections, hemorrhaging, complicated child-birth, or hepatitis from unsterilised tools.

    In the Middle East, it is still practised in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan and Syria.

    "It is an atrocity committed under the cloak of religion," says Murtaza, who along with her husband was asked to leave their family home when they refused to get their daughter circumcised.

    "My mother-in-law said there was no room for religious disobedience and we should move out if we cannot respect the custom," she explained. "It is better to live on the street than humiliate your daughter's body."

    Asghar Ali Engineer, a Bohra Muslim and expert on Islamic jurisprudence, has known the dangers of fighting for reform.
    He has authored over 40 books proposing changes, particularly around the status of women, and has been attacked by hardliners inside a mosque in Egypt and had his house trashed by opponents.

    While both France and the United States have laws enabling the prosecution of immigrants who perform female circumcisions, the practice remains legal in India and Engineer expects this to remain the case.

    "Female circumcision is clearly a violation of human rights, the Indian government refuses to recognise it as a crime because the practice has full-fledged religious backing," he said.

    "No government has the courage to touch a religious issue in India even if the practice is a crime against humanity."
    He says many fathers are simply unaware of the damage they are doing by following the custom.

    "I prevented my wife from getting our daughters circumcised but in many cases even fathers are not aware of the pain their daughters experience," he says.


  16. Circumcision’s Deadly Fault Line: Rationality vs. the Metzitzah B’Peh

    by Kent Sepkowitz, The Daily Beast June 10, 2012

    Circumcision refuses to leave the front page. In the last decade, stories of all types have found their way above the fold. These include the horrifying—exposés on the routine practice of female circumcision in some countries; the thrilling—the startling news from the AIDS-research world that male circumcision provides a durable 30-50 percent reduction in acquisition of HIV among heterosexual men; and the middling—evidence that the American Academy of Pediatrics is starting to waffle on their 1999 statement of complete neutrality regarding the procedure. There also is the curious: the burgeoning foreskin-restoration movement (click here if you must, but beware if you are pregnant, have vascular disease, or are prone to motion sickness), complete with a national organization, NORM, and a startup company called Foregen, which promotes genital integrity and promises to grow you a new one. Someday.

    This week, however, an even more controversial, and grim, circumcision-related issue surfaced. Writing in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just reported a fatal transmission of herpes from an infected ritual circumciser, or mohel, to an eight-day-old baby apparently related to a practice performed in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community called metzitzah b’peh. What, you ask, is metzitzah b’peh? According to the CDC, it refers to the ritual when a mohel “places his mouth directly on the newly circumcised penis and sucks blood away from the circumcision wound (direct orogenital suction).”

    The transmission of herpes is thought to occur when the mohel, without or without a visible oral herpes sore (herpes is well-known to be transmissible even in the absence of a visible sore), touches his lips to the infant’s newly cut skin—a golden and tragic opportunity for herpes or any infection to enter the bloodstream. The immune system of the infant is far too immature to handle much of anything and some babies are quickly overwhelmed. In the CDC series, infants in two of 11 cases gathered over the last decade died and others were left with long-term neurologic disabilities.

    This problem has flared previously. In 2005, a few cases (included in the new report) occurred in a different ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and resulted in substantial friction between the public-health authorities and the community. As with the recent series of issues related to possible under-reporting of child sexual abuse among the ultra-Orthodox, community leaders accused government officials of over-reaching in their pronouncements of what was safe and acceptable behavior for the community. Like many, from the Tea Party to every stomping-mad teenage boy, they claim that they are capable of governing themselves. So just leave us alone and get out of our room!

    With the controversy surrounding metzitzah b’peh, we are tiptoeing on that ever-familiar fault line that separates church and state, or tries to. It’s the exact same impasse that has dogged mankind at least since Jesus advised someone to render unto Caesar that which was Caesar’s, yadda yadda. At the heart of it is a battle between the rational mind and the passionate heart, the visible and the spiritual, those who pride themselves in playing well with others and those who are even more proud to show how poorly they play. They will build their own goddammed sandbox and you’re not invited.

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    The discord seems to surface in some new and alarming form just about every week: prayer in public schools, use of taxpayer dollars for parochial schools via a “voucher” program, a marble monument of the Ten Commandments in front of a state supreme court. Politicians typically run the other way, knowing the riptide of the issue is dangerous for those who wade out too deep.

    It is fitting that the precious real estate of the eternally derided foreskin should be the place where this problem finds its crescendo. Perhaps the only thing more intensely held than a person’s religious beliefs, be they strong or strongly disinterested, is a guy’s thoughts about his pecker. It is just about all we think about, though thankfully for one and all, the manifestations do vary. Given this, how completely and bizarrely ridiculous it is that men, millions and millions of men, that brutal tribe that spends all day thinking about it, worrying about it, protecting it, comparing it, agree to give up their foreskin and even that of their sons to the cold blade. That’s the point though—it is the ultimate leap of faith. The church-and-state issue remains unresolved because neither side can quit. The rational mind of course is correct, rationally—but we are not rational animals. The tradition of circumcision and, in its ultimate flowering, the ritual of metzitzah b’peh, show how puny is the strength of the human mind against the wild pumping of the human heart.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to:


    The CDC Report is at:


  18. German court rules religious circumcision on boys an assault

    AFP June 26, 2012

    Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents' religious rights.

    The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents", a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

    "The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised," the court added.

    The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents' wishes.

    A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily. Prosecutors then charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.

    The doctor was acquitted by a lower court that judged he had acted within the law as the parents had given their consent.

    On appeal, the regional court also acquitted the doctor but for different reasons.

    The regional court upheld the original charge of grievous bodily harm but also ruled that the doctor was innocent as there was too much confusion on the legal situation around circumcision.

    The court came down firmly against parents' right to have the ritual performed on young children.

    "The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision," the court said. "This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs."

    The decision caused outrage in Germany's Jewish community.

    The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was "an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination."

    The judgement was an "outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries," added Graumann.

    "This religious right is respected in every country in the world."

    Holm Putzke, a criminal law expert at the University of Passau, told the Financial Times Deutschland that the ruling was "enormously important for doctors because for the first time they have legal certainty."

    "Unlike many politicians, the court has not allowed itself to be scared off by charges of anti-Semitism or religious intolerance," added Putzke.

    The World Health Organisation has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised. In the United States, the operation is often performed for hygiene reasons on infants.

    Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country's large Jewish and Muslim communities.

    The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.


  19. European Jewish Leaders on Circumcision Ruling - 'Worst Attack on Jewish Life Since the Holocaust'

    Spiegel International Germany July 12, 2012

    An influential group of European rabbis on Thursday used unusually strong language to attack a German court ruling against the circumcision of boys. If the ruling is allowed to stand, the group's president warned, "then I don't see a future for Jews in Germany."

    Calling it the "worst attack on Jewish life since the Holocaust," the Conference of European Rabbis on Thursday strongly condemned a recent German court decision that criminalizes the circumcision of boys.

    "A ban on circumcision poses an existential question for the Jewish community in Germany," the president of the organization, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said on Thursday. "If the ruling is allowed to stand, then I don't see a future for Jews in Germany."

    The rabbi said he believed the German government would take steps to pass a law ensuring that circumcision, which is practiced as a religious tradition by Jews and Muslims alike, be legal in Germany.

    He said the ban on shechita, the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws, by the National Socialists had also been a sign for many Jews that "we need to leave Germany." But he added that a ban on circumcision, given the importance of the tradition, would send a much stronger message.

    Cologne's regional court ruled on June 26 that doctors in Germany who circumcise a boy for religious reasons could be accused of committing bodily injury, even in cases where parents have given their express consent. The ruling has been criticized by religious groups in Germany as well as the Israeli parliament.

    The ruling is not a blanket ban of circumcisions across Germany. But some fear that it could be seen as a precedent for other, similar decisions.

    The latest criticism came during a meeting of around 40 European rabbis who are part of the organization in Berlin. Goldschmidt said he also found it alarming that recent polls show that the majority of Germans support the court's decision.


    Criticism of German Court's Circumcision Decision - Jews Denounce Ruling, Seek Ways to Proceed

    Muslims and Jews Outraged by Circumcision Ruling

  20. International controversy rages over German ban on circumcision

    by: National Secular Society UK July 20, 2011

    A court case in Cologne, Germany, has held that circumcision, carried out for religious — as opposed to medical — reasons, is potentially harmful. The decision has, however, been fiercely opposed by religious interests, and this has put pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The (UK) Secular Medical Forum (SMF), associated with the National Secular Society, has been campaigning against this practice for over two years, raising the matter for example with the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council. Quite separately, the Royal Dutch Medical Association and associated bodies have concluded — like the court — that infant circumcision “can be harmful and that it violates the boy’s human rights to autonomy and physical integrity”.

    The pressure on Mrs Merkel has been led by Jewish campaigners who have gone so far as to suggest that it is the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust, something particularly sensitive in Germany. The popular press has also strongly opposed the court decision, whereas there is wide public support for the ruling.

    Mrs Merkel’s instinct has been to bow to the pressure, and she has been quoted as suggesting that the decision will lead to Germany being regarded as “a laughing stock”. She has vowed to bring forward legislation to protect Jewish and Muslim communities’ rights to circumcision.

    The SMF’s chairman, Dr Antony Lempert, has written to Chancellor Merkel (http://www.secularmedicalforum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/SMF-Angela-Merkel-letter-140712.pdf) to dissuade her from such action: “As the leader of a democracy that supports child welfare, we urge you to resist the strong pressure being brought to bear on you to overturn this laudable decision. The judgment is a common-sense verdict reflecting the expansion of human rights in the 21st century and the necessary restrictions that organised groups must have on their rights to practise their beliefs.

    “The lesson from the 20th century is not that groups of stronger people should be able to impose surgically their views on groups of weaker people to satisfy their own ideology or theology, but that all people deserve society’s protection from cradle to grave. That the first ruling of this kind in Europe should happen in Germany is something of which you can justly be proud.”

    The SMF is convinced that the court’s decision was in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is a UN Human Rights treaty which Germany, along with another 166 states, has undertaken to uphold.

    The NSS’s Keith Porteous Wood added: “We hope that the Chancellor has thought through carefully the implications of overriding a court decision, by seemingly reacting to what she regards as populist demands. She may find that in practice this is far more difficult than she imagined. We believe that there are strong human rights arguments to support the court’s stance. Human Rights are primarily to protect individuals, and few individuals could be more vulnerable than babies, against the overbearing power of groups. If she seeks to change the law to override the court’s decision, she is doing the very opposite: giving groups power over vulnerable individuals. And she is also going to find it very difficult to find wording which permits male genital mutilation, without also permitting female genital mutilation (fgm).”


  21. Wait until later, say pediatricians

    DW Germany July 17, 2012

    Interview: Dagmar Breitenbach / mll
    Editor: 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.

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    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.


  23. Swiss hospitals suspend circumcision

    By Jamie Michaels, The Jewish Chronicle July 23, 2012

    Two Swiss hospitals have suspended the performance of circumcision, after the ruling of a German court in Cologne which said that religious circumcision was likely to be illegal because it infringed the rights of the child.

    Last week, Zurich University Children's Hospital announced that it would stop performing the procedure, and the northern Swiss St. Gall teaching hospital followed suit over the weekend. A Berlin hospital has also stopped permitting circumcisions.

    Unlike the German court ruling, which affected all circumcisions in the country, it is expected that the Swiss move will not affect circumcisions elsewhere, meaning that they can still occur in synagogues.

    The dispute over this matter has enraged Jewish and Muslim organisations. The court case began after a four-year-old Muslim boy in Germany was hospitalised for excessive bleeding following a circumcision.


  24. Banning the Snip: The Debate on Circumcision

    by Binoy Kampmark, Scoop New Zealand July 25, 2012

    Chancellor Angela Merkel has a plateful of matters to deal with, most of them of an economic nature. Europe is stuttering and staggering, and the Dame of Austerity is finding herself with fewer friends by the day. With the recent decision by the regional court in Cologne disapproving the legality of circumcision for underage boys, a storm has erupted that has given her another issue to worry about. The debate may never have taken place had the doctor who performed the circumcision on the couple’s child not been charged with bodily harm.

    The Chancellor’s sentiments were recorded in the Bild daily: “I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practise their rituals. Otherwise we will become a laughing stock.” Both Merkel and Joerg van Essen, parliamentary floor leader of the Free Democrats, have suggested that laws overturning the effect of the ruling will be introduced over the autumn.

    The first thing to note in this sea of hysteria is the limited nature of the ruling. The court’s jurisdiction is confined to the city of Cologne and its environs. The fear there, of course, is one of precedent. Nor did the court expressly outlaw circumcision of underage boys. The regional court emphasised that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents.”

    Religious groups who encourage such practices have predictably gone on to pillory the ruling, suggesting that, in the twenty first century, it is still one’s untrammelled prerogative to alter the genital makeup of underage boys. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has issued a statement that, were this ruling to become German law, Jews might find living in that country intolerable. Ali Demir, chairman of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany has even made the curious remark that the ruling was “adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory against all the parties concerned” (Guardian, Jun 27). The issue has an even greater resonance in Germany, when the shadow of the Holocaust looms over any encroachment upon the rights of Jewish residents.

    What has been well illustrated not merely by the case but the reaction to it is a yawning gulf – on the one hand, the seething outrage against female genital mutilation (hardly a case of integration), and on the other ‘legitimate’, condoned practice, be it for some fanciful religious or medical notion, of male circumcision.

    Dr. Antony Lempert, chairman of Britain’s Secular Medical Forum, has expressed support for the ruling, seeing at work a distinct appellation of emotional blackmail that threatens to undermine it. Don’t, he urged Merkel, be phased. “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” (Reuters, Jul 17).

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    The point is well made, and ignores the debate on circumcision within those faiths that practice it. Ronald Goldman of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Centre has been happy to challenge the unquestioning assertions of the practice, noting that organisations can be found, even in Israel, decrying the snip. If we want to blot the record with historical references, Goldman reminds us in “Circumcision: A Source of Jewish Pain,” that Moses neglected to circumcise his son, while Theodor Herzl did not give his son the treatment when he was born in 1891. To claim that the snip is a mandatory feature of authentic Jewishness is also false, given that one can be uncircumcised and still remain Jewish.

    The other striking feature of the debate is one of age. Children’s rights have become something of a fetish in many states, a policy making boon for those seeking to control the interaction between adults and children. If it’s in the best interests of the child, then do it. Evidently, circumcising those who are incapable, and indeed often unaware, of what is being done to their genitals lies in a mysterious area of legal exceptionality. Religious, cultural practices take precedence – at least if the child in question is male. Again, to quote Lempert, “As it stands, the court’s decision ensures that today’s children will be free to grow up to make their own decisions.” (The blood of religious figures must surely have run cold at the very thought of a freely informed decision.)

    The German regional court did its part in igniting the issue with the assertion that circumcision amounted to grievous bodily harm. It is hard to contest that as a fact – harm it is, wielded by a practitioner skilled in the arts of foreskin removal. That’s hardly the view of such figures as Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who claims that the Queen chose to have HRH the Prince of Wales and his brothers, Andrew and Edward, snipped. If the royals do it, so can commoners.

    Catherine Bennett in the Guardian (Jul 22) adopted, rightly, a scoffing tone to the value of the practice. “While I wish the rabbi all the best, there seems no obvious reason why the royal family’s traditional aversion to foreskins should prove any more influential than its passion for polo, corgis and homeopathic remedies.”

    Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.


  26. In Germany, Ruling Over Circumcision Sows Anxiety and Confusion

    By MELISSA EDDY, New York Times July 13, 2012

    BERLIN — When the time came to have their son circumcised at age 4, Muhsin Sapci and his wife, Gonca, both first generation immigrants from Turkey, assumed they would simply take the boy to the nearby Jewish Hospital, used by many Muslim families who also prefer to have the procedure done by a surgeon.

    But since a German court’s ruling that equated circumcision with bodily harm — and a criminal act — many hospitals across the nation have stopped performing the procedure. The Sapcis are determined to have their son, Asil, who turns 4 this month, circumcised, but they do not know where to go.

    “Right now everything is controlled, most people go to a doctor and the child is covered by insurance,” Mr. Sapci said. “If they try to outlaw it, it will still be done, but differently, and that could have consequences.”

    Their quandary is indicative of the confusion that has been sown by the ruling on June 26 by a court in Cologne that, while not enforceable outside that region, has sent ripples of anger and anxiety throughout the country and beyond. It has raised vexing questions about the boundaries of religious practice and freedom in an increasingly secular Germany.

    “The often very aggressive prejudice against religion as backward, irrational and opposed to science is increasingly defining popular opinion,” said Michael Bongardt, a professor of ethics from Berlin’s Free University who added that the ruling reflected a profound lack of understanding in modern Germany for religious belief.

    Jewish and Muslim organizations convened this week in Berlin and Brussels to protest the ruling vigorously, and they said they had been inundated with calls from confused parents. The German Medical Association condemned the ruling for potentially putting children at risk by taking the procedure out of the hands of doctors, but it also warned surgeons not to perform circumcisions for religious reasons until legal clarity was established.

    On Friday, as the outcry intensified, the issue reached the highest levels of the German government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said that discussions were under way between the chancellor’s aides and the justice and other ministries to find a legal solution that would protect the right to perform ritual circumcisions.

    “It is urgently necessary that we establish legal certainty,” said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “It is clear this cannot be put on the back burner. Freedom to practice religion is a cherished legal principle.”

    Germany’s Justice Ministry is “carefully examining” the ruling and will decide what, if any, consequences are necessary, including the possibility of proposing legislation, said Mareke Aden, a ministry spokeswoman. But she warned that because the ruling involves opposing constitutional rights, a review would take time.

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    The condemnation has also come from abroad, including from the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Germany’s ambassador to Israel was called before a parliamentary committee to explain the ruling. Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister, said Friday that he had been showered with questions and criticism surrounding the ruling.

    “They are all greatly concerned about the ramifications of the ruling, but mostly for Jewish and Muslim life in Germany,” Mr. Westerwelle said. There are 100,000 Jews and four million Muslims living here.

    Early on, Mr. Westerwelle tried to calm the storm, by insisting that “Germany is an open, tolerant country, where religious freedom is firmly anchored and where religious traditions, such as circumcision, are protected as an expression of religious pluralism.”

    The reality has been less clear-cut. Bans on circumcision have existed throughout history, from ancient Roman and Greek times to the Soviet era last century. And while the Cologne court did not ban the practice and acquitted the doctor who performed a procedure that resulted in complications, it found that “the right of parents to raise their children in a religion does not override the right of a child to bodily integrity.”

    That such a ruling would come from a court in modern, post-World War II Germany has caused many to wonder whether the judges were fully aware of the implications and would have ruled differently had the case involved a Jewish boy, instead of a young Muslim. The boy in question was 4 years old.

    “I can’t imagine Berlin prosecutors ordering the police to enter a synagogue and arrest a Jew with a beard and yarmulke for carrying out a circumcision,” said Josh Spinner, an American rabbi who moved to Berlin 12 years ago and who now runs the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. “Those are pictures that I don’t believe anyone here is ready for.”

    After their meeting in Brussels this week, Muslim and Jewish leaders issued a joint statement calling on the German government to take action to defend the practice. “Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths, and we protest in the strongest possible terms this court ruling,” it said.

    Since the ruling, at least three ritual circumcisions have been performed in Berlin’s Jewish community, Mr. Spinner said. One was on the infant son of a 33-year-old man who moved to Germany from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, during an immigration wave of mostly Eastern European Jews who have helped the Jewish community here swell to more than 100,000.

    “The circumcision was planned because it was eight days after his birth, the time was right,” said the boy’s father, who did not want to give his name for fear that he could face legal charges. “We did it because we had to do it.”

    For the Sapcis, circumcising Asil is seen as both a practical step and a rite of passage. Mr. Sapci said he, too, was circumcised at age 4 in Turkey in a traditional celebration that is viewed among Turks as a boy’s first step toward becoming a man.

    “To call circumcision into question is idiotic,” Ms. Sapci said. “Just as washing your face, your hands and behind your ears is a ritual in Islam, so is circumcision.”


  28. Benefits of Circumcision Are Said to Outweigh Risks

    By RONI CARYN RABIN, New York Times August 27, 2012

    The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its stance on infant male circumcision, announcing on Monday that new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V., indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks.

    But the academy stopped short of recommending routine circumcision for all baby boys, saying the decision remains a family matter. The academy had previously taken a neutral position on circumcision.

    The new policy statement, the first update of the academy’s circumcision policy in over a decade, appears in the Aug. 27 issue of the journal Pediatrics. The group’s guidelines greatly influence pediatric care and decisions about coverage by insurers; in the new statement, the academy also said that circumcision should be covered by insurance.

    The long-delayed policy update comes as sentiment against circumcision is gaining strength in the United States and parts of Europe. Circumcision rates in the United States declined to 54.5 percent in 2009 from 62.7 percent in 1999, according to one federal estimate. Critics succeeded last year in placing a circumcision ban on the ballot in San Francisco, but a judge ruled against including the measure.

    In Europe, a government ethics committee in Germany last week overruled a court decision that removing a child’s foreskin was “grievous bodily harm” and therefore illegal. The country’s Professional Association of Pediatricians called the ethics committee ruling “a scandal.”

    A provincial official in Austria has told state-run hospitals in the region to stop performing circumcisions, and the Danish authorities have commissioned a report to investigate whether medical doctors are present during religious circumcision rituals as required.

    Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which for several years have been pondering circumcision recommendations of their own, have yet to weigh in and declined to comment on the academy’s new stance. Medicaid programs in several states have stopped paying for the routine circumcision of infants.

    “We’re not pushing everybody to circumcise their babies,” Dr. Douglas S. Diekema, a member of the academy’s task force on circumcision and an author of the new policy, said in an interview. “This is not really pro-circumcision. It falls in the middle. It’s pro-choice, for lack of a better word. Really, what we’re saying is, ‘This ought to be a choice that’s available to parents.’ ”

    But opponents of circumcision say no one — not even a well-meaning parent — has the right to make the decision to remove a healthy body part from another person.

    “The bottom line is it’s unethical,” said Georganne Chapin, founding director of Intact America, a national group that advocates against circumcision. “A normal foreskin on a normal baby boy is no more threatening than the hymen or labia on your daughter.”

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    In updating its 1999 policy, the academy’s task force reviewed the medical literature on benefits and harms of the surgery. It was a protracted analysis that began in 2007, and the result is a 30-page report, which includes seven pages of references, including 248 citations.

    Among those are 14 studies that provide what the experts characterize as “fair” evidence that circumcision in adulthood protects men from H.I.V. transmission from a female partner, cutting infection rates by 40 to 60 percent. Three of the studies were large randomized controlled trials of the kind considered the gold standard in medicine, but they were carried out in Africa, where H.I.V. — the virus the causes AIDS — is spread primarily among heterosexuals.

    Circumcision does not appear to reduce H.I.V. transmission among men who have sex with men, Dr. Diekema said. “The degree of benefit, or degree of impact, in a place like the U.S. will clearly be smaller than in a place like Africa,” he said.

    Two studies have found that circumcision actually increases the risk of H.I.V. infection among sexually active men and women, the academy noted.

    Other studies have linked male circumcision to lower rates of infection with human papillomavirus and herpes simplex Type 2. But male circumcision is not associated with lower rates of gonorrhea or chlamydia, and evidence for protection against syphilis is weak, the review said.

    The procedure has long been recognized to lower urinary tract infections early in life and reduce the incidence of penile cancer.

    Although newborn male circumcision is generally believed to be relatively safe, deaths are not unheard of, and the review noted that “the true incidence of complications after newborn circumcision is unknown.”

    Significant complications are believed to occur in approximately one in 500 procedures. Botched operations can result in damage or even amputation of parts of the penis, and by one estimate about 117 boys die each year.

    Anesthesia is often not used, and the task force recommended that pain relief, including penile nerve blocks, be used regularly, a change that may raise the rate of complications.


  30. Despite baby dying after getting herpes, Orthodox rabbis say they’ll defy law on ancient circumcision ritual

    By KATE BRIQUELET, New York Post September 1, 2012

    Two children are dead, more are injured — yet a group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis say they plan to defy a health order in the name of religious freedom.

    Less than a year after a Brooklyn tot died following an ancient circumcision ritual, the rabbis say they will ignore a proposed law that would mandate parental-consent forms before performing the dangerous procedure.

    Over the past decade, at least one other newborn died after contracting herpes from the rite, in which the rabbi draws blood from the penis with his mouth.

    But ultra-Orthodox leaders are lashing out at the city’s “evil plans” ahead of the Board of Health’s vote next week.

    About 200 rabbis signed a proclamation claiming the Health Department “printed and spread lies . . . in order to justify their evil decree.”

    “It is clear to us, that there is not even an iota of blame or danger in this ancient and holy custom,” the letter states.

    Most modern mohels — men trained to perform religious circumcisions, who are usually rabbis or doctors — remove blood from the baby’s wound using a sterile pipette.

    But some Orthodox Jewish parents insist on an ancient “suction by mouth” ritual called metzitzah b’peh.

    The city’s law would require mohels to distribute consent waivers, detailing the herpes risk, before the ritual.

    Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, said no one will comply with the law, even if it’s passed.

    “For the government to force a rabbi who’s practicing a religious act to tell his congregants it’s dangerous is totally unacceptable,” Niederman told The Post.

    “You’re forcing the mohel and the parent to sign a piece of paper that contradicts their religious convictions.”
    Niederman said there’s no substantive evidence linking herpes and the religious ritual.

    Michael Tobman, a political consultant working with several large Hasidic communities, said the waiver is no minimal imposition.

    “It warns parents that the city suggests a link between the practice and serious health worries, [and] it would undoubtedly have a chilling impact,” he said.

    “City government shouldn’t be doing that.”

    At least 11 babies in the city have contracted the herpes simplex virus since 2000 — and two developed brain damage and two died, according to a Health Department investigation.

    In July, an Orange County infant was hospitalized after contracting a deadly strain of the virus.
    Earlier this year, prosecutors were investigating the September 2011 death of a Brooklyn newborn at Maimonides Hospital from Type 1 herpes.

    A Health Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the rabbis’ proclamation but said, “It is important that parents know the risks associated with the practice.”


  31. New York health board requires ritual circumcision consent form

    By Pauline Kim, CNN September 14, 2012

    New York (CNN) -- New York City's Board of Health voted Thursday to require parents to sign a consent form before having their child undergo a controversial ultra-Orthodox Jewish circumcision ritual after two children died from the herpes virus contracted during the procedure, authorities said.

    The parental consent form must include information regarding the possible fatal risks of the ritual, according to Chanel Caraway, a spokeswoman from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It's not clear if the form will absolve clergy from potential lawsuits.

    The ritual, known as the metzitzah b'peh, is a type of circumcision in which the person performing the procedure, or mohel, directly places his mouth on and sucks the blood from the baby's newly circumcised penis.

    The controversial ritual came under intense scrutiny earlier this year after health officials reported 11 babies had contracted herpes infections between 2000 and 2011.

    The health department reported that an estimated 20,493 infants in New York City were exposed to direct oral suction in that period.

    "There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn," said the health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley.

    Baby boys who were reportedly circumcised "with confirmed or probable orogenital suction" between April 2006 and December 2011 had an estimated risk of contracting neonatal herpes (HSV-1) infection of 24.4 per 100,000 cases, 3.4 times greater than other infants, the health department said.

    "The ethical duty to protect the interests of vulnerable infants and to support parents in making informed and responsible choices cannot be overridden," a group of doctors and bioethicists from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics said in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    Yoram Unguru, a Jewish pediatrician, hailed the decision, saying authorities should protect children "from the consequences of unwise decisions."

    "In my mind, the amendment doesn't go far enough -- getting parental consent for circumcision in general, that's appropriate and sufficient, but consent for the metzitzah b'peh should not be allowed," he said. It "should not be performed, period."

    Members of the orthodox community blasted the decision, calling it an infringement of constitutional rights.

    "By telling a mohel he is prohibited from performing a religious ritual unless he tells the parents that, by the way, the child might die in the process, you are forcing us to say something which we are convinced is wrong," said Rabbi David Niederman of the Brooklyn-based United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg.
    Niederman and other community members say they plan to contest the regulation.

    "We want to work, we have tried, and we are committed to work with the Department of Health to address their concerns in any way, shape or form that does not conflict with our religious and constitutional rights," he said. "The practice will continue."

    To read the links embedded in this article go to:


  32. Genital cutting tied to later abuse risk

    By Amy Norton, Reuters September 24, 2012

    (Reuters Health) - Women who underwent genital cutting as young girls may be at increased risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse from their husband, a study of women in Mali suggests.

    The study, of nearly 7,900 women, found that 22 percent of those with genital mutilation said they'd been physically abused by a husband or male partner. That compared with 12 percent of women who'd never been subjected to the procedure.

    It's estimated that more than 130 million women worldwide have undergone genital mutilation, also known as female "circumcision." The centuries-old practice, which involves removing part or all of a girl's clitoris and labia, and sometimes narrowing the vaginal opening, remains a common practice in some countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

    It's well-known that genital cutting has long-term consequences for women - including sexual dysfunction, childbirth complications, incontinence and psychological disorders.

    In the new study, researchers looked at whether there's a link between genital mutilation and a woman's odds of suffering abuse from her partner.

    In Mali, where the vast majority of women have undergone genital mutilation, the government has taken steps to raise awareness of the consequences of the practice. But genital mutilation has not been outlawed.

    The difficulty is that genital cutting is widely seen as an important cultural tradition, rather than a form of abuse.

    "If something is entrenched in a culture, it is difficult to change," said Dr. Hamisu Salihu of the University of South Florida in Tampa, the lead researcher on the new study.

    On the other hand, physically abusing your wife - though common in Mali and other African countries - does not have that cultural acceptance, Salihu told Reuters Health.

    So being able to frame genital cutting in the context of domestic violence might help change people's views on the practice.

    The study, reported in the obstetrics and gynecology journal BJOG, included 7,875 Malian women. The large majority - 6,919 women - had genital mutilation.

    Of those women, 22 percent said they'd suffered physical abuse from their partner, while five percent reported sexual abuse and 12 percent emotional abuse.

    When the researchers accounted for other factors - like education level and poverty - genital mutilation was linked to two- to three-fold increases in the risk of all three types of abuse.

    One of the possible limitations of the study, according to Salihu's team, is that women were asked about sensitive issues. The actual levels of abuse may have been higher than women reported.

    Past studies have suggested that across sub-Saharan Africa, half of all women have been abused by a husband or partner.

    Salihu said these latest findings suggest that women with genital cutting may be in particular need of screening and counseling for abuse.

    When pregnant women with genital mutilation see a healthcare provider, they are already considered "high risk" because of their increased odds of pregnancy and childbirth complications.

    Those visits offer a "window of opportunity" for women to get counseling about domestic violence, Salihu said.

    Right now, though, that is not usually done.

    SOURCE: bit.ly/NCx4Kw BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, online August 24, 2012.


  33. Supreme Court to hear case of B.C. dad's botched home circumcision on 4-year-old

    By Natalie Stechyson, Postmedia News November 16, 2012

    OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will hear on Friday the dramatic case of a B.C. father who, for religious reasons, tried to circumcise his four-year-old son on his kitchen floor with a carpet blade and a blood coagulant meant for horses.

    Among the many issues the court will have to consider is the meaning of criminal negligence, and whether religious beliefs can go into the determination of what is reasonable behaviour, said Carissima Mathen, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

    “When you have something like this where, on an objective basis, the benefits of this procedure are mixed, and it seems like the primary motivation for circumcising your son is cultural or religious, are those beliefs something that we should factor into whether this a reasonable thing for someone to have done?” Mathen said.

    “It raises questions such as why is it, in fact, that we permit infant circumcision?”

    A trial judge found that over the years after his son’s birth, the father known only as D.J.W. decided to “make things right with God” by following the laws of Moses, according to court documents. This included circumcision.

    The trial judge found that D.J.W. had consulted with two rabbis and four physicians, and had asked several doctors to perform his son’s circumcision. None would do it because the boy would have required a general anesthetic, which could not be justified for a child so young.

    In 2007, after giving his son some homemade honey wine, D.J.W. attempted to circumcise the boy on the kitchen floor, according to court documents, wounding him in the process.

    The boy later had to have corrective surgery.

    D.J.W. was found guilty in 2009 of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, but was acquitted of two other charges. The B.C. Court of Appeal stayed the conviction and upped the charge to aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

    In delving into the case, the top court will also look at whether the injury D.J.W. inflicted was a “wound” and if the blade he used on his son, known only as D.J., can be considered a “weapon,” said Marie-France Major, a partner at Ottawa’s Supreme Advocacy LLP.

    D.J.W. is seeking an acquittal, maintaining that the trial judge was wrong to convict him of criminal negligence, but right to acquit him of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, according to court documents.

    Counsel for D.J.W. will argue that the man’s actions were performed with “reasonable care” and without intent to harm his son.

    The Crown will argue that this is a case about child abuse, not D.J.W.’s freedom of religion or even about circumcision.

    “D.J. was not circumcised. He was disfigured,” the Crown’s factum reads.

    A decision from Friday’s case is not expected for some time.


  34. Canada's pediatricians set to reveal new policy on circumcision


    Canada’s pediatricians are about to update their advice on whether baby boys should be circumcised, revising their stand for the first time in 17 years.

    Their review comes as new Canadian research suggests half of expectant parents would consider circumcision if they had a son — and that the single most important factor is the circumcision “status” of the father.

    The Canadian Paediatric Society’s old policy, issued in 1996, opposed routine circumcision of newborns.

    The new statement is expected to be more neutral.

    “There isn’t going to be a ‘prescription’ for Canadian males in terms of circumcision,” society president Dr. Richard Stanwick, chief medical health officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, told Postmedia News.

    The organization has been struggling to put forward a balanced position “that captures the risks, and the benefits, but is also respectful of personal preferences, religious issues and many other things that dictate this decision,” Stanwick said.

    The issue is so loaded with emotion and controversy that the new statement has been three years in the making. “There are very strong opinions on both sides of this issue,” Stanwick said.

    “We know that we’re wading into something that, no matter what we write, will not be strong enough for probably either side.”

    Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, a move that provoked demonstrations by anti-circumcision activists who view the procedure as genital mutilation of newborns.

    The old policy deemed circumcision medically unnecessary for the “well-being of the child.”

    But after a special task force reviewed more than 1,000 studies published over the past 15 years, the American doctors’ group now says that circumcision provides protection against urinary tract infections, penile cancer and the transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

    The organization isn’t recommending universal circumcision. Instead, it says the final decision should be left to parents.

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  35. Circumcision involves the surgical remove of some, or all, of the foreskin from the penis. It is one of the most common surgical procedures performed worldwide. In hospitals, the procedure is usually performed by obstetricians soon after birth.

    “Clearly there has been a lot of literature around the potential role of the avoidance of infection,” Stanwick said.

    “But this also has to be balanced off against the fact that this is still a surgical procedure, and it is not without risk.”

    Those risks can include bleeding and hemorrhage, infection, inflammation and tightening at the end of the penis.

    Any shift in policy would have to ensure, “are there enough skilled professionals around to do this, so that we don’t have a complication rate that is unacceptable and so that we’re not seeing males being significantly harmed by not having the properly trained people to do it,” Stanwick said.

    The new policy statement is expected to be released before the pediatric group’s annual meeting in June.

    “It would be great if we had absolute answers, but on this one, I don’t think we will,” Stanwick said.

    “At the end of the day . . . it will very much be influenced by dad’s status, as well as the cultural and religious issues.”

    A new study found that the circumcision rates are heavily influenced by whether or not the father is circumcised.

    University of Saskatchewan researchers, in a study published in the journalCanadian Family Physician, surveyed 230 parents attending prenatal classes in Saskatoon.

    Overall, half — 56 per cent — said they would consider pursuing circumcision if they had a son. In cases where the father of the expected baby was circumcised, 82 per cent were in favour of circumcision, versus 15 per cent when the father wasn’t circumcised.

    According to the researchers, Canada’s current circumcision rate is 32 per cent. In the U.S., rates are increasing, to 61 per cent of men, they said.


  36. Herpes Strikes Two More Infants After Ritual Circumcision

    By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES ABC News April 5, 2013

    Two infants in the last three months in New York City's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community have been infected with herpes following a ritual circumcision, according to the health department. The boys were not identified.

    In the most controversial part of this version of the Jewish ritual, known as metzitzah b'peh, the practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby's penis to suck the blood to "cleanse" the wound.

    One of the two infected babies developed a fever and lesion on its scrotum seven days after the circumcision, and tests for HSV-1 were positive, according to the health department.

    Last year, the New York City Board of Health voted to require parents to sign a written consent that warns them of the risks of this practice. None of the parents of the two boys who were recently infected signed the form, according Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

    Varma said it was "too early to tell" if the babies will suffer long-term health consequences from the infection.

    Since 2000, there have been 13 cases of herpes associated with the ritual, including two deaths and two other babies with brain damage.

    Neonatal herpes infections can cause death or disability among infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "First, these are serious infections in newborns and second, there is no safe way an individual can perform oral suction on an open wound," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. "Third, these terrible infections are completely preventable. They should not occur in the 21st century with our scientific knowledge."

    Some rabbis told ABCNews.com last year that they opposed on religious grounds the law requiring parents to sign a waiver, insisting it has been performed "tens of thousands of times a year" worldwide. They say safeguarding the life of a child is one of the religion's highest principles.

    "This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child," Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told ABCNews.com. "If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice."

    In January, a federal judge ruled against the group's legal maneuver to block the city policy.

    "As enacted, the regulation does no more than ensure that parents can make an informed decision whether to grant or deny such consent," Judge Nami Reice Buchwald said at the time, according to the New York Daily News.

    continued in next comment...

  37. Some estimate that 70 percent of the general population is infected with the Type 1 herpes I (HSV-1), which can be transmitted from the mouth to the child, causing painful ulcers. It is different from Type 2 or genital herpes (HSV-2), which is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause deadly infections of the brain when a newborn passes through an infected birth canal.

    "A herpes infection in a newborn baby has the risk of leading to severe illness and death," said Varma. "The reason is that the baby doesn't have the same fully developed immune system as an adult. Instead of staying in the genital area, it extends throughout different organs in the body."

    The health department had issued alerts about the two latest cases -- on in January and one in March -- to urge all medical providers and laboratory staff to inquire about "direct oral suction" during a circumcision when evaluating newborn males for sepsis and to consider herpes.

    The more than 5,000-year-old religious practice of circumcision is performed during a Jewish religious ceremony known as the bris, which is observed by Jews of all denominations around the world.

    The modern Jewish community uses a sterile aspiration device or pipette to clean the wound in a circumcision. About two-thirds of boys born in New York City's Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction manner, according to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America.

    In 2003 and 2004, three babies, including a set of twins, were infected with Type 1 herpes; the cases were linked to circumcision, and one boy died. Another died in 2010. In the last decade, 13 babies in the city have contracted the virus, and two have had brain damage, according to health officials. All were circumcised by the metzitzah b'peh method.

    "Social health policy is art of the possible and [New York City's] Bloomberg administration and the department of health worked with the [ultra-Orthodox] community to develop a policy that it hoped was both acceptable and effective," said infectious disease expert Schaffner. "That was the hope."

    "It's clear the implementation of policy is not completely effective and that it resulted in serious, but preventable infections," he said. "Perhaps the policy needs to be revisited."

    Varma said changing traditional practices in New York's ultra-Orthodox community will take time.

    "We developed this law ... to balance the right of people to practice religion with the requirements of a health agency to protect everybody, especially the most vulnerable.

    "We require their cooperation and it's a challenge," said Varma.

    The health department could take no action against the rabbi who performed the circumcision because the parents would not reveal his identity.


  38. Anti-circumcision activists to protest Oprah's Canadian appearances

    CBC News April 10, 2013

    Adoring fans won't be the only people heading down to Copps Coliseum for Oprah Winfrey's Hamilton soirée on Saturday. A group of pro-foreskin activists — yes, you read that correctly — plans to protest outside the event.

    The group, which picketed outside the TV talk queen's appearance in Vancouver in January, has taken issue with her endorsement of an anti-aging cream called TNS Recovery Complex.

    The preparation, produced by American cosmetics company SkinMedica, contains fibroblasts — cells that have been reproduced from a piece of human foreskin.

    “How would Oprah respond if a skin cream for men hit the market that was made using cells from the genitalia of little girls?” Glen Callender, founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project, told the Toronto Star. “I think she would be absolutely disgusted and appalled, and rightly so. So it's crazy that she's doing the opposite.”

    The Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project opposes the practice of circumcision, arguing that it is medically unnecessary and limits sexual pleasure.

    The group is also organizing protests for Winfrey's tour stops in Ottawa and Montreal.

    SkinMedica founder Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick has said the company reproduces cells from foreskin that was obtained over 20 years ago, not from babies who've been recently circumcised.

    “Initially, there was a misunderstanding and people thought we were actually grinding up the foreskin,” he told the San Diego CityBeat in 2010. “So, there was a lot of snickering and laughing about people putting this foreskin product on their face.”


    The Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project http://www.can-fap.net/

  39. Initiate deaths blamed on witchcraft

    by News24 South Africa May 29, 2013

    Johannesburg - The office of King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele tribe has blamed the deaths of 28 initiates in Mpumalanga's highveld area on witchcraft.

    Ndzundza Tribal Authority (NTA) spokesperson Prince Dumisani Mahlangu told a Sapa correspondent this week the number of deaths was unusually high.

    "These deaths are not normal, kune buloyi la [there is witchcraft here]," said Mahlangu, who was also critical of the House of Traditional Leaders (HTL).

    King Mabhoko III has been blamed for three deaths in Limpopo and 28 in Mpumalanga, where initiation schools were allegedly being illegally run with his permission.

    Altogether six deaths have been reported in Limpopo. Three were at initiation schools approved by another Ndebele traditional leader, Kgoshi PJ Mahlangu.

    Prince Mahlangu accused Mpumalanga HTL chairperson Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena of speaking "nonsense" to the media.

    "I read the things written in the newspapers. Mokoena ukhuluma amanyala [Mokoena is speaking nonsense]," said Mahlangu.

    He said the NTA was investigating the deaths and had already established some of the causes.

    "Some boys went to ingoma [initiation schools] without being screened for any sickness, which may place them in danger," Mahlangu said.

    "We also found out that some of the permits used for some schools were copies of originals issued to other initiation schools," he said.

    Most of the fatalities occurred in Siyabuswa, KwaMhlanga, Verena, Kwaggafontein, Middelburg, Bethal, Belfast and Evander - all districts of Nkangala in Mpumalanga.

    After a meeting between the HTL and the health department on Friday, department MEC Candith Mashego-Dlamini told journalists that 134 permits were issued under King Mabhoko III, including for those schools where there were fatalities.

    "A total of 134 traditional leaders were authorised by King Mabhoko III to conduct ingoma," said Mashego-Dlamini.

    "However, we noted with concern that there are traditional leaders who are not accountable to King Mabhoko III, yet are currently conducting ingoma."

    Dlamini said King Mabhoko III had agreed to abide by compliance issues on conducting ritual circumcision.

    "Some of the compliance agreed upon is pre-screening of initiates for HIV, TB, BP, glucose and other health problems... ensuring that initiation schools are approved and certified by the king to conduct ingoma, and ensuring that there is consent from parents or guardians," said Mashego-Dlamini.

    - SAPA


  40. Swedish Ombudsman calls for ban on circumcision

    National Secular Society September 30, 2013

    The Swedish Ombudsman for Children has written to a newspaper calling for the country to outlaw the circumcision of boys.

    "Circumcising a child without medical justification or his consent contravenes the child's human rights," wrote Fredrik Malmberg in a text co-signed with representatives from the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Swedish Society of Health Professionals, the Swedish Paediatric Society, and the Swedish Association of Paediatric Surgeons, and published in the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "The operation is painful, irreversible and can lead to dangerous complications."

    Mr Malmberg, said the practice of circumcision violates the basic rights of boys and is against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Circumcision was legalised in Sweden in 2001, when a new law permitted religious practitioners to perform the operation if the child is under two months old.

    After that it has to be done by a physician with the full consent of the parents, who must be fully informed of the implications. It is estimated that some 3,000 boys are circumcised every year in Sweden.

    Ombudsmen from across Scandinavia are scheduled to meet today (Monday 30 September) in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the issue.

    Last year, an attempt by the far-right Sweden Democrat party to ban circumcision was rejected.


  41. Nordic countries push for circumcision ban: stand by for howls of ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘Islamophobia’

    BY BARRY DUKE The FreeThinker OCTOBER 2, 2013

    AT meeting Oslo last week, Nordic ombudsmen for children, paediatricians, and paediatric surgeons agreed a resolution urging their national governments to work for a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of under-age boys

    According to this report, the children’s ombudsmen from the five Nordic countries – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland – along with the Chair of the Danish Children’s Council and the Children’s spokesperson for Greenland passed a resolution to:

    Let boys decide for themselves whether they want to be circumcised.

    The ombudsmen concluded that:

    Circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics.

    They found the procedure:

    To be in conflict with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, articles 12, and 24 (3) which say that children should have the right to express their own views and must be protected from traditional rituals that may be harmful to their health.

    Dr Antony Lempert, a GP and spokesperson for the UK Secular Medical Forum (SMF) applauded this historic resolution and urged the UK and devolved Governments to work towards protecting all UK children at risk of forced genital cutting. He said:

    This important statement by the Nordic child protection experts is grounded in common sense. Children’s basic rights to bodily integrity and to form their own beliefs should not be overridden because of their parents’ religious or cultural practices.

    Dr Lempert argued that:

    With an increasing awareness of serious irreversible harm caused to boys and girls from forced genital cutting it is time for the genitals of all children to be protected from people with knives and strong religious or cultural beliefs. There can be no justification for healthy children to be forcibly cut. All children deserve society’s protection from serious harm.

    In 2011, a Danish study found that circumcised men faced an increased risk of experiencing delayed orgasm, and their female partners had an increased risk of not feeling sexually fulfilled.

    Some 5,000 sexually active men and women were surveyed about their experiences and possible problems with their sex lives. With a specific focus on circumcised men and their women, the results were described as “startling”.

    Said one of the researchers, Associate Professor Morten Frisch from Danish research enterprise SSI:

    Circumcised men are three times as likely to experience a frequent inability to reach an orgasm … Previous studies into male circumcision have looked at the effects it has on the men. But scientists have never really studied the effects this has on the women’s sex lives.

    It appears that women with circumcised men are twice as likely to be sexually frustrated. They experience a three-fold risk of frequent difficulties in achieving orgasm, and an eight-fold risk of feeling pain during intercourse – also known as dyspareunia.

    According to Frisch, the study has received a great deal of international attention. For example, he has been contacted by politicians in California, who are very pleased with the results of the study because they wanted to ban circumcision in their federal state.

    Others are less excited, saying the research is controversial.

    Frisch added:

    This is a highly sensitive issue, and some people oppose the publication of this kind of research. Some people have actually tried to stop the publication of our article.

    Certain groups and individuals are lobbying in favour circumcising all men, explained Frisch. Not necessarily out of religious concern, but because they believe that circumcision has a health-promotional effect. Pro-mutilationists frequently argue that cicumcision can reduce the risk of HIV infection.


  42. Male circumcision is a human rights violation that must be stopped say European leaders….

    Equality 4 Men October 2, 2013

    The Council of Europe has told its 47 member states (including the UK) that medically unnecessary circumcision is a violation of boys’ human rights.

    In a groundbreaking move the council’s Parliamentary Assembly has declared that it is “particularly worried about a category of violation of the physical integrity of children” which includes “the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons”. http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=20057&lang=en

    The Assembly has strongly recommended that its member states, which include the UK, take the following action:

    1. Get clear on the extent of medically unnecessary circumcision in their country (around half a million boys in the UK are thought to be at risk but there is not official figure available) http://endmalecircumcision.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/half-million-uk-boys-at-risk-of-forced.html

    2. Clearly define the medical, sanitary and other conditions that all male circumcisions should meet (this would include defining whether or not circumcision without anaesthetic or consent, by non-medical staff in non-medical settings should continue to be tolerated in the UK).

    3. Promote greater awareness of how medically unnecessary male circumcision is performed and what the risks are.

    4. To introduce legislation and policies to improve the protection of boys from the risks of medically unnecessary male circumcision.

    5. To raise awareness of the alternatives to medically unnecessary male circumcision.

    6. To actively initiate public debate, including intercultural and interreligious dialogue, aimed at reaching consensus on striking the balance between boys’ human rights and the rights and religious freedoms of parents and families.

    7. To raise awareness about the need for boys to participate in decisions concerning their physical integrity and to consider introducing an age of consent preventing boys from being circumcised until they are old enough to choose.

    The Council of Europe is larger than and separate from the European Union and its role is to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent. Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws, but it does create conventions—like the European Convention on Human Rights—that member states commit to.

    In recent years the Council of Europe has been working to protect children’s human rights, through its Strategy for the Rights of the Child. This strategy does not currently include guidance on male circumcision. One of the recommendations the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has made is that medically unnecessary male circumcision is included in the preparation and adoption of the new Strategy for the Rights of the Child which launches in 2015.

    The move to regulate and potentially ban medically unnecessary male circumcision in Europe has been led by the German politician, Marlene Rupprecht.

    To find out more about Rupprecht’s reasoning see our post on her 10 reasons to ban male circumcision In Europe. http://equality4men.com/2013/10/02/10-reasons-german-socialist-wants-europe-to-ban-male-circumcision/

    If you think boys of all backgrounds should be protected from unnecessary male circumcision they why not join our campaign to #StopTheChop today.



  43. COMMENTARY: Questioning circumcision is not anti-Semitic

    by Ronald Goldman | Religion News Service October 18, 2013

    (RNS) Earlier this month the Council of Europe agreed on a nonbinding resolution in support of “children’s right to physical integrity.” The purpose was to reinforce the protection of children’s rights, oppose violence against children, and promote children’s participation in significant decisions that affect them. Forced genital cutting of male and female children was mentioned among examples of violations.

    The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, is an international organization that promotes cooperation in the areas of human rights, legal standards, and democratic development. The vote on this resolution was 78 to 13, with 15 abstentions.

    Days later, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with traditional Jewish groups, denounced the resolution. The ministry statement said the resolution “fosters hate and racist trends,” denied that circumcision causes any harm, and strongly objected to any comparison between cutting of male and female genitals.

    Others called the resolution anti-Semitic, a violation of religious freedom, and a “thinly disguised attack” on European Jews. This predictable reaction calls for a response.

    For one, the Israeli ministry does not speak for all Jews, European Jews, or even all Israelis. The Jewish Circumcision Resource Center represents Jews around the world who question ritual circumcision.

    Here are some relevant facts.

    --Jewish circumcision is not mandatory; it is a choice. Some Jews in North America, South America, Europe, and Israel do not circumcise their sons.

    --Circumcision is a topic of debate in the Jewish community and has been questioned historically and in various Jewish publications in recent years.

    --In actual practice, most Jews circumcise because of cultural conformity, not religious reasons.

    --According to the “Encyclopedia Judaica,” “any child born of a Jewish mother is a Jew, whether circumcised or not.”

    --According to Jewish values, the human body must not be altered or marked, and causing pain to any living creature is prohibited. Some Jews believe that circumcision is not ethical. Jewish values place ethical behavior above doctrine.

    --By rejecting any merit in opposing arguments, defenders of circumcision suspect a hidden motivation. They also fail to differentiate between reasonable criticism of this specific practice and a more general unjustified hostile attitude.

    It is possible to question the actions of a person or group without being categorically opposed to the person or group. Are those who question an American government policy anti-American? Questioning an action that one believes to be harmful is more likely to be motivated by good will than ill will.

    continued below

  44. Jewish authorities avoid the resolution’s central issue. They do not claim that children do not have a right to physical integrity, nor do they claim that circumcision is not a violation of physical integrity. Jewish authorities tacitly admit they have no direct response. Their verbal attacks on the resolution appear to be intended to intimidate critics.

    Circumcision is an exception to accepted principles like the Golden Rule; adults would not tolerate circumcisions forced on them. If circumcision were introduced today, we would be horrified, as some are horrified when they first learn about the procedure. If any other body parts of children were cut off, we would adamantly object.

    Religious freedom has its limits. For example, when a child’s health depends on medical treatment that a particular religion otherwise prohibits, courts may overrule the religious freedom of the parents for the safety, health and welfare of that child. Many people recognize that a child’s safety, health, and welfare are adversely affected by circumcision, and they feel empathy.

    The harm starts the moment an instrument penetrates or clamps a healthy, natural, functioning body part — any body part. The belief that male genital cutting is unlike female genital cutting does not withstand scrutiny. Though circumcision defenders routinely deny harm, common sense and dozens of studies confirm significant physical, sexual, and psychological harm. We owe it to the children to be open to examining this harm. Medical opinions in support of circumcision are explained by psychosocial factors, serious omissions, and medical and cultural bias.

    Jews have been circumcising their sons for thousands of years, but this does not justify or reduce the harm. It perpetuates it. Research on circumcision, trauma theory and clinical experience support the view that circumcision is traumatic. An iceberg of underlying emotional factors contribute to a compulsion to repeat circumcision trauma, generation after generation. “What’s done to children,” the saying goes, “they will do to society.”

    We need to pay attention to and trust our intellectual, emotional, and ethical conflicts about circumcision. The world is gathering its courage to protect children. We need to continue this effort and work together with compassion, understanding, and persistence, for the children.

    (Ronald Goldman is executive director of the Jewish Circumcision Resource Center and author of “Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective” and “Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma.”)



  45. Norway Plans New Rules on Circumcision of Boys

    Tiny Scandinavian Community Fights Move To Curb Rite

    By JTA, FORWARD The Jewish Daily November 12, 2013

    Norway will promote new legislation to “regulate ritual circumcision,” the country’s health minister said.

    Minister Bent Hoie said the new legislation on non-medical circumcision of boys under 18 will be introduced before April 20, 2014, according to a report by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten.

    “We will review submissions on the matter before we can decide what should be the government’s position. We aim to present a bill before Easter,” Hoie told Aftenposten last week. He did not say whether the regulations would introduce new restrictions.

    His announcement follows renewed calls by Norway’s Children’s Ombudswoman Anne Lindboe to ban non-medical circumcision of minors without their consent, which she says violates their rights.

    “This is not due to any lack of understanding of minorities or religious traditions, but because the procedure is irreversible, painful and risky,” Lindboe told Aftenposten.

    Currently, Norway’s Center Party, which won 5.5 percent of the vote in the general elections earlier this year, is in favor of banning non-medical circumcision of underage boys. The country’s largest party, Labor, has not yet formulated an official stance but several of its lawmakers support a ban.

    Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community in Oslo, told JTA that he considers the issue “an existential matter” for the Jewish community of about 700 members.

    Each year, approximately 2,000 Muslims and seven Jewish newborns undergo non-medical circumcision in Norway, according to Aftenposten.
    In France, meanwhile, President François Hollande strongly affirmed his support for the protection of Jewish rights to circumcision in an Oct. 30 letter to the Consistoire, which oversees religious services for the Jewish community.

    “There is no question whether this practice in Judaism, and other religions, is performed in accordance with existing laws in France,” he wrote.


  46. Lawsuit claims Squirrel Hill rabbi botched 8-day-old's circumcision

    By Adam Brandolph, Pittsburgh Tribune Review December 18, 2013

    A Squirrel Hill rabbi botched a ritual circumcision, causing a “catastrophic and life-changing injury” to an 8-day-old boy, his parents claim in a civil lawsuit filed this week.

    Attorney Neil Rosen, who represents the mother, father and child identified by initials in the complaint, called the incident “unimaginable” but declined further comment. Rosen said he used his clients' initials to protect the identity of the child, now 8 months old.

    The lawsuit filed on Tuesday says Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg, 54, performed a ritual circumcision on the boy on April 28, as required by Jewish custom. Rosenberg, an Orthodox mohel — or ritual circumciser — referred calls to his attorneys at the Downtown law firm Weber Gallagher, who did not return calls.

    The suit does not specify the child's injuries but claims Rosenberg acted “with a total disregard” for the boy.

    The parents, who witnessed what happened, rushed their son to Children's Hospital for emergency reconstructive surgery and leech therapy, the lawsuit says.
    Carrie Sorenson, a clinical pharmacist at St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, N.D., said leeches help a body accept reattached parts by promoting blood flow and tissue regeneration. The baby required several follow-up visits, the lawsuit says.

    Rosenberg's website says he was trained by rabbis in Pittsburgh and Jerusalem and is recognized as a certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision in New York. Rabbi Avrohom Cohen, board chairman, did not return calls.

    Mohels are not certified by a government agency because circumcision is considered a religious ceremony and not a medical procedure.
    Mistakes are relatively uncommon and infant circumcisions are generally complication-free, said Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler, chair of the Reform Judaism movement's circumcision training and certification program in Los Angeles.

    The Reform and Conservative Judaism movements certify licensed physicians to perform ritual circumcisions rather than clergy members, as the Orthodox do, Adler said.

    “While the vast majority has probably never had this kind of horrific outcome, you can't predict to whom and when a mistake like this is going to happen,” she said.


  47. FFRF: Ritual circumcision poses dangers

    by: Freedom From Religion Foundation February 12, 2014

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation, concerned about dangers to public health posed by ritual circumcision, has contacted New York state, local and national officials about the religious practice.

    According to reports by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, ultra-orthodox Jewish parents are exposing newborns to herpes simplex virus infections by allowing adult men called mohels to place their mouths on boys' penises to draw blood away from the circumcision wound. At least two infants have died from the infection, two others have suffered brain damage, and other victims must deal with a chronic, lifelong infection that can cause painful lesions.

    The "bris" or "brit milah" is traditionally done on the eighth day of life and is followed by a celebratory meal. Oral suction of the wound, "metzitzah b'peh," is limited to primarily Hasidic communities.

    FFRF is a state-church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., with about 20,000 members nationwide and more than 1,100 in New York state. Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote a letter Feb. 12 to several officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, District Attorney Cyrus Vance, heads of the state and city health departments and U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer.

    "To put the seriousness of this infection in perspective, the reported cases show that a newborn infected with HSV by a mohel is seven times more likely to die than a climber attempting to summit Everest or a U.S. soldier fighting in World War I," Seidel wrote.

    "Currently, the only regulation to protect children from this outrageous practice is informed parental consent. This must change. The government should stop placing adults' desire to impose their religion above the health, safety, and lives of defenseless infants," he said.

    FFRF called on Vance to prosecute those responsible. "No person's religious rights would be hindered by prohibiting this criminal act. Without regulation, the helpless infants' rights are trampled in the name of a religion they cannot begin to grasp. Adults do not have a religious right to expose their children to disease and death."

    Seidel noted that current state law bans knowingly transmitting an infectious venereal disease, endangering the welfare of the child and reckless endangerment. "The exceptions carved out for religion could be amended or these laws could actually be enforced."


  48. New Study Says Benefits of Circumcision Outweigh Risks 100 to 1

    A new medical review published by Mayo Clinic makes the strongest case yet for cirumcision. Is it time to take the decision out of parents’ hands and make the procedure mandatory?

    by Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast April 2, 2014

    The choice of whether to circumcise one’s son—a decision both aided and hindered by a deluge of readily available information on the Internet—is an increasingly fraught one for parents. A quick Google search for “Should I circumcise my baby?” retrieves millions of articles, blogs, and academic papers all weighing in on the risks and rewards associated with the surgical removal of a newborn’s foreskin. Now, a new review published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings claims the health benefits of circumcision exceed any risks by at least 100 to 1.

    The review’s outspoken lead author, Brian J. Morris, a circumcision advocate and Professor Emeritus at The University of Sydney, Australia, hopes this new data will silence the debate once and for all. It’s Morris’ provocative position that infant circumcision contributes to overall public health in the same way that vaccines do, and should be equivalent to childhood vaccinations. And as such, he says, it’s unethical for doctors not to routinely offer it to parents.

    “Each have a major population level benefit, but carry a risk that affects a very small proportion of individuals who receive the intervention. There are also extremely rarely deaths from each,” he told The Daily Beast via email. Moreover, “a vaccine is highly specific, whereas the protective effects of circumcision cover a wide array of medical conditions.”

    The health benefits of circumcision are numerous. According to a mountain of research, documented in Morris’ review and noted by the APA in its recently updated policy statement, the benefits of circumcision include “prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.” These statistics can be misleading, however. For instance, the actual or absolute risk of penile cancer is so small (about 1 in 100,000) that an increased risk is still hardly any risk at all.

    Many doctors, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that while health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, the decision is ultimately the parents’ to make. In 2012, the AAP changed its policy statement, discarding its neutral stance to weigh in heavily on the side of circumcision.

    Still, some parents and healthcare providers argue that newborn circumcision is not only painful, but also unnecessary, and medical ethicists in the U.S. and abroad continue to debate its moral permissibility. Thirty-eight European physicians formally replied to the “cultural bias” in AAP’s policy change in the journal Pediatrics, noting its “conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world.”

    continued below

  49. The loudest among the opposition are people who’ve branded themselves “intactivists.” These groups say circumcision is “genital mutilation” and argue it needlessly violates a child’s autonomy and, according to one website, can cause “serious health risks, including infection, hemorrhage, surgical mishap, and death.” (Problems like these, it should be noted, are extremely rare. For infants, complication rates are approximately 0.2% and even those are usually minor and easily managed symptoms like bleeding or infection.)

    Morris said that the “intact movement” also has something to do with declining rates, and likens the debate over circumcision to the one raging over vaccines. “The anti-circers and the anti-vaxers are very similar, and often the same people,” he said.

    Using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey (which doesn’t include out-of-hospital circumcisions, e.g. brit milah in the Jewish faith) with parsed data from adult circumcisions from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Morris and his colleagues find that infant circumcisions have declined from 83 percent in the 1960s to 77 percent by 2010. The findings contradict a 2013 report from The Centers for Disease Control showing a slight increase in circumcisions over the last decade. In fact, Morris finds rates had decreased six percentage points during that time.

    Both Morris and the CDC cite changing demographics and cost cutting as the reasons behind declining circumcision rates. Since Hispanic children are less likely to be circumcised, the climbing birth rate within the Hispanic population is largely responsible for the West’s significantly lower circumcision rates. Additionally, circumcision rates are 24 percent lower in the 18 states where Medicaid doesn’t pay for elective circumcisions.

    Morris’s analysis further notes that half of uncircumcised boys and men will require treatment for a medical condition associated with his retained foreskin. Still, while noting the positive health effects of circumcision, could the comparison of the uncircumcised to the unvaccinated be alarmist, and a stretch? Morris doesn’t think so.

    “Just as vaccination, failure to circumcise will put your son at serious risk of adverse medical conditions and he could indeed die from some of them,” he said. “What’s more he will harm others, from sexually transmitted infections which include oncogenic HPV types that cause cervical cancer, a potentially lethal cancer.”

    Morris’ impassioned stance, while perhaps medically sound, may alienate the very parents he hopes to persuade. Despite headlines to the contrary, and geographical pockets of dissent, national vaccine coverage meets target levels at or above 91 percent. In other words, vaccines are widely accepted. It’s not so for circumcisions. And, as Morris concedes, the hands of millions of moms and dads who choose to forgo the scalpel can’t be forced.

    “Whereas parents can be coerced into vaccination by denying access to childcare for their son, there are fewer inducements to do the right thing and have him circumcised,” he said.

    Still, he acknowledges parental choice, and hopes that this risk benefit analysis along with the AAP’s affirmative policy statement will have a positive effect on future rates.

    “Denial of infant male circumcision is denial of his rights to good health, something that all responsible parents should consider carefully,” he said.


  50. Israel Supreme Court Overturns Ruling Forcing Mother to Circumcise Son

    Rabbinical Court Had Ordered $150 Daily Fine

    By JTA, The Jewish Daily Forward June 30, 2014

    Israel’s Supreme Court has overturned a ruling by a court of rabbis that would have forced a mother to have her son circumcised under the terms her divorce.

    Circumcision is not legally obligatory for Jews in Israel, but a rabbinical court presiding over the woman’s divorce case had ruled she must fulfill her husband’s wish to carry out the procedure in a religious rite known in Hebrew as a “brit milah”.

    Last year, the court had ordered her to pay a 500-shekel ($150) daily fine until she complied. The mother then appealed to Israel’s highest court.

    Circumcision is one of Judaism’s most fundamental decrees, symbolizing the covenant between God and the Jewish people and nearly all Jews in Israel abide by it, performing the ritual when their babies are eight days old.

    Rabbinical courts in Israel have jurisdiction over matters of marriage and divorce and operate under the Justice Ministry.

    But the Supreme Court, which has overriding legal authority in the Jewish state, ruled that because the health of the child was at stake, the rabbinic judges had overstepped their mandate.

    It also said that since the boy was more than a year old, the surgical procedure would be more medically complicated.

    “The issue of circumcision should not be included in the divorce suit,” the court said in its ruling on Sunday, according to a transcript provided on Monday. It said the matter should be dealt with by a family court, a secular authority.


  51. Circumcision debate between mother, father headed for federal court

    By Kate Jacobson, Sun Sentinel, Florida April 14, 2015

    The case of a young boy's circumcision and his parents' dueling perspectives about going under the knife for the procedure has prompted another legal action — this time in federal court.

    The boy's mother, Heather Hironimus, filed a federal lawsuit Monday in an attempt to block a state court judge's decision to allow the boy's father to circumcise their now 4 1/2-year-old son. The suit alleges that going forward with the procedure is a violation of the boy's civil rights.

    Hironimus has been fighting Dennis Nebus for years over circumcising their son. A 2012 court-approved "parenting plan" — signed by Hironimus — allowed Nebus to arrange for a circumcision. Nebus decided to go forward with the procedure in 2013, but Hironimus changed her mind and said she now did not want her son circumcised.

    Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Gillen, who is listed as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, ruled in May 2014 that the mother had to comply with a court order where she would give to boy to his father for him to arrange procedure. When Hironimus failed to hand over the boy in March after a series of lost legal battles, Gillen signed a warrant for her arrest.

    She is currently thought to be hiding at a battered women's shelter with her son.

    Nebus and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw are also listed as defendants in the suit.

    Hironimus further argues the circumcision is not medically necessary and would cause psychological damage to the child if performed. His father argues that circumcision is medically beneficial.

    In the federal lawsuit, Hironimus and her attorney, Thomas Hunker, call the procedure "elective" and "cosmetic," and said the boy currently lives in fear about having a circumcision performed.

    "Under the circumstances of this case, circumcision is invasive, irreversible, painful and will cause [the child] physical and psychological harm," the suit reads.

    The suit also claims Nebus, Gillen and Bradshaw were all material to the circumcision decision and are all at fault for the civil rights violations. It also claims the parties conspired to violate the child's rights.

    Both a representative for Hunker and Nebus' attorney, May L. Cain, declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.

    Nebus testified in court in 2013 that he wanted his son to get a circumcision after noticing that he was urinating on his leg. He said a doctor told him the boy had a condition called phimosis, which prevents retraction of the foreskin, but Hironimus said there has been no such diagnosis.

    Nebus also said in court that he thought circumcision was "just the normal thing to do."


  52. Intactivist mom who took son into hiding to save his foreskin sobs in court as she signs consent for circumcision


    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida woman jailed in a long-running dispute over her son’s circumcision has been released after nine nights behind bars.

    Heather Hironimus, 31, has been portrayed as a martyr by anti-circumcision advocates.

    Hironimus and her four-year-old-son’s father, Dennis Nebus, have been warring for years over whether to have the boy’s foreskin removed. She initially agreed in a parenting agreement filed in court, then changed her mind, giving way to a long legal fight. Circuit and appellate judges have sided with the father.

    With her legal options dwindling, Hironimus went missing in February, and ignored a judge’s order that she appear in court and give her consent for the surgery to be performed. A warrant was issued, but she wasn’t located until May 14 at a Broward County shelter where she was staying with her son.

    Brought before Judge Jeffrey Gillen on Friday, Hironimus again declined to sign a consent form for the surgery, and she was advised she would remain jailed indefinitely. After the hearing recessed and she reconsidered, she reluctantly agreed to sign, sobbing as she put pen to paper.

    Though the signature solved a contempt charge against her, she still faces a criminal charge of interference with child custody.

    Lawyers for both the mother and father have declined to comment, citing an ongoing gag order in the case. The parents had a six-month relationship but were never married. The father has called circumcision “just the normal thing to do.”

    In court, the father’s attorney said the surgery had not yet been scheduled, but Gillen gave him sole authority, temporarily, for the boy’s medical decisions, and granted a motion to allow him to travel out-of-state to have the procedure completed.

    The woman’s mother, Mary Hironimus, said “intactivists” — anti-circumcision activists — planned to reach out to doctors around the country to urge them not to perform the circumcision.

    Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, which advocates against circumcision, said the images of a distraught Heather Hironimus signing the form to allow the surgery show how she was “bullied” into it and that she doesn’t truly give her consent.

    “If anyone finds out the circumstances under which she signed, a doctor would be insane to carry out that surgery,” she said.


  53. Canadian Paediatric Society updates advice on circumcision


    TORONTO — Put a bunch of parents of young children together and bring up the topic of circumcision and — well, let’s just say the discussion is sure to get lively.

    “It’s a very emotionally laden topic,” agrees Dr. Jeremy Friedman, associate pediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

    “There’s a few topics in pediatrics that whenever you talk with parents, it’s never a mild conversation. People seem to have very, very strong feelings.”

    Some parents with no cultural or religious reasons to have their newborn son’s foreskin removed will often question if the procedure is necessary or even advisable.

    That’s why the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has updated its position statement on circumcision, to clarify the risks and benefits of both lopping off the foreskin or leaving it intact.

    In its new policy statement released Tuesday, the CPS says it does “not recommend the routine circumcision of every newborn male.”

    While that basic advice has not changed since its previous statement in 1996, the CPS now says there can be good reasons for circumcision in certain cases.

    We’re simply saying that for parents who are for whatever reasons keen on having their son circumcised, there’s now a little more evidence than there used to be about potential benefits

    “The main thing that has changed between now and then is there is convincing evidence that circumcision can actually prevent HIV,” said Dr. Joan Robinson, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Edmonton.

    Removal of the foreskin can also reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections in young boys, prevent sexually transmitted pathogens like herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus in older boys and adult males, while protecting against penile cancer.

    “I think for most parents, it’s basically a cosmetic procedure, unless you’re part of a religion that insists that you have to have it done,” says Robinson.

    “We’re simply saying that for parents who are for whatever reasons keen on having their son circumcised, there’s now a little more evidence than there used to be about potential benefits.”

    Lindsay Ferris-McVey chose not to have her son Henley “snipped” after his birth late last year, although her husband is circumcised.

    The 10-month-old is her second child — she has a two-year-old daughter, — and his was a no-epidural delivery at home, aided by a midwife.

    “I felt that (not having) circumcision fit right in with that,” she said from London, Ont., where she lives. “We’re born the way we’re supposed to be and for our society to decide you’re not born properly just doesn’t make sense.”

    Male circumcision as a cultural or religious ritual has been practised for thousands of years, but it became a neonatal medical procedure in Britain and North America in the late 19th century to promote genital hygiene, lower disease risk and to avoid having the painful, leg-crossing procedure later in life.

    In the middle of the last century, most Canadian boys were circumcised as a matter of course. But over time, the circumcision rate steadily dropped to its current level of about a third of newborns.

    Doctors recommend that circumcision be performed within the first week of life, as waiting until a baby is older increases the risk of complications like infection and bleeding, usually requires general anesthetic, and may be more painful.

    continued below

  54. Thats not to say that infants don’t feel pain — a common misperception, said Friedman. “There is a lot of good research these days that suggests there is definitely the ability to perceive pain, and therefore pain control is essential if you’re going to do a procedure like a circumcision.”

    Typically, an infant is given a topical agent to numb the area, then an injection to block the nerve that supplies sensation to the penis, he said, noting that a soother dipped in sugar water can also help ease a baby’s discomfort.

    Circumcision is often performed before discharge from hospital or at specialized out-patient clinics. But because it’s considered cosmetic, the $300-$500 surgery isn’t covered by provincial insurance plans.

    Jodi Rowe’s 17-year-old son Jake was circumcised not long after birth and she had planned to have the operation for her youngest boy Trace, now 9. But because he was born with cerebral palsy, doctors advised against the surgery.

    But Trace ended up being circumcised as a two-year-old because of recurrent penile infections, Rowe said from her home in Abbotsford, B.C.

    “We had to make a decision because he was at risk for cancer because he had had six infections before 2. There were no more infections after that.”

    Shaw’s advice to other parents: “Circumcise your boys. For the health of your child, get it done.”

    However, Michelle Ferreri suggests parents think twice before putting their sons through a procedure she likens to “mutilation” after watching it done to her elder boy Giorgio.

    “They take a little five-day-old baby and they strap him down on a cold, stainless steel table,” said Ferreri of Lakefield, Ont.

    “He screamed, tortuous screams the entire time. Blood everywhere,” she recalled. “He was miserable for three days after that — crying, crying, crying.

    “They should really warn you. Every woman and every mom should see what they do before they make that decision, because it’s very barbaric.”

    So when her second son Marcello was born, she opted against putting him through the operation.

    Ferreri got a lot of grief over that decision, with friends wondering how the now eight- and five-year-old brothers would be affected because their anatomy doesn’t look the same and one boy differs from their circumcised father.

    “It was just the most ludicrous argument I ever heard … Never once have they asked why their penises are different.”

    While circumcision has been found to cut the incidence of infections, particularly HIV, the risk of contracting the AIDS virus in Canada is “very, very low,” compared to south Saharan Africa, where the disease is rampant, noted Friedman of Sick Kids.

    Parents, he said, have to interpret the benefits in the context of the individual child.

    “My advice to most of those families tends to be there really isn’t a good medical reason to convince you to do it or convince you to not do it.”

    As long as the surgery is performed by people who are well-trained, in a setting with good hygiene practices and good pain relief, “it really is a very safe procedure with a very low risk of any real complications,” Friedman says.

    “I think the tricky part is interpreting how important it is for your son.”


  55. Ontario newborn bleeds to death after family doctor persuades parents to get him circumcised

    by Tom Blackwell | National Post October 25, 2015

    TORONTO — An Ontario doctor has been cautioned after a 22-day-old baby bled to death from a circumcision gone horribly wrong, underscoring the heated debate over a simple yet contentious procedure.

    Another physician involved in the case was urged by a medical governing body to be “mindful” of the operation’s dangers.

    But Ryan Heydari’s parents say the regulators who handled their complaints have shed little light on what led to Ryan’s death – or how to prevent similar tragedies in future.

    They say they did not even want the newborn circumcised — a view in line with longstanding recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric Society — but were persuaded to do so by a family physician.

    “We are so shocked that we will not have an answer to bring us some peace for our broken hearts, to prevent other cruel deaths like Ryan’s and to ensure that doctors take proper care of their patients,” mother Homa Ahmadi told the National Post.

    In fact, the case only became public because the couple appealed the original Ontario College of Physician and Surgeons rulings, which were rendered in secret.

    An appeal tribunal upheld this month a decision by the College to caution the doctor who saw Ryan in the emergency department hours after his circumcision, his diaper stained red with blood.

    The Health Professions Appeal and Review Board also confirmed the college’s separate advice to the pediatrician who conducted the procedure to be aware of its potential hazards, and document his efforts to get informed consent.

    The pediatric society said in a recent report that death from bleeding caused by circumcision is “extremely rare,” though it’s not completely unheard of. A five-week-old B.C. baby bled to death after being circumcised in 2003.

    Ahmadi gave birth on Jan. 3, 2013 to a boy who loved attention, cried relatively little and seemed to actually smile. “He gave us the most amazing moments of our life,” says Ryan’s mother.

    She and husband John Heydari, who immigrated from Iran about 12 years ago, opposed having him circumcised, convinced that “mother nature created us the way she intended us to be.”

    But their family physician persuaded them it was a good idea for medical reasons, despite contrary advice from pediatric specialists.

    Once carried out on most Canadian boys and still common as a religious rite for Jews and Muslims, circumcision has generally fallen in popularity, rates hovering around 32 per cent.

    The pediatric society has long held that its risks – including pain to a small baby, bleeding and the chance of disfigurement of the penis – outweigh its benefits.

    The group revisited the issue with a report just last month that addressed growing evidence circumcision helps prevent sexually transmitted disease, acting almost like a vaccine in countries with high rates of HIV.

    continued below

  56. Circumcised boys are also less likely to suffer urinary-tract infections and to develop rare penile cancer later in life, the society says.

    But its report still recommended against routine circumcision of every newborn male, saying that it may make sense in certain cases. For those who have the procedure, “close follow-up in the early post-circumcision time period is critical,” the society warns.

    One urologist says he has encountered a few cases where circumcised babies had to undergo transfusions because of dangerous bleeding, and sees less-serious complications routinely.

    Dr. Jorge DeMaria of Hamilton’s McMaster University believes regulators should require doctors to prove they have undergone proper training before doing circumcisions. He also questions circumcising newborns for preventive-health reasons, in a country with low levels of HIV and wide availability of condoms.

    “In our setting, in North America, really it’s not necessary.”

    Ahmadi says she and her husband knew almost immediately after their son’s procedure that something was seriously wrong.

    The previously unfussy baby “was crying so much, so hard, and he wouldn’t stop,” she recalled in written answers to questions. “He was bleeding, and it only got worse over just hours … It was so obvious from the blood his tiny body had lost that he was in danger.”

    The pediatrician who did the circumcision told the College he conducts many of them, that Ryan’s was uneventful and there was no bleeding when he checked the dressing before the family left.

    The parents called about bleeding later that day, though, and he advised them to take Ryan to Toronto’s North York General Hospital, which they did.

    “We … waited for care that could have saved his life, but that level of care never came,” says Ahmadi.

    A sparse outline in the board’s decision says Ryan was eventually transferred to Sick Kids hospital, but died there seven days later. Pathologists said he succumbed to “hypovolemic shock” caused by bleeding from the circumcision, which emptied his body of 35 to 40 per cent of its blood.

    The doctor at North York General — whose name has been withheld according to College policy — was cautioned for failing to recognize the seriousness of the boy’s condition or treating “compensated shock” – the first stage of the condition.

    But the process left the family little further ahead in fathoming how Ryan could have died, said Brian Moher, their lawyer.

    “My clients felt that there was a big gap in what the College had done with the investigations, essentially missing the point around the infant’s death.”

    The devastated parents, meanwhile, have not had other children.

    “The loss of Ryan, our only child, has made us realize that we can’t possess anything, even our hopes and dreams,” Ahmadi says. “We hope that this never happens to any other baby.”


  57. Male Circumcision What Would Jesus Do?

    On the eighth day of his life, before the Wise Men visited, Jesus was circumcised. What would he make of the debate raging today over male circumcision?

    by Candida Moss The Daily Beast December 27, 2015

    When we think of the birth of Jesus, we think of the traditional images of Christmas: the shepherds, the angels, the farm animals jostling to see the Christ child, the swift removal of his foreskin a week later.

    No? Scratch that last part?

    It’s true that the Christmas story is more babe in a manger than bris in the synagogue, but as a Jewish male infant Jesus was circumcised and, chronologically speaking, on the eighth day—and thus before the appearance of any wise men from the east. And yet somehow with all the food, presents, and Santa-fetishizing, the circumcision of Jesus doesn’t get a look in. But as debate about the ethics of circumcising children rages on, perhaps it really should.

    The only biblical evidence for Jesus’s circumcision comes from the infancy narrative found in the Gospel of Luke. On the eighth day, we are told, he was circumcised and officially given the name Jesus (although Gabriel had called it at the Anunciation).

    There are much later extra-biblical Christian texts, like the 4th-century Syriac text The Cave of Treasures and the monastic writer Epiphanius, who refer to the event. And, as a supporting witness to the cult of relics that boomed in late antique Christianity, the 6th-century Arabic Infancy Gospel of Our Saviorclaims that a “Hebrew woman” preserved Jesus’s foreskin in an alabaster jar of nard. It’s a story that lays the groundwork for the claims made by certain medieval churches that they possess the holy prepuce (foreskin).

    The circumcision of Jesus as described in Luke is performed in accordance with Jewish law, as a fulfillment of the covenant made between Abraham and God. According to Matthew Thiessen, an assistant professor of New Testament at Saint Louis University and the author of two books on circumcision in early Judaism and the New Testament, the purpose of the story is to demonstrate the enormous piety of Jesus’s family.

    It’s an interesting detail not only because Christians today are no longer circumcised for religious reasons. It was also a contentious issue for the first followers of Jesus. Thiessen told me that the question of whether or not non-Jewish followers of Jesus should undergo circumcision “was the hot-button topic” among Jesus’s apostles. Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, converts believed—how could they gain access to the salvation offered in him unless they became real Jews and were circumcised? The position outlined in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, that gentile converts should not be circumcised, eventually won the day. But the sharpness of Paul’s language (he calls Peter a hypocrite and the Galatians foolish) shows us just how heated the debate was in its own time.

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  58. The debate over circumcision is still heated today, albeit in a somewhat different form. Male circumcision is widely practiced in the U.S. for both religious and non-religious (ethical, health) reasons. In the late 19th century, when circumcision was promoted alongside advances in antisepsis and anesthesia, it was seen as a preemptive cure for masturbation. John Harvey Kellogg, a chief proponent of this theory, advocated in Plain Facts for Young and Old (1881) that circumcision should be performed without anesthesia as the pain would have a “salutary effect on the mind.” The argument was that the pain associated with circumcision would further dissuade the boy from touching his genitalia.

    Modern proponents of secular infant circumcision have long since abandoned the ethical argument. Instead they argue that the removal of the foreskin helps safeguard against the spread of STDs and reduces the risks of UTIs, prostate cancer, and accidental injury. The World Health Organization, for example,recommends male circumcision as a means of reducing the rate of HIV infection. Majority practice in Western culture even seeps into our aesthetics. In pop culture uncircumcised penises get something of a bad rap, beingdescribed as unattractive and undesirable. The confluence of medicine and popular opinion serve to perpetuate the norm.

    On the other hand, a growing number sees male circumcision as nothing short of genital mutilation. It is, after all, an unnecessary surgery performed on an individual incapable of providing consent. As such one could argue that it violates the most basic assumptions of medical ethics. It may even have negative consequences. A study by Sorrells, Snyder, and Reiss, published in a 2007 issue of the British Journal of Urology, concluded that circumcised males experienced reduced sensitivity during sex. Although subsequent studies have contested these findings, some argue that if male circumcision hinders sexual enjoyment it is analogous to female genital mutilation. Groups likeDoctors Opposing Circumcision continue to advocate for genital integrity and circumcision is on the decline.

    New Testament texts are only occasionally invoked in this debate. But what would happen if they were? When I asked Thiessen if he thinks that either Paul or Jesus would have considered circumcision to be a form of mutilation, he said no. Some ancient rabbinic thinking, he added, saw circumcision on the eighth day to be especially humane. God delayed circumcision until then, we are told, out of “compassion,” so that the infant could grow in strength (Deuteronomy Rabbah 6:1). There are, however passages in the New Testament that could speak to the anti-circumcision cause. In Philippians 3:2, Paul labels those who insist on circumcision for non-Jewish converts as “those who mutilate the flesh.” There is, at the end of the day, no religious reason for Christians to circumcise their sons.

    Ultimately, the point of the Gospel circumcision story is to emphasize the Jewish identity of Jesus, something that is lost in our celebrations. “Modern Christian depictions of Jesus’s nativity, from Christmas pageants to Christmas hymns, almost always minimize or even erase Jesus’s Jewishness, when the details of the [infancy narratives] ought to serve as a reminder to emphasize this fundamental feature of Jesus’s identity.” Putting the Christ back in Christmas should involved recognizing that Jesus was—from birth to death—a pious Jew.


  59. 9 Things You Dont Know About the Mighty Foreskin

    By Anna Lynn, Kinkly January 26, 2016

    Takeaway: Foreskin is pretty fascinating stuff.

    Crewneck or turtleneck? As you might have guessed, we aren't talking about fashion, we're talking about foreskin. And while nearly 80% of men in the United States are foreskin-free, in the rest of the world, foreskin is the norm. But for a such a small piece of skin, foreskin sure carries a lot of baggage. There are all kinds of debate about whether a cut or uncut penis is cleaner, sexier or more attractive.
    And you know what? We aren't taking sides. Two sexy people who are attracted to each other should be able to have a great time, whether there's a foreskin between them or not. Even so, foreskin is pretty fascinating stuff. Here we look at nine nifty things you may not know about it.

    It’s Found on 70% of the World’s Penises

    If you've never seen a penis with its own sleeping bag, you might be surprised to learn that most penises come as they were made: all wrapped up. In fact, even in the United States, where most male babies are still circumcised, circumcision rates are dropping as public opinion about circumcision shifts.

    It's a Built-In Masturbation Sleeve

    All penises are unique (and awesome!), but if there's one thing to know about foreskins it's that it can make hand jobs a lot easier. By moving back and forth with the hand, foreskin provides protection, lubrication and extra stimulation all at the same time. Neat, huh? (Learn more in Sex and Circumcision: a Lady's Guide.)

    It’s More Than Just Skin

    Foreskin is actually a unique kind of skin that's more like an eyelid than the skin on the rest of the body. Foreskin also contains stem cells. As a result, foreskins have been used to cultivate skin and skin byproducts for skin creams, burn victims and cosmetic testing. Interesting. Although I'd much rather encounter foreskin on a familiar penis than rub a stranger's foreskin all over my face.

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  60. It Can Impact Female Pleasure

    Most people who've had partners with both circumcised and uncircumcised penises will tell you that the partner matters more than the penis. However, foreskin does have some functionality in terms of female pleasure. Because the foreskin cuts down on friction, it can mean easier penetration and smoother glide, which can mean longer, more comfortable play, even without lube. (Although most people recommend that you use some anyway. Slippery is better!) The foreskin is also believed to bunch up and provide a little extra clitoral stimulation, which is never a bad thing.

    Dildos Are Going Uncut Too

    Whether you are into the feel or just the look of an uncut penis, that experience has typically been notoriously hard to come by in a dildo. Fortunately, there are some amazing uncut dildos out there. Some even have moving foreskin!

    It Needs to Be Treated a Bit Differently

    There's always a learning curve to getting to know a new partner, but there are few things to know about working with an uncircumcised penis. The first is that because the head of the penis is covered most of the time, it tends to be a lot more sensitive. So go easy! The other is that when using a condom, it's important to roll back the foreskin before putting it on. This helps prevent extra movement in the foreskin from stretching at the condom, increasing the chances that it will break.

    Having Foreskin May Have Health Risks

    Research by the World Health Organization suggests that men with intact foreskin are up to 60% more likely to contract HIV than those who've been snipped. This is partly because of the moist environment the foreskin provides, and also because it contains what are known as Langerhans cells, which may be targeted by the HIV virus. That said, more recent studies have disputed this finding.

    But So Might Removing It

    There are several studies that suggest that circumcision affects sexual function. They've found that uncircumcised men have reduced penile sensitivity, penile temperature and sexual response. That said, other studies found that circumcision had no adverse effect on sexual function. In other words, the jury is still out on this one. That's no surprise. Sexual pleasure is a complicated thing that extends well beyond anatomy.

    Females Have Foreskin Too

    Not to be left out of the fun, females have foreskins too. It's called the clitoral hood. They both evolve from the same tissue in the womb.


  61. FGM Case Reported Every 109 Minutes in England
    By VICE News and Reuters

    February 5, 2016 | 5:33 am
    A case of female genital mutilation (FGM) was reported every 109 minutes in England between April and September last year, yet there has not been a single prosecution, according to government figures.

    The charity Plan UK, which analyzed the most recent data from the UK government's Health & Social Care Information Centre — which records cases of FGM newly-discovered by health professionals — said until now FGM had been a "hidden danger" of which the full scale was only just beginning to become apparent.

    The only FGM prosecution ever brought in the UK, of a doctor accused of carrying out the practice in a London hospital, ended in acquittal in February last year.

    The United Nations also revealed on Friday that the scale of the practice around the world was far higher than previously estimated, with more than 200 million girls and women globally having suffered genital mutilation.

    Despite growing momentum to end FGM, experts warned that booming populations in some high prevalence countries were undermining efforts to tackle the practice widely condemned as a serious human rights abuse.

    Related: We Found the First Egyptian Doctor Convicted of FGM Manslaughter — And He's Still Practicing

    "If current trends continue the number of girls and women subjected to FGM will increase significantly over the next 15 years," the UN children's agency UNICEF said, on the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.

    The UNICEF data covers 30 countries, but half of girls and women who have been cut live in just three countries — Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

    The new global figure includes nearly 70 million more girls and women than UNICEF estimated in 2014.

    But this is largely due to the inclusion of data from Indonesia which was left out in 2014 because there were no reliable national figures at the time.

    "Female genital mutilation differs across regions and cultures, with some forms involving life-threatening health risks," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.

    "In every case FGM violates the rights of girls and women. We must all accelerate efforts — governments, health professionals, community leaders, parents and families — to eliminate the practice."

    The ancient ritual — practised across a swath of African countries and pockets of Asia and the Middle East — usually involves the partial or total removal of a girl's external genitalia.

    In its most extreme form the vaginal opening is also sewn up. In many countries girls are commonly cut before their fifth birthday.

    Communities which support FGM often consider it a prerequisite for marriage. Many also see it as a religious obligation although it is not mentioned in the Koran or Bible.

    But FGM can cause a host of physical and psychological problems. In some cases girls can bleed to death or die from infections caused by dirty blades.

    Gupta said collecting data to determine the magnitude of FGM was essential for eliminating the practice.

    The country with the highest rate of FGM remains Somalia where figures show 98 percent of girls and women aged between 15 and 49 have been cut. Guinea, Djibouti and Sierra Leone also have very high rates.

    Overall, FGM prevalence rates have fallen in the last three decades but progress has been uneven, UNICEF said.

    Countries which have seen sharp declines include Liberia, Burkina Faso and Kenya. The data also indicates widespread disapproval of the practice in many countries.

    The report does not include data from all countries where FGM has been reported. Those left out include India, Colombia, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


    Watch the VICE News documentary: Reversing Female Circumcision: The Cut That Heals:


  62. Muslim man loses high court bid to have sons circumcised

    Father went to court after mother of the boys, aged four and six, objected to the procedure at a young age

    Press Association April 19, 2016

    A devout Muslim has failed to persuade a high court judge to rule that his sons should be circumcised.

    The man, who was born in Algeria but lives in England, argued that circumcision would be in accordance with his “Muslim practice and religious beliefs” – and in the youngsters’ best interests. But the boys’ mother, who grew up in Devon and is separated from their father, disagreed.

    Mrs Justice Roberts refused to make a circumcision order after analysing arguments made at a family court hearing in Exeter, Devon. She said it was better to defer a decision until the boys, aged six and four, reached a stage where they could make “individual choices”.

    The details of the case emerged on Monday in a ruling by Roberts. The judge said no one involved could be identified, but she said the man and woman were both in their mid-30s.

    She said the man had been living in England for 15 years. He had argued that it would be “in the children’s best interests to allow them to be circumcised” in accordance with his “Muslim practice and religious beliefs”, Roberts said in her ruling.

    The man’s former partner “opposes that course until such time as the children have reached an age where they are competent to give consent to such a procedure”, the judge added.


  63. The world is failing to protect its children

    by ROMÉO DALLAIRE Contributed to The Globe and Mail April 22, 2016

    Roméo Dallaire is a retired lieutenant-general and retired Canadian senator, and founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.


    In our fight against Boko Haram, protecting children must be a priority security concern. Last week, the international community recognized the two-year mark of the abduction of the more than 200 Chibok girls into the ranks of Boko Haram. Between the renewed calls for justice and the continuing protection of children in Nigeria, a nagging question continued to be ignored.

    What drives Boko Haram to continue to capture and use children?

    Today, children are both the primary driver and casualty of conflict. The international impact of war on children is truly staggering. According to Unicef in 2014, more than 230 million children lived in countries affected by conflict, with some 15 million directly touched by it. As of 2015, one in every eight births will occur in an area of conflict. Children continue to swell the ranks of seven state armies and 50 non-state armed groups to be used as soldiers in 14 countries and contexts around the globe.

    Children were once used as soldiers only as a last resort, but are now viewed as the primary weapon that armed groups and state armies across the globe use to fight their wars. The bleak reality of modern conflict is that the use of children as weapons of war is not ad hoc but strategic. Commanders, in state armies and non-state armed groups, use children because they fill specific tactical and strategic aims.

    The stats in relation to Boko Haram’s ongoing use of child soldiers are grim. According to Unicef, 44 children, many of them girls, were strapped with bombs and detonated in markets across Nigeria as suicide bombers. Boys are forced to attack their own families to demonstrate loyalty to Boko Haram, while girls are exposed to sexual violence and forced marriage to fighters.

    Unfortunately, the more than 200 girls who were captured were only the beginning of a larger campaign of abductions that has and will continue to feed Boko Haram’s continuing campaign of violence over the past two years. While Boko Haram’s territory continues to shrink, its strategic use of children as weapons has enabled it to wage its campaign unabated. Until children are made a priority security concern, this cycle of abduction and violence will not be broken. One critical aspect of this is ensuring the protection of schools from attack.

    There is a significant movement to protect education from attack: the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, which found that there are disturbing patterns of attacks on education. Attacks on schools are prohibited under international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition to death and injury, attacks on schools can create a pervasive fear that can lead to school dropout rates increasing and destruction of infrastructure. The abduction of the Chibok girls represents this disturbing trend and more needs to be done to put tangible efforts into protecting the schools. Resources, as well as training of security personnel, must be a priority in achieving this.

    In prioritizing the protection of children we can achieve tangible means and action to ending the conflict in Nigeria. However, this will require a concerted effort by not only the international community and local actors but also the implementation of an innovative holistic approach that recognizes the continuing humanitarian and security dimensions of the reality on the ground.

    Roméo Dallaire spoke about child soldiers at the Global Centre for Pluralism and Interpeace’s Ottawa Peace Talks on April 19