Monday, June 27, 2011

SWAZILAND: Compulsory Circumcision Law Proposed

So while intactivists are fighting in San Francisco to ban the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting infants, officials in Swaziland are trying to make it legally compulsory for all men, under the mistaken belief that circumcision does anything in the fight against HIV.

According to the Swazi Observer, there is a group of women advocating this law, and demanding chiefs cooperate in making sure the law was followed. Men who refused to be circumcised would be fined.

Discussions and lectures were organized by the Swazi Ministry of Health. Apparently Swaziland has a "National Male Circumcision Director." I can't even believe this!

Apparently the women believe that "having all men circumcised would not only help [the men], but the nation at large in that the risks of their wives contracting sexually transmitted diseases would decrease."

What in the WORLD are they feeding these women? Is the Swazi goverment on crack? Don't they know that the studies conflict with reality, and that even if they were 100% accurate, circumcision would not offer women any benefits?

I sense American influence behind this. Perhaps PEPFAR and Bill Gates are frustrated that the much hyped Soka Uncobe campaign is failing to help reach the proposed 80% quota, that now they are twisting Swazi officials arms to get a move on with the mass mutilation campaign?

And they want to do this even though HIV was shown to be more prevalent in circumcised men in this country?

"As Table 14.10 shows, the relationship between HIV prevalence and circumcision status is not in the expected direction. Circumcised men have a slightly higher HIV infection rate than men who are not circumcised (22 percent compared with 20 percent)".

Studies show that circumcision is next to worthless in the fight against HIV. Actually, it's proving to be less than worthless, as it's leading men to believe that they don't have to wear condoms, making the situation worse. The Soka Uncobe campaign was the biggest blunder for the Swazi Ministry of Health because it sent the message that "Circumcise and Conquer" meant once you were circumcised you "conquered" HIV, and you could "conquer" all the women you want.

Circumcision gives men an excuse to be complacent with condoms, which, even if "studies" were correct, outperforms circumcision. And now they want to make circumcision for all the men compulsory?

Precisely what crock have Americans been feeding the men of Swaziland? Or are they simply that gullible?

The day is coming when this drive to mutilate the whole of Africa under the guise of HIV prevention will be seen for the despicable human rights atrocity that it is. Sooner or later America is going to have to be responsible.

How much longer before the world wakes up to this mass genocide being conducted in Africa?

EDIT (added 6-27-2011):
Just imagine. How would this story be reported in the news if it were the opposite? What if officials were pushing for a law that made female circumcision mandatory? What if there were men who wanted their women circumcised? How would that play out?

What if "studies showed" that female circumcision "reduced the risk of HIV" in women? Would American institutions of higher education pay to conduct "studies" to find this out? Would they fly to Africa, circumcise 1000 women and then follow them around to see who got AIDS first? And then use the results to say that "circumcision prevented HIV" in the women who didn't get it? Would they then use these "studies" to pressure the WHO to endorse female circumcision as HIV prevention policy? Would they pressure governments to enact "mass-circumcision campaigns" and compulsory laws?

Why, why, why is this acceptable to do with male circumcision?

Incidentally, "studies show" female circumcision could help "reduce the risk" of HIV here, here, and here. Not to mention that "studies" ALSO show that women who have been circumcised still experience sexual pleasure here and here.

So what are we waiting for! I don't see the WHO, UNAIDS, USAID, PEPFAR etc. getting behind this... Why, they're completely ignoring another "tool" in the fight against AIDS!

(Sorry for the sarcasm...)

One Intactivist's Opinion: The SF Circ Ban Ought Not to Pass

Don't get me wrong. I am against the forced genital cutting of healthy, non-consenting individuals. There is nothing that I would like to see more than to have the practice of circumcising healthy, non-consenting children abolished, and that the individuals that do this be put in jail and/or taken to court by the men who resent this violation upon their bodies.

All in all, I'm glad somebody managed to propose a ban on circumcision, and that it has gone on as far as it has. Never before has our cause garnered this much attention. It was about time somebody did something to put this issue "in your face," and nothing gets people's attention quicker than the proposition to enact legislation.

Up until now, it was rather taboo to talk about circumcision. Questioning circumcision got you labeled an anti-Semite, or it was dismissed as a "non-issue." The only context in which it was acceptable to talk about circumcision was to try and make little "snip-snip" jokes, or to talk about all the "health benefits" of cutting off part of a child's penis. The ethics of performing needless surgery on a healthy, non consenting individual were never addressed. Whenever circumcision is presented in our media, it is always to secure acquiesence to circumcision as an "age old tradition," or "one of many decisions parents have to make for their children." Our opponents would call it a "non-issue" and laugh it off.

Well, they're not laughing anymore.

In fact, religious and (at least on the surface) non-religious groups have begun to coalesce, and are trying to shut down the debate. Could this be it? The beginning of the end?

In my opinion, we've got a long way to go.

The US is simply not ready to handle the fallout of such a ban. Too many parents see this as their "right," and the state would have to deal with the logistics of arresting countless renegade mohels and doctors. There is too much misinformation in our country concerning the normal development of human male genitalia. The normal development and function of the foreskin is hardly taught in American medical curriculum. Too often, the only thing that is ever taught about the foreskin is that it must be cut off at birth, so that's all American doctors ever learn or know.

Assuming the ban was instated tomorrow, parents would still forcibly retract their sons' foreskins because misinformed (or willfully ignorant?) doctors would tell them that this is what they need to do "to clean underneath," causing iatrogenic problems and making the necessity of circumcision a self-fulfilling
prophecy. Knife-happy doctors would still prescribe circumcision for any and every problem, real or percieved, an intact child may have with his penis, and parents would agree to a circumcision because they simply wouldn't know any better. We've still got a long way to go to sway the public in our favor, and to change the flawed curriculum regarding male anatomy.

So on the one hand, it's exciting for me to learn that there is actually a ban on circumcision on the ballot. Nothing in our country ever got changed because people sat around wishin' and a hopin'. Human rights issues in this country were addressed because somebody had the courage to stand up and question the status quo and to challenge social constructs and expectations. Just imagine what would have never changed if people had never taken action; slavery, women's rights, gay rights etc.

I think that it's a shame that religious interest groups are trying to silence the debate before it even begins. If they are so confident that the ban will be "soundly defeated," then why the need to keep it from the voters? Intactivists need to unite and fight to make sure the ban stays on the November ballot. We can't let religious interest groups derail the democratic process. Last time I checked, church and state are separate, and religious interest groups simply can't intervene and silence debate they don't like.

On the other hand though, I think the ban ought to fail. I believe the ban's real purpose is to bring attention to our cause, and it has served this purpose wonderfully. Realistically, though, we have to admit to ourselves that, at least for now, it could never actually work. If the ban happens to make it to the November ballot, we shouldn't be surprised or disappointed when it's voted down. Rather, we should be thankful for the opportunity to further our cause and keep fighting. We've got a long way to go, and I think it's a mistake to think that our fight would end would that this ban was enacted. America is quick to brag about its own talents but slow to admitting its own mistakes, and in finally getting this country's attention, the fight to educate America has only just begun.

We shouldn't give up the ship just yet; we need to fight for our right to be heard. We should persevere until the very end. But let's keep our feet on the ground; our country is not ready for a ban against circumcision.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
~Mahatma Gandhi

DISCLAIMER: What I have expressed in this blog post is my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the views of all intactivists.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doctors Against the SF Circ Ban: Who Are They?

So joining in with religious groups against the circumcision ban in San Francisco are physicians. It seems only obvious that physicians would join against the ban; circumcision is performed routinely in the US, and doctors that do it don't want to get in trouble for it.

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

Ostensibly, the physicians involved are concerned about public health. To defend the circumcision of infants, they spout off a laundry list of supposed "medical benefits" that are supposed to make the practice indispensable.

The problem is, however, that circumcision is not necessary in healthy children. Doctors that circumcise healthy children routinely aren't providing a service that is a requirement for public health. Nor would the ban forbid circumcision if there is actual medical necessity. If this were true, then this ban would clearly be stifling medical practice, and would indeed be placing physicians in an ackward position.

I think the coalition of doctors with religious groups is an intriguing one. Here you have religious groups, many who see the circumcision of children as a religious requirement, and then you have physicians, who, at least on the surface, are concerned about public health. What does one have to do with the other? To people who see the circumcision of children as a religious obligation, how are "health benefits" relevant? Would they consider abandoning the practice if better ways to prevent disease were discovered? And since when do doctors perform surgical procedures to comply with the religious requirement of a patient's parents?

Do doctors honestly care about "public health" and protecting "religious freedom" and "parental choice?" Or do they have other interests to protect under the guise of medicine?

I always ask the following questions: Without medical or clinical indication, can a doctor be performing surgery on a healthy, non-consenting child? Let alone pretend like he can be giving his parents any kind of a "choice?" Doesn't charging to perform non-medical procedures on healthy, non-consenting individuals constitute medical fraud? And, in performing it in healthy, non-consenting children, professional abuse of the child and his parents? If the child is healthy and not in need of any kind of surgery, isn't offering circumcision to his parents the epitome of charlatanism?

Those are questions that I hope would be addressed this November. It seems, though, that doctors like McBeth and religious organizations are working hard to make sure this debate never happens:

Brian D. McBeth MD is a voice from the medical field who has joined forces with religious groups against the circumcision ban, including the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the so-called "Committee for Parental Choice and Religious freedom." On June 6th of this year, he wrote to these organizations with a sensationalized anecdote which reveals that the doctor is either extremely biased, he is deliberately misinforming with an intention to deceive, he really is that uninformed when it comes to the proper development of male anatomy, or all of the above.

The following are excerpts from that letter which can be found here:

"...I am an emergency physician, and wanted to describe a brief anecdote from the world of emergency medicine that demonstrates the medical value of circumcision and preventable medical illness."

Or so he hopes...

"I practice in a community with a generally low prevalence of infant circumcision. Frequently, I see young boys with urinary tract infections, balanitis and balanoposthitis – infectious conditions seen much more frequently in uncircumcised boys."

Actually, due to a short urinary tract, urinary tract infections are much more common in girls. They're also easy to treat with anti-biotics in boys as they are in girls, and circumcised boys also get UTIs, but this is not mentioned here. It is true, that balanitis and balanoposthitis is much more seen frequently in uncircumcised boys; that's because only uncircumcised boys are capable of getting these conditions. He fails to mention however, that even among uncircumcised boys, these conditions are rare and easily treatable. The fact is he sees ONLY THOSE BOYS who come to him with these conditions, because he is a doctor; he does not see the rest of the boys who don't develop problems with their penises. It's like appendicitis; people with appendices tend to get it. And only people who get it have to see the doctor.

Observe the way he tells his story:

"Two nights ago, I took care of a six year old boy who came in with a case of balanoposthitis, inflammation of the tip of his penis and foreskin which we typically treat simply with an antibiotic or antifungal cream."

Good so far...

"However, his parents had pulled back his foreskin to try to clean underneath, and the foreskin had become stuck in a retracted position, a condition called paraphimosis."

This condition is real and can happen if parents or physicians try to forcibly retract the foreskin of a child.

"The foreskin and glans penis had become markedly swollen and they were unable to bring it back down – the child was in considerable pain, and this condition – if not emergently treated – can result in compromise of blood flow to the penis and necrosis or loss/death of that tissue."

True so far.

"In short, we were able to treat him aggressively with pain medication, sedation and compression techniques, that over a few hour period were successful in relieving the swelling and restoring his foreskin to a safe position. In this case, an emergent surgery was not required, though it sometimes is necessary in these situations."

The circumcision ban would allow for these situations.

 I do not argue that medically every boy needs a circumcision, but certainly this is one dramatic example of a completely preventable medical emergency that resulted in significant pain, emotional distress for patient and family and significant cost with hours of time in an emergency department as well as the risks of a procedural sedation – none of which would have been necessary had he been circumcised."

Actually, none of which would have been necessary had his parents been PROPERLY EDUCATED to not forcibly retract their son's genitals. McBeth is trying to make a rule out of exception.

Let's ask him what the frequency of these conditions are in countries where normal, natural organs are the norm. And let's ask him what other parts of the body does he recommend we cut off our children "to prevent them from getting infected."

Here is the information this doctor seems to be oblivious to:

"Again, I laud your efforts to oppose this unconstitutional ban on an accepted medical practice."

Let's briefly forget that at one point, the genital cutting of girls was "accepted medical practice" in this country, as late as 1996. There was specialized equipment manufactured for it and insurance companies such as Blue Shield paid for it. That it is accepted practice, doesn't necessarily make it constitutional. Questioning "accepted medical practice" is the whole point of the ban.

"The proposed bill is an affront to all who believe in religious freedom, and if implemented, would send a message to Jews, Muslims and others that San Francisco, a city long known for diversity and tolerance, no longer welcomes those with these long standing religious traditions."

What the medical profession has to do with religious practice is beyond me. In 1996, a federal ban on ALL female genital cutting was enstated, without religious exception. Last year, the AAP tried to endorse a "ritual nick" for girls, but was quickly forced to back-pedal after a world outcry. The AAP admitted that the "ritual nick" wouldn't be as severe as male infant circumcision.

The fact of the matter is that there is already a federal ban on female circumcision, and there is no exception for “religious,” “traditional” or “cultural” reasons. Female circumcision is a custom in certain African tribes, and it is observed as “Sunnah” by Muslims all over the world, including different countries in Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The federal ban criminalizes female circumcision in any way, shape or form, and it infringes on the “parental rights” and “religious freedoms” of people from these countries, and yet nobody seems to mind.

I ask, since when is religion relevant to medical science? What is the reason this doctor has decided to side with religious groups against this ban?

"Medically, there is a great deal of research that supports a role for circumcision in preventing the infections mentioned above, as well as penile cancer, cervical cancer and the spread of HIV."

Medically, surgery should only be performed when it is necessary to the physical health of the person on whom it is performed because of a clear, compelling, and immediate medical need where other, less-destructive alternative treatment has failed.

Medically, there is no other part of the body that is cut off to "prevent infection." In most other cases, disease is treated with anti-biotics unless the tissue is damaged beyond repair.

Medically, doctors are supposed to fully inform parents on the proper care of their son's bodies.

Medically speaking penile cancer is already an extremely rare condition which is limited to older men with bad hygiene who smoke, and circumcised men still get penile cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV, which is transmitted by both circumcised and uncircumcised men. Some studies show that circumcision "might reduce the risk" by "up to 28-30%," but even if these claims were accurate, that leaves 60%. In other words, circumcised or not, men would still have to wear condoms.

While we're sharing anecdotes, I'm rather active on Facebook, and I've met quite a few ladies out there who tell me that they got HPV from their circumcised partners. The moral of the story being that circumcision is not effective at preventing HPV transmission. This is just a lame excuse on a laundry list to try and justify infant genital mutilation.

Children are at absolute zero risk for sexually transmitted HIV, and even if the latest "studies" were correct, circumcision would be so ineffective at preventing HIV, that the very authors of the studies themselves cannot stress the use of condoms enough. In light of the fact that there is already better, more effective measures against disease, circumcision is a moot point, especially in children who do not engage in sex, and who, when older, would still have to learn to wear a condom anyway.

Readers may be interested to know, that the latest "studies" in circumcision and HIV fail to correlate with the real world, the biggest smoking gun being our own country: Circumcision hasn't stopped HIV in the US.

And, it hasn't stopped other STDs either.

In America, the majority of the male population is circumcised, approximately 80%, while in most countries in Europe, circumcision is uncommon. Despite these facts, our country does poorly.

One would expect for there to be a lower transmission rates in the United States, and for HIV to be rampant in Europe; HIV transmission rates are in fact higher in the United States, where most men are circumcised, than in various countries in Europe, where most men are intact. It is telling that the HIV epidemic struck in our country in the 1980s, 90% of the male population was already circumcised.

In short, doctors like McBeth are grasping at strings and straws to defend their profession.

"The medical community as well as those who believe religious and cultural freedom of practice and expression should stand united to defeat this proposed ban on circumcision."

It would appear as if Brian McBeth is trying to be an objective voice of reason, and that from his story, he is genuinely concerned for the well being of children, though it boggles my mind why anybody in the medical community would be against the ban, if they would still be permitted to perform circumcision when and if the procedure were medically necessary.

Initially, the only explanation that I could think of was that the ban would affect those doctors who collect a  stipend from performing non-medical circumcisions on healthy, non-consenting infants.

"It's hard to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends on his not understanding."
~Upton Sinclair

As it turns out, though, Brian McBeth is in fact Jewish, and a certified mohel at that.

Brian McBeth, his wife and their son just after his ritual circumcision;
maybe it's my intactivist bias, but that poor child looks like he's in pain...

It is generally well accepted that an "authority" needs to be objective and impartial, and that an audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source. Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment of a conflict of interest is a problem.

Upon first impression, most people might actually think that Brian McBeth is indeed an unbiased, objective and impartial doctor who is genuinely interested in public health, and is not in any way connected with the religious groups with whom he has joined forces.

I think that it is dishonest and misleading that this doctor fails to mention the fact that he is in fact Jewish, and a ritual circumciser himself. He fails to mention this in his letter, and he fails to mention this in this interview.

In my opinion, religious groups against the circumcision ban are engaging in a deceptive tactic. It seems to me they're trying to create an illusion of a "coalition" of religious groups and objective medical practitioners, where there is actually not.

I must ask, of the physicians that have banded with religious groups, how many are actually using their medical authority to defend other interests? How many double as Jewish mohels and are trying to come off as impartial medical practitioners? Why have religious groups against the ban deemed it necessary to have, or at least appear to have, the voice of doctors behind them?

My speculation is that even religious groups have come to realize that "religious freedom" and "parental choice" are beginning to fail as rationale for the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting infants. "Religious freedom" and "parental choice" simply aren't enough to justify the the circumcision of boys anymore. A pseudo-medical front is necessary to avoid the same scrutiny as female circumcision. The difference between male and female circumcision seems to be "potential medical benefits." "Benefits" which the child may never need nor want, and which can actually already be better achieved by more effective, less invasive means. "Benefits" which are irrelevant to those who view circumcision as a religious requirement.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cutters Trying to Silence Debate

So a ban on circumcision is set to appear on the ballot in San Francisco this November, but religious interest groups are trying to silence the debate before it even happens.

According to PR Newswire, The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is teaming up with doctors (presumably circumcisers of children) and Jewish and Muslim families in a lawsuit against the circumcision ban, which call upon the state Department of Elections to remove it from the ballot on the grounds that "the City of San Francisco would have no power to enact the ordinance if approved by voters."

They cite Calfiornia Business and Professions Code, saying that municipalities cannot "prohibit a healing arts professional licensed within the state... from engaging in any act or performing any procedure that falls within the professionally recognized scope of practice of that license."

That circumcision is indeed an act that falls within "professionally recognized scope of practice," however, is at the crux of the argument. Female genital cutting was conducted by professionals in this country, and was perfectly legal until it was banned by federal law in 1996.

Says ADL Associate Director in San Francisco Nancy Appel: "Existing California law is clear... only the state can make rules about medical procedures and this initiative violates that law."

That is, of course, assuming that the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors is legit medical procedure. The ban on circumcision challenges this assumption.

The ADL and other religious interest groups want a judge to intervene before the November election to "spare the city and its residents from wasting resources debating and voting on an ordinance that cannot become law."

As if circumcising healthy, non-consenting children weren't a "waste of resources," not to mention medical fraud, professional abuse, and the violation of basic human rights...

Even if the ban fails to pass, this is a debate that needs to take place. The fact that these groups are working hard to stop the debate before it even happens demonstrates how important the debate actually is.

It's high time the taboo behind this subject was dropped in this country, and that a procedure that affects more than 1.3 million male children a year were discussed openly.

Shame on the ADL and their affiliates for wanting to silence debate.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay

There has got to be something very tragic, and very wrong, with a society impaired by its own cultural blinders. It is very disconcerting that while human rights advocates fly half-way around the globe to decry the genital mutilation of girls and women, the very same people display a willful ignorance to the genital mutilation of boys in their own countries. While their cameras faithfully bring back images of girls being restrained as they have part of their genitals forcibly cut off, they somehow fail to capture images of the boys who are enduring the same in the very same countries.

Every so often, we'll see pictures of the forced genital cutting of boys in the media, however the tone in presentation is different. While the presentation of the images of forced female genital cutting encourage an audience to deplore the actions depicted, the presentation of the images of forced male genital cutting encourage an audience to accept what they see in the scope of "cultural relativism." "Horror and torture" for girls and women, "the preservation of age-old coming-of-age tradition" in boys. Why the sexist double-think?

It is a glaringly obvious inconsistency to defend the forced genital cutting of one sex, but condemn it in the other, yet when advocates of human rights point out this inconsistency, we are often met with hostility. "How dare you compare male and female circumcision," retort some, especially those defending male infant circumcision, "they're not the same thing!" This is said in a matter-of-fact tone, as if these claims were immediately self-evident.

I must ask, on what are they basing these assertions? Of the people that make these claims, how many of them have actually witnessed a male circumcision, let alone a female one? Can these claims actually be substantiated, or do they expect us to take their word for it at face value? What double-think are they using to condemn the abuse of female children, while defending the abuse of male children?

Girls remember, boys don't
It is often said that female circumcision is worse because it is performed at an age when the girl will be old enough to remember.

Girl "receives" sunat, at a "free" circumcision event in Bandung, Indonesia, west of Java.

In people's minds, male circumcision is justified, because to their knowledge, it is performed in babies, when boys will be less likely to remember the pain and trauma. But are these same people aware that in other cultures, boys are circumcised at older ages? What is their reaction in these cases?

In the Philippines circumcision is a rite of passage known as "tuli." Most males undergo "tuli" as preteens, particularly during their school summer break from March to May. Here, boys in Marikina, east of Manila,  "receive" their "free" circumcisions.

Male circumcision is a religious ritual
The forced circumcision of boys is often defended as a "religious tradition." This argument doesn't seem to hold when defending the forced circumcision of girls, however. For better or for worse, the circumcision of girls is ALSO seen as a "religious tradition," and in some cases, it is seen as a religious duty.

Kurdish girl being circumcised

The image above is horrific. Most would decry what is being depicted here as child abuse, and rightly so. But would this be the same reaction if the sex of the child in this picture were different?

Muslim boy being circumcised

In Islamic tradition, boys are traditionally circumcised at older ages. Does this picture of a Muslim boy being circumcised rouse the same horror and disgust as the picture before? Why? Why not? What is the mental reasoning of why what is happening in these pictures is not the exact same thing?

What's being compared?
When people say "female circumcision is worse," what are they actually saying? What are they comparing male infant circumcision to? In order to sensationalize female genital cutting, but downplay male genital cutting, advocates of circumcision always compare the circumcision of babies to the infibulation of women. The fact of the matter is that there are actually quite a few variations of female circumcision. The kind of female circumcision most people know, where all external genitalia is removed and the vaginal opening is stitched up, known as Pharaonic circumcision or infibulation, is actually the worst kind of female genital cutting, and it accounts for only 15% of cases globally. Even the World Health Organization acknowledges that there are many kinds of female circumcision, and not every kind removes the clitoris. Would we be more accepting of the kind of female genital cutting that was equivalent to or less severe than male infant circumcision?

In Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the Islamic circumcision ritual for girls ranges from rubbing turmeric on the genitals, to pricking the clitoris to draw a symbolic drop of blood. In other instances, the procedure is more invasive, involving what WHO classifies as “Type I” female genital mutilation, defined as excision of the clitoral hood, called the prepuce, with or without incision of the clitoris itself. The amount of flesh removed, if any, is described by circumcisers as being "the size of a quarter-grain of rice, a guava seed, a bean, the tip of a leaf, the head of a needle." They use a small pair of sterilized scissors to cut a piece of the clitoral prepuce "about the size of a nail clipping." In some areas, they do cut the clitoris itself. In these countries, surveys show that over 95% of the female population undergoes some sort of genital cutting procedure, and the women seem to be doing fine.

In Indonesia, an infant girl undergoes "sunat" to fulfill religious and cultural tradition.

Not too far away, an infant boy undergoes circumcision for precisely the same reasons.
(Notice the mother: "Shh! Quiet!")

It is only through sexist double-think that we allow ourselves to feel disgust for only one of these pictures.

There may readers that delude themselves yet. Their minds will simply refuse to allow for male and female circumcision to connect. Groping for an alibi to keep them separate, and groping for reasons to continue to justify one while condemning the other, they cling to whatever they can find.

The reasoning may go something like this:
"Well, it may be true that boys in other cultures suffer, but at least where I come from, boys are circumcised at hospitals, in sterile environments, with clean utensils, by professionals, and local anesthetic. They won't remember anything because they're circumcised as babies."

Perhaps a boy circumcised as a newborn may not remember his circumcision. But is pain and whether or not it is remembered really the problem? Could we make the forced female genital cutting of girls more acceptable if it happened at hospitals in sterile environments with pristine utensils by the most caring of professionals? Would female circumcision be more acceptable if it were performed in a baby girl, when she would be least likely to remember? Or would it still be child abuse?

Because it is precisely what is happening right here:

A baby in South-East Asia undergoes "sunat"
Original Text: "It happens so fast, with a bismillah and a snip,
a little bit blood and that's it, Zahra dah sunat!
She didn't cry even a drop, in fact giggling2 lagi.
I guess it wasn't painful for her, alhamdulillahh.."

The slit clitoris if you can find it (on the lower blade)

You can read the whole thing here:
Another blog:
And a parenting forum here:

The following is an excerpt from a parenting forum in South-East Asia (the last link above). If you asked me, it reads just like something right out of CafeMom, but regarding girls instead of boys. I've underlined the parts that jump out at me:

A_LIM: Have you Sunat your girls?
My husband is Malay and I am expecting a girl. My husband said he wants our girl to be sunat . What does this involve? and where can I do it? I have heard of male circumcision and my two boys from a previous marriage who have been circumcised. But I have never heard of female circumcision? he also said I should consider doing myself is that possible at my age?

Like your thoughts

NursMama: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
yah... i also dont know how to explain how its done although i witnessed both my gals' procedures myself both done at different clinics by female Muslim doctors...

dont think it's like the cutting for boys.... it's more minimal.... baby can recover by the next day?

as for yourself..... errrrrrmmm... i'm not sure.... you might wanna ask the doctors wther its ok or not? i can give you the clinics address/no if you want

Ros0818: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
hi hi
Yup, i brought my girl to d same doc; Dr Elly Sabrinadont worry. It will be very fast & quick!
It's done within a few seconds...  I brought my baby der when she's about 2mths old. Doc will then give you a cream to apply on your baby. My girl recovers very fast. She gave a quick shriek during the process but after that she's fine. She never even cry after that. you can just give the doctor a call if you want to find out more.

nora23: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
Went to Dr Balkis at Bedok. My 1st gal was then 6 mths old. It was very fast and only a pint of blood. My gal didnt cry and everything was per normal seconds after e sunat. Planning to bring my 2nd gal when she is 6 mths too.

In sunat process, nothin is done on e clitoris. Only a small part of e clitorial HOOD is snipped. The Dr even showed me e snipped hood, very very tiny fraction.

As for adult female muslim convert, I dont think its necessary to sunat. But its not wrong for you to do it either. Its best you consult muslim female doctors on e procedures and healing.

A_LIM: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
Thanks all.

I actually decided to go for Sunat. It is available for adults, so I thought I would go before I do it to my daughter. I think I will be in a better position to know if it is ok for her after my surgery. My hubby is also happy Im doing it.

They told me it will take about 15 - 20 mins. They did not explain fully what they intended to do, but they said something about cutting the hood of my clitoris, and said they would not touch the clitoris

Has anyone been through this as an adult or young girl?

haffa: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
Hello mummies...

Auni had her sunat done last Tuesday. I brought her to Dr Adidah's Clinic located in Tampines. I didn't see what the doc did coz didn't have the heart to but my sister saw through the whole procedure which took about 5mins. Auni cried a bit only but i felt sorry for her . I was so glad it was over..phew.

A_LIM: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
Did sunat a week ago. Actually very mild. They basically removed about a third of your hood and leave the clitoris in tact. So basically your clitoris is exposed rather than covered by the hood. No pain and recovered in under a week.

Thanks for everyone for there help

tika: Re: Have you Sunat your girls?
yup stonston yer right. different families, different customs. there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I guess i failed to see to some Muslim families, customs are just as important as religion. To each his own aye.

Does any of this sound familiar? This is quite a contrast to the horror I am told female circumcision is supposed to be. There's not a doubt in my mind that if I showed this to parents discussing their son's circumcisions in an American forum, these same parents would be horrified. Their cultural blinders would not allow them to consider that there is anything wrong with what they have allowed to happen to their own children. It is only through carefully engineered double-think that we allow ourselves to justify what happens to boys in our own culture, while condemning what happens to girls in other cultures.

So in the end, what is it?
What is it that makes female circumcision "worse" and "not comparable" to male circumcision?

Some may yet expound:
"Female circumcision is different from male circumcision, because it is meant to subjugate women and control their sexualities."

Closer inspection reveals that in our culture, this was precisely the reason it was done to boys.

"...with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is... the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible...
The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision...
...violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened." ~Rabbi Moses Maimonides

"A remedy [for masturbation] which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision...The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind... In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement." ~Dr. John Harvey Kellogg

But in the end, is "intention" what defines abuse? Because for better or for worse, just like parents who circumcise their boys, parents who circumcise their daughters have the best of intentions.

Yet others may say:
"Female circumcision completely eliminates a woman’s ability to orgasm."

Closer investigation reveals that women who have undergone infibulation, which is the worst kind of female genital cutting, are still able to orgasm:

To sensationalize female circumcision, others will say:
"In Africa, women are often circumcised unsanitary conditions, with crude materials such as rusty blades or glass shards. They are performed by amateurs, they are left with impaired sexualities and sometimes they bleed to death."

But they will fail to mention that in Africa, boys and men endure the same thing. They will fail to mention that every year, scores of men bleed to death, or commit suicide, because their penises fail to heal properly and fall off due to gangrene. Some men live the rest of their lives with stumps where their penises used to be. Oh, but never mind them. It's a time-honored right of passage, and circumcision has been proven to protect against disease. Well... at least they won't get any more STDs, right?

Finally, some will say:
"Studies show male circumcision could have health benefits. The same is not true for female circumcision."

But what if it were? At least on the surface, advocates of male infant circumcision seem to care about a myriad of "health benefits." But let's examine this line of thinking further: what if female genital cutting offered the same "benefits?" Would we consider them? What if "studies showed" that removing a girl's clitoral hood and "redundant labia," could "help prevent HIV transmission?"

Because there are few studies that show precisely this:

"Female circumcision results in a reduction of infections resulting from microbes gathering under the hood of the clitoris"
"Attacks of herpes and genital ulcers are less severe and less harmful with women who have been circumcised"

How supportive would we be of further "research" into the matter? What would we think if the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins, the CDC etc., funded "research" in female genital cutting in Africa? What about countries where female circumcision isn't as "severe?"

Is there a number of "potential medical benefits" that would ever cause us to re-consider female circumcision? Would there ever be enough studies to convince us to submit our daughters to have part of their genitals removed? How much would be acceptable for us to remove from our daughter’s genitals? What if "studies showed" that female circumcision could be performed without removing the clitoris or a woman's ability to orgasm? What if all that was removed were a little "flap of skin" 10x smaller than the foreskin? What if it were proven to be "cleaner" and cut back on the fish smell? What if "studies showed" that circumcising your daughter "reduced the risk" of prostate cancer in her male partner? Would we consider it then?

But let's ask a different question, would circumcision advocates be interested in finding alternatives to circumcision? Would they support research in finding alternative ways to provide the same "medical benefits" as male circumcision? What if doctors and scientists announced “We have great news! This new vaccine offers the same protections as circumcision and more! Now we don't have to circumcise babies anymore!" How would circumcision advocates react? Would they let out a sigh of relief, or would they panic? Would they gladly abandon the practice? Or would they scramble looking for other "reasons" to do it? The answers to these questions would speak volumes.

The fact of the matter is that neither the allegations of "medical benefits" nor the production of numerous "studies" would never be enough to justify the forced genital cutting of girls. Why this double-standard when it comes to the circumcision of boys? There are better, more effective, less invasive ways to treat and prevent disease. Instead of investigating these, instead of seeking to make the practice of forcibly cutting off part of a healthy, non-consenting boy's penis obsolete, why are we spending millions of dollars on "studies" to find ways to make the practice a requirement?

So in the end, which do you cut?
In the fetus, both male and female genitals develop from the same genital tubercle.
On the left is a male fetus, on the right a female.

Who is the monster?
On the left, a ritual circumciser of boys,
on the right, a ritual circumciser of girls,
both of them proudly displaying the tools of their trade.

Which child gets your sympathy?
A girl and a boy as they undergo ritual circumcision.

And does age really change anything?

Do we actually care about any "medical benefits?" Or is that merely an empty excuse? Is pain and whether it could be remembered or not really the problem? Isn't the principle of taking a healthy, non-consenting child and cutting off part of that child's genitals, the exact same principle?

Circumcision is child abuse. No matter what age, no matter what sex.

The New York Times wrote an excellent article on the kind of female circumcision performed in Indonesia, "A Cutting Tradition." Read the article here:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jewish LGBT Leaders Against SF Circ Ban - Ignorance or Hypocrisy?

I'm not sure what to make of this. It looks like Jewish LGBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered) leaders have joined the chorus of Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations that are banding together against the San Francisco circumcision ban that will be on the November ballot.

And, as if that weren't enough, they simply just couldn't resist bringing out the Foreskin Man comic straw man to give it a good beating. I've already addressed the futility in a previous post:

Pro-circumcision groups are pulling out all the stops, from "religious freedom" (well, at least the freedom of their religion), "parental rights" (at least the rights of parents of boys), and, get this, "public health." (Yes, if scientists discovered better alternatives to circumcision, I can just see Jewish groups abandoning circumcision...)

Apparently, the Jewish LGBT leaders are pushing circumcision as a preventative measure for HIV, despite the fact that the studies say circumcision is of no use to gays.

And, despite the fact that circumcision doesn't prevent HIV in the real world. (Six African Countries, Malaysia, The Philippines, our own country, etc.)

It just boggles the mind how religious groups can't seem to make up their minds. Is this a "religious rights," issue, or is this a "public health" issue? Are babies born at risk for HIV transmission? Are they climbing out of their cribs, traveling to sub-Saharan Africa where HIV rates are 20 to 40 times higher than in the U.S. and engaging in risky sexual behavior? Does not being circumcised somehow disable a man from using a condom, which he would still need to use whether is circumcised or not?

For whatever reason, the authors of the above article felt it important to know Schofield's orientation and circumcision status, and they seem disdainful that they couldn't get these out of him, as if this were any relevant to the issue at hand. Do people ask your sexual orientation/circumcision status if you're against female genital cutting? Does being a non-circumcised straight woman somehow disqualify you if you're against FGM?

Says Jewish LGBT leader Slepian: "I think that all LGBT people, but especially gay Jews, should be wary when people attempt to use police power to criminalize behavior that in our communities are viewed as normal and natural and have been part of our tradition for thousands of years..."

Except when it's slavery, the oppression of women, and the oppression of homosexuals. Right Mr. Slepian?

Says Rawlings-Fein, who conducted the Brit Milah circumcision ceremony on his own son: "We wanted to make sure that we made a conscious decision and that's the case with a lot of people, especially in our synagogue... That parental decision is a big part of it. I think that you have to acknowledge that parents are taking care of their children in the way that they see fit religiously and medically."

Except if the child happens to be a girl. The "parental decision" to circumcise a girl as "parents see fit" would land them in jail.

And here it is again, the pretense that medicine has anything and everything to do with the "decision" to conduct an irrevocable religious ceremony on a healthy, non-consenting child. Let's ask Rawlings-Fein to reveal to us the medical ailment that necessitated his son's religious circumcision ceremony.

Says openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner, who is Jewish: "This proposal is rallying the Jewish community, including very progressive LGBT Jewish people who are really offended by this false message that circumcision is somehow barbaric or similar to female genital mutilation."

This statement is rather ignorant and self-serving; the claim that male circumcision is barbaric is dismissed as "opinion," but the claim that female circumcision is barbaric is assumed to be immediately self-evident. The message that circumcision is "barbaric" and/or similar to female genital mutilation is "false" only to those who refuse to see the genital cutting of boys as "barbaric mutilation." Communities and ethnic groups that practice female genital cutting as a cultural tradition or religious rite certainly don't see their practice as "barbaric mutilation," yet nobody seems to think this insinuation is offensive to them.

The above statement is ignorant to the fact that some female genital cutting is equivalent, if not less severe than male circumcision; the federal ban on FGM forbids them ALL. For better or for worse, a ban on all FGM without exempt for religious ceremonies violates "religious freedom" and "parental rights," but Jewish LGTB leaders do not seem to care to express concern here.

Says State Senator Mark Leno: "My read of it, and that of every legal scholar that has assessed it, quickly determined that it is a First Amendment right... As a Jewish man this is a great concern and as a strong defender of a women's reproductive choices I'm well aware that any legislation that ... interferes with the decision-making process between a physician and a family should be discouraged."

And here again, there seems to be an intent to remain wilfully ignorant. The First Amendment would also guarantee parents from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore the right to perform "sunat" on their baby girls.

More on "sunat" here:

And, as a defender of a woman's "reproductive choices," it seems to escape Leno that the circumcision of infants violates a child's right to choice.

Leno's assertion that "legislation that interferes with the decision-making process between a physician and a family should be discouraged" is also based on a dubious premise; that there is actually a decision for any parent to make. The bottom line question is always this; without medical or clinical indication, can a doctor be performing surgery on a healthy, non-consenting child, much less be stoking his parent's sense of entitlement to any kind of "choice?"

Leno also seems to be ignorant of the fact that there is already legislation that "interferes with the decision-making process between a phsician and a family." In many states, it is already illegal for a parent to deny needed medical care to a child, even for "religious reasons." And the federal ban on FGM most definitely "interferes." Last year, the AAP tried to endorse a "ritual nick" for girls. Luckily (or, if Jewish LGBT really mean what they say, unfortunately), they were forced to back-pedal.

Slepian continues: "I always view San Francisco as a good place to be a Jew... The question is, is San Francisco going to be a welcoming place for Jews to live? That's a question on the ballot here."

Then, it must also be asked, is San Francisco a good place to be a Muslim from Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore? Because the federal ban on FGM without religious exemption forbids them from practicing "sunat" on their daughters.

Says openly gay San Francisco supervisor who is also Jewish: "From a standpoint of parental choice and public health, banning circumcision is the wrong thing for San Francisco."

It never ceases to amaze me how Jewish groups and individuals never fail to fall back on "public health" as an alibi for support what is historically a contentuous religious rite for them. It's almost as if they know that "religious freedom" is no longer a good enough reason to justify the practice of circumcising healthy, non-consenting newborns.

Which raises the question, how far do Jewish groups actually care about "public health?" If scientists found an alternative to circumcision that would provide the purported "medical benefits" and more, WOULD Jewish groups abandon the practice?

And how far does the Jewish LGBT community support a "parent's right" and "religious freedom? Would they support a parent's "right" to submit their son to electro-shock therapy to make him "straight?" After all, it says so in the Torah that gays are an abomination to "g-d," and that they should be stoned to death.

To me, that any LGBT group is getting behind legislation against this ban has got to be the epitome of absolute hypocrisy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The "Anti-Semite" Card No Longer Washes

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

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

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

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

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

It is inescapeable; "Monster Mohel" is most definitely depicted as evil and sinister. However, the same is also true of "Dr. Mutilator," the gentile, non-Jewish doctor in the issue before. But arent' all villains in comic books portrayed this way?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer is, not anymore.

Of course, being compared to Hitler wasn't the only reason people feared the "anti-Semite" card. America has Judeo-Christian roots, and we grow up learning about how the Jews are "god's chosen people." We're also told "Don't challenge what's in the Bible." So being called "anti-Semite" also carried that extra weight. Additionally, we were led to believe that circumcision was exclusive to Jews, and that it was universally practiced among them. To date, some people are oblivious to the fact that Muslims also circumcise their children. If I recall correctly, didn't Ann Coulter believe Muslim terrorists could hide bombs in their foreskins?

Enlightened Times
At any rate, thanks to the internet, we've been able to educate ourselves. We now know that not only are there Jews questioning circumcision, there are many Jews viewing it for the barbaric custom that it is. This day and age, many Jews are opting for a bloodless naming ceremony called "Bris Shalom." There are Jews in Europe who have been leaving their children intact for years. There are groups of Jews in ISRAEL of all places, who are challenging tradition and leaving their children intact. Some of the most outspoken voices in our movement happen to be Jewish; Leonard Glick, Ron Goldman, Dr. Dean Edell, Howard Stern and Elijah Ungar-Sargon, just to name a few. Some of the most prominent supporters of a ban on circumcision happen to be Jewish, and there are Jewish men who actually LIKE the recent issue of "Foreskin Man," because this is how they view the mohels who circumcised them. In light of these facts, dismissing the intactivist movement as "anti-Semite" is a gross blanket statement.

Here is at least one young man who has written an open letter to the mohel who circumcised him. Shea Levy is to be commended for the courage to challenge tradition, and to challenge the very man who cut off part of his penis.

The following are links to Jewish groups against circumcision:

These link to websites in Hebrew, run by intactivist groups in Israel:

The following are resources on "Brit Shalom":

The following are links to books challenging circumcision from a Jewish perspective:

And finally, an excellent blog, and perhaps the most ultimate resource for Jews against circumcision:

"Monster Mohel" May Not Be So Farfetched
Another myth that we are lead to believe is that, since mohels are the "jacks of their trade," they can do no wrong. People say over and over that there are never any complications when a mohel performs circumcision, as opposed to a doctor at a hospital. Here too, the internet has proved informative.

A boy in New York lost his glans during a bris to a Mohel who tried to circumcise him using a Mogen clamp.

In the UK, Amitai Moshe, goes into cardiac arrest immediately after his bris. The verdict of his inquest a few years later? Amitai Moshe died of "natural causes," and the fact that he started having breathing problems and started bleeding through his nose and mouth had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was ritually circumcised just minutes before. Read the shameless story here:

NY Mohel Infects 3 Babies With Herpes via Metzitzah B'peh (sucking of blood from wounded penis with one's mouth): One of Them Dies, Nothing Happens

"Rabbi ordered to pay NIS 1.18 million for botched circumcision"

"Unlicensed mohel suspected of injuring infants"
(What licensed mohel or Dr, ISN'T injuring an infant???)

Baby recovers from 'brit mila' amputation

Perhaps Hess' depiction of "Monster Mohel" may not be so outlandish after all?

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

Is Foreskin Man "anti-Semitic?" That's debatable. The comic, is not focusing on hating Jews, it focuses on the disdain the creator has for the circumcision of infants. In context, "Monster Mohel" is just another villain in a comic book. Was Hess' idea to publish the comic book ill-conceived? Yes. He should have thought twice about publishing something that could potentially be hurtful to his own cause. Will efforts to pass the ban in San Francisco fail? Yes. The ban is going to be labeled "anti-Semitic" and an infringement on "religious freedoms" and "parental rights." To be sure, it is going to crash and burn.

But intactivists were going to be labeled "anti-Semitic," and the ban was going to crash and burn anyway, in spite of the comic book. Intactivists were fooling themselves if they thought this ban even had a ghost of a chance. The whole point of proposing the ban was to bring attention to an issue that is usually extremely taboo and off-limits. It's real easy to call circumcision a "non-issue" until somebody proposes a ban on it. Now, people can no longer ignore this "non-issue," and have no choice but to openly talk about it. Circumcision advocates are horribly mistaken if they think it's the last they'll hear of intactivists once this ban gets voted down. Whether they like it or not, the intactivist movement is here to stay.

Intactivists have solid challenges that accusations of "anti-Semitism" can no longer silence. Once the political theatre is over, the questions of legality, ethics and human rights remain, and circumcision advocates, religious and/or secular, must address them.

The Issues
To what extent are "parental rights" and even "religious freedoms" protected? How far are parents allowed do what they want with their children before we call Child Protective Services?

As an example of the law stepping in between parents and children, very recently, a mother lost custody of her daughter for injecting Botox into her.

As if that weren't enough, the state of New Jersey has just passed a law prohibiting the use of Botox on children 18 and below, unless it is medically necessary. (Surprise, surprise! This is just what people who are against circumcision want!)

In Fresno, a man is jailed for tattooing his son.

In Oregon, a law was just passed that prohibits parents from denying their children medical care, much to the chagrin of the "Followers of Christ" church, who believes that god alone should cure disease.

In 1996, a federal ban on female circumcision was passed. There are actually many kinds of female genital cutting, some of which dwarf in comparison to male infant circumcision. But in America, parents cannot even draw a few drops of blood for "symbolic" purposes.

In May, last year, the AAP tried to approve a "ritual nick" for girls. The procedure wouldn't remove anything, and the AAP admitted that it was much less severe than male circumcision. The logic behind this was that if they offered a "ritual nick" here in the States, then parents wouldn't take their daughters abroad to have more drastic procedures done. There was a world outcry, and the month of May did not end before the AAP was forced to retract their endorsement. The message was clear; under no circumstances were medical professionals to come near a girl's vulva with a knife, not even for a "ritual nick.",8599,1988434,00.html

In America, one parent's "freedom" is another parent's crime. While parents who have their boy circumcised "celebrate," parents who have their girl circumcised go to jail.

A girl loses her clitoris, heads roll. A boy loses his life, it's "Oops, it won't happen again."

So why this double-standard?

Why this two-track system that treats boys and girls differently?

These are serious questions that simply can no longer be dismissed by pointing at a comic book and screaming "anti-Semite" all day long.

What I've expressed in this blog does not necessarily reflect the view of all intactivists. At this very moment, the Foreskin Man comic is causing great debate and consternation, even among the intactivist movement. While some of us see the depiction of "Monster Mohel" as just another comic book villain, and simply the depiction of another child circumciser, others are deeply disturbed by it and see it as hurtful to the intactivist movement. I think we all agree, however, that Hess' move was ill-conceived and that he should have never published this comic.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Swazi Men Not As Dumb As American Circumcision Advocates Had Hoped

I've already posted on how American money is being spent to promote male circumcision as HIV prevention in Africa via PEPFAR:

And I've already posted on how the promotion of circumcision is sending conflicting messages, making the situation worse:

Of particular interest is the Soka Uncobe, or "circumcise and conquer" campaign, which aims to circumcise over 80% of the male population in Swaziland. I also posted an article on how the campaign was already turning out to be disaster, as it was percieved to send the message that circumcision made you a "conqueror" of women, and that once you were circumcised you "conquered" HIV.

The campaign to circumcise 80% of Swazi men was launched in spite of the fact that earlier studies had shown HIV to be prevalent among CIRCUMCISED men:

"As Table 14.10 shows, the relationship between HIV prevalence and circumcision status is not in the expected direction. Circumcised men have a slightly higher HIV infection rate than men who are not circumcised (22 percent compared with 20 percent)".

However, it looks as though Swazi men aren't as gullible as people behind PEPFAR had hoped.

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

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

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

Do American circumcision advocates really think African men are simply that stupid?

The article continues:
"Most of the time in Swaziland, men are the decision makers. Men must be in the forefront of this battle,” said Health Minister Benedict Xaba. “It takes time for a Swazi person to accept something new; to accept change."

Or perhaps the men of Swaziland are not as dumb as they look.

The so-called "studies" have numerous flaws that bring their credibility into question, not to mention that their conclusions don't correlate with real world empirical data:

But assuming the studies were 100% accurate, circumcision would still fail as an HIV prevention method. Circumcision is so ineffective at preventing HIV transmission that even the very authors of these studies cannot stress the use of condoms enough.

Conductors of these "mass circumcision campaigns" have the double burden of trying to convince men to undergo circumcision, AND, to make sure that they know that once they're circumcised, they'd still have to wear condoms.

But once a man has learened that all he has to do is wear a condom, why would he EVER choose to become circumcised? If he chooses circumcision, isn't that a sign that he DOESN'T really understand?

Some men have chosen to undergo circumcision. But what were they actually told? What did they understand circumcision would to for them? Were they told the truth? Or were they told whatever circumcision promoters needed to tell them in order to secure more numbers for their 80% quota?

Whatever they're telling them, it looks like not all of them are buying it. It's heartening to know that in spite of all the money, lies and deception being hurled at these African men, most have the good sense to know better.

I only feel sorry for those who were ensnared by the American mutilation machine. What must go through the minds of those who go to a clinic and find out they were infected with HIV anyway, despite having gone through radical genital surgery?

What's next for them? Expensive ARTs for the rest of their lives? And the lives of their partners?

Is this what "researchers" mean by "cost-effective?"
These "mass circumcision" campaigns are an insult to the people of Africa, and the American taxpayer. What harrassment and abject humiliation to be reeled in by nifty slogans, music and other propaganda to be told you have to both be circumcised AND have to wear condoms.

I hope this serves as a lesson to PEPFAR and others funding these abominable campaigns:
Money and propaganda can only take you so far; not everyone is as dumb as you think.

Most anybody with a brain should be able to figure out that you don't need circumcision if you wear a condom. If men are choosing to get circumcised then there is a problem; they're either not fully understanding, or circumcision promoters are deliberately LYING to them.

This IS going to come back and haunt us in the future.