Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Circumcision Blame Game

In all my years as an intactivist (I've been against circumcision since I was about 16, I'm 31 now), I often come across the dilemma of who is responsible for the circumcision of children in America. Who's fault is it if you are circumcised and not happy with it?

Who should you blame?

Before going on, I'd like to introduce the above image. It was uploaded to Facebook by one Jonathon Conte, who is a pro-active intactivist in the San Francisco area, and belongs to the local group Bay Area Intactivists.

The caption read:

"This is the pattern that I continue to see when doing various intactivist protests and events. Nobody wants to accept responsibility and the blame goes round and round.

"Talk to the parents!" "Talk to the obstetricians!" "We don't do them. Talk to the pediatricians!" "Nobody told me it wasn't necessary!"

On the bright side, they used to all defend the practice, now they pass blame. Blame acknowledges a shameful act. Progress."
And Jonathon is right.

There is something suspicious going on when, instead of owning responsibility, it is being passed around like a hot potato.

Except, I think the above image is wrong. It places undue weight on parents, with them at the top and the doctors at the bottom. It implies parents are entitled to a choice, and physicians are loyal subjects who merely listen and obey.

But since when does medicine work this way?

For what other medical treatment or procedure are parents in a position of entitlement to "decide" at whim, without any kind of clinical indication or medical diagnosis? For what other surgery are surgeons slaves to demanding parents? Do parents actually wield so much power?

Aren't parents usually given the power to choose a method of treatment for their children AFTER a doctor has determined that there is some kind of clinical or medical necessity?

For these reasons and more, I believe Jonathon's image is a false paradigm. This delusion of "parental choice" is a false paradigm invented by doctors, the trade unions they belong to, and it is perpetuated by the media.

The image looks something more like this:

Doctors would like to pretend as if parents had this power over them, and they are nothing but loyal subjects at their beck and call. But let's analyze the balance of power here.

Professional Responsibility
First off, it must be be asked; who holds the professional license?

To earn the title of "doctor," physicians must go to school for a number of years. Additionally, they are also responsible for keeping their information up to date. They hang their certifications proudly on their office wall and constantly remind others that they are not to drop the title of "doctor" when being referred to.

It is a doctor's professional responsibility to know better than his patients. It is his professional responsibility to determine the presence or absence of a pathogen, and to determine whether or not treatment, surgical or non-surgical, is medically or clinically indicated.

It is why he is visited, and it is why he gets a paycheck.

And yet, when it comes to circumcision, they are suddenly clueless.

So clueless, that they must pawn the burden of determining the medical necessity of circumcision on parents, most of whom unfamiliar with medical literature.

The mighty and powerful doctor is suddenly too stupid to do his job, and thus hands it off to naive parents he, in most other circumstances, views as intellectually inferior to himself.

Who Wields the Knife?
Let's analyze the areas of medical expertise. Who performs circumcisions for parents?

Here, we see two types of physicians vying for a piece of the circumcision pie; pediatricians and obstetricians/gynecologists (AKA: OB/GYNs) It makes sense that pediatricians are performing surgery on children; a pediatrician's area of expertise is the health and well-being of children.

But wait, this is weird, OB/GYNs are trained in the health and well-being of WOMEN. Vulvas, vaginas, cervixes and ovaries (and much much more). One wonders why OB/GYNs are even part of the picture in the first place.

And yet, according to national surveys, OB/GYNs perform the bulk of infant circumcisions.

The only relation OB/GYNs seem to have with MALE infant babies is that, as caretakers of pregnant women, they are closest in proximity to intact male newborns, and thus have first dibs at cashing in on the procedure; pediatricians deal with the child once he's already out. As experts in FEMALE healthcare, it would actually make more sense for OB/GYNs to be offering sunat operations to expectant mothers.

Why are physicians, whose primary expertise is the health and well-being of WOMEN, profiting from performing non-medical surgery on healthy MALE children?

"You take care of a woman through her pregnancy, for nearly a year...and you're lucky if you see $1500. But a circumcision is 15 minutes, and it's $300 a pop. It's candy."
~OB writing in 'Parents' Place' on the circumcision turf war between OB/GYNs and pediatricians 

So Who's To Blame?
As medical scholars, as bearers of professional licenses, but most of all, as actual facilitators of the procedure itself, the answer is that it is physicians who bear full responsibility for circumcision.

Before treatment can be administered, it is the responsibility of a physician to perform a diagnosis, to determine the presence or absence of a pathogen or medical condition, and to determine whether or not surgical intervention is necessary to treat said medical condition.

The standard of care for therapeutic surgery in most of the rest of the world requires the medical benefits of the surgery to far outweigh the medical risks and harms, or for the surgery to correct a congenital abnormality. Unnecessarily invasive procedures should not be used where alternative, less invasive techniques, are equally efficient and available. It is unethical and inappropriate to perform surgery for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown there to be other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive.

Circumcision seems to be the only instance in medicine where standards of care are overridden in lieu of "parental choice."

How Physicians Absolve Themselves
It is the professional duty of a physician to determine the validity of the treatment they administer, and of the procedures they conduct.

In the special case of circumcision, however, physicians get away with profiting from this non-medical procedure on healthy, non-consenting individuals, by pawning off their responsibility on parents. Doctors push the paradigm of "the great parental decision" forward, and the media helps perpetuate it.

In their latest statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics came very close to, but stopped short of recommending infant circumcision for all infants (contrary to popular belief). Despite touting over and over again that "the benefits out weigh the risks," they must still admit that the "benefits are not enough to recommend the procedure," concluding that "the final decision should be made by parents." (This was their exact position in their last statement in 1999.)

The result is a spineless, non-committal statement that sounds like an endorsement, if not outright recommendation, but is actually nothing more than self-absolution of professional responsibility, and the undue placement of an onus on parents.

Let me run this by readers again; the AAP, a professional medical organization, could not use the latest "benefits" in order to issue a recommendation for circumcision. Yet, parents, most of whom are incapable of discerning medical literature, are expected to take the same information, that medical professionals could not use to recommend circumcision, and somehow come up with a more reasonable conclusion (than medical professionals with professional licenses???).

Parents are being given the duty to make the medical value judgements, that actually belongs to the professionals carrying out the procedure.

The doctor stokes in parents a false sense of entitlement, convinces them to sign a ready-made release form, and thus he is legally (or illegally?) absolved from any responsibility whatsoever.

Thus, doctors profit at the expense of healthy, non-consenting individuals.

Our legal court system seems to be deliberately looking the other way at this practice.

Is This Actually Legal?
Currently having parents sign a consent form for non-therapeutic surgery on healthy, non-consenting individuals seems perfectly legal. But is it?

Without medical or clinical indication, can doctors actually be performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individuals, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents?

How is approaching parents of a healthy, non-consenting child, and soliciting a non-therapeutic, permanently altering procedure and eliciting some kind of "decision" NOT charlatanism or medical fraud?

How is it not a criminal act to physicians to place the duty of making a medical value judgement on naive parents, who are trusting them for non-interested medical advice?

What parents WOULDN'T choose circumcision for their children, being told that they would succumb to cancer and AIDS otherwise?

Doesn't it strike people as odd that doctors are asking parents to weigh "benefits and risks" that could not bring medical organizations in or outside the US to endorse infant circumcision?

Why don't doctors inform parents of this fact, instead of stoking in them a false sense if entitlement?

Shouldn't doctors know better than to realize a procedure they know has no therapeutic value in healthy, non-consenting children?

Even if the parents demand circumcision for their children, isn't it the duty of a physician with integrity to refuse to do this? (As he would with any other non-medical procedure a parent would demand?)

Why are physicians able to absolve themselves by pointing to parents and saying "They made me do it?"

Cut Parents Some Slack
On various mediums where the circumcision debate is happening, it seems the prevailing attitude amongst people against circumcision, and even amongst angry circumcised men themselves, is to blame parents. On foreskin restoration forums, on Facebook, on news commentaries, I often read about angry circumcised men who resent their parents, who have had nasty fights with them to the point of breaking off relationships.

It doesn't help that there is also this attitude amongst parents who have circumcised their children, or plan on circumcising their future children, to have a sense of entitlement to having their children circumcised. "I'm the parent, I decide," seems to be the prevailing attitude amongst parents who advocate for infant circumcision. Of course this attitude draws the ire of angry men and angry intactivists, aggravating the situation.

Adding to the situation is that, as already mentioned, medical professionals place the onus of "the great decision" on parents. Angry intactivists, angry sons, and the very medical profession fleeing from professional responsibility. So much weight on parents' shoulders!

But what do parents say when asked as to why they had their sons circumcised?

Most parents have their sons circumcised out of tradition, because it is a religious conviction, or because the father and his father were circumcised. But, almost as if parents knew this weren't enough, these alibis are reinforced with "My doctor told me it was best." Or "My doctor told me it's cleaner and it prevents many diseases."

I say, parents should be cut some slack.

It would be one thing if parents actually ponied up, bought an exacto knife and attempted to perform the procedure themselves. Most just agree to it because they are told not doing so will result in penile cancer or AIDS. I believe that most parents actually have the well-being of their children in mind. I believe that most parents, being given the facts not being disclosed to them by their physicians, would refuse to have this done to their children. I believe that most parents, once they understood what circumcision is, would take it all back if they could.

Parents shouldn't be blamed.

(They also shouldn't be congratulated and/or encouraged to "celebrate" their ignorance, but I already address this on another blog post.)

Maybe some can, but most simply don't know.

Remember who holds the professional license.

Remember whose professional duty it is to know better.

Remember who ultimately holds the knife.

The following pie chart demonstrates how many circumcisions are carried out by parents in this country.

It's physicians in which parents place their trust.

And it's physicians who betray this trust.

This Is Not About Judging Parents
I think it needs to be made clear to both intactivists and parents of circumcised children alike; the point of intactivism is not to be making parents feel guilty.

One of the greatest obstacles for intactivism is that parents who circumcised their chidlren will often get on the defense, accusing those who oppose circumcision of "judging" and trying to make parents feel guilty, when that's not the point at all.

The point of intactivism is to bring attention to the fact that the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors is a violation of the most basic of human rights, and to educate and enlighten both doctors and parents alike, so that this madness ends.

Parents who honestly wanted the best for their children need not feel judged. If I didn't know what I know now, and a doctor told me that my son would surely develop penile cancer and die of AIDS, I think I would probably choose circumcision too.

Can parents be blamed because they were asked to make choices based on skewed or limited information? If they were even given information at all?


As I express in this blog post, the burden of responsibility rests in physicians who disseminate misinformation, and who profit at the expense of parental naivete, and the fact that children cannot speak for themselves. While parents, at least for the time being, are given the final say, it is doctors who choose what information to give to, and not give to parents. Doctors are either guilty of dispensing misinformation, or failing to update their information databases. (Actually, they're guilty of even bringing the subject up in the absence of medical necessity.)

In avenues where I have expressed this, I have often been berated by angry intactivists and men. They tell me:

"The information is out there. Maybe one day parents could claim ignorance, but now we have the Internet. You've got to be real dumb, or willfully ignorant if you say you don't know better."

This is true to a certain extent. Yes, the information is out there, and people can look if they wanted. Parents, if they took the time, could sift through all the medical gobbledygook, and come to their own conclusions.

But whose job is that?

Isn't it doctors who are paid big bucks to determine the medical validity of a surgical procedure?

Doctors are supposed to have gone to school for many years to learn their trade.

Why would parents, most of whom never went to medical school, be more qualified than a learned doctor to determine the medical necessity of a surgical procedure?

That's what I don't understand, and I've asked this above.

The AAP has concluded, as it did in its last statement, that the "benefits are not enough to recommend circumcision." They still place the onus on parents to weigh the "pros and cons," and make a "decision." "Pros and cons" that could not convince an entire body of qualified medical professionals to endorse circumcision. But suddenly, parents will have better knowledge and the power to discern the medical literature an entire professional medical organization could not?

The bottom line is that parents, and most people, would still rather believe a man in a white lab coat than they would some website on the Internet, or some angry activist who can be easily dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. That people place too much trust in doctors, putting them up on a pedestal and deifying them is a sad state of affairs, but its reality.

It's also why doctors, of all people, are responsible. They are given trust by well meaning parents. And they, taking advantage of their position of power, betray this trust.

So intactivists, go easy parents.

Angry men, don't judge your parents so harshly.

They are not to blame.

Instead, blame physicians who continue to profit at the expense of the basic human rights of healthy, non-consenting individuals and their parents.

Blame the complacent system that allows this kind of charlatanism and medical fraud to continue unchecked.

Challenge institutions of higher education and professional medical organizations that continuously shirk their professional responsibilities and pawning them off on naive parents.

I close with my Mission Statement, which can always be viewed in my About page:

Mission Statement
The foreskin is not a birth defect. Neither is it a congenital deformity or genetic anomaly akin to a 6th finger or a cleft. Neither is it a medical condition like a ruptured appendix or diseased gall bladder. Neither is it a dead part of the body, like the umbilical cord, hair, or fingernails.

The foreskin is not "extra skin." The foreskin is normal, natural, healthy, functioning tissue, with which all boys are born; it is as intrinsic to male genitalia as labia are to female genitalia.

Unless there is a medical or clinical indication, the circumcision of a healthy, non-consenting individual is a deliberate wound; it is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue, the permanent disfigurement of normal, healthy organs, and by very definition, infant genital mutilation, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.

Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have absolutely no business performing surgery in healthy, non-consenting individual, much less be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents.

Genital integrity, autonomy and self-determination are inalienable human rights. I am against the forced circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors because it violates these rights.

Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.

It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.

The views I express in this blog are my own individual opinion, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of all intactivists. I am but an individual with one opinion, and I do not pretend to speak for the intactivist movement as a whole, thank you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FORCED MALE CIRCUMCISION: NPO Clitoraid Denounces Germany, Appeals to UN

Clitoraid, a private non-profit organization, which aims to assist FGM victims who want to undo their mutilations, has spoken out to denounce the German decision to legalize the ritual genital mutilation of boys.

“Bodily harm is against the fundamental rights of all children, and we can’t understand when a so-called civilized country such as Germany would allow its male babies to be so readily mutilated legally!" said Nadine Gary, spokesperson for Clitoraid.

In addition to denouncing the German legalization of the ritual genital cutting of boys, the organization is urging a worldwide end to genital mutilation of male children as well, appealing to the UN to forced genital mutilation worldwide for both genders.

“On Nov. 28, the United Nations passed a resolution that condemns all cultural and religious arguments in favor of FGM because the act constitutes a gross violates of children rights, but how can the U.N. ban Female Genital Mutilation and not denounce Male Genital Mutilation as well? Is it exempting certain religions from respecting the fundamental right of baby boys?” Gary asked.

Gary continues, "According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of males worldwide are circumcised. This means billions of people have been mutilated without their consent."

Brigitte Boisselier, Ph.D., head of Clitoraid, affirmed that mutilation of any baby or child in the name of a god is unacceptable.

“It’s been done for centuries under the pretense that a god requested it, but no religion should be allowed to harm infants or children who can’t give informed consent,” she said. “We’re setting up a hospital in Africa that’s due to open next year, where female victims can go to have genital repair surgery for free. “And, thanks to Clitoraid, thousands more can find relief at several clinics in North America. But we’ve also been getting e-mail from hundreds of circumcised men who want to have their own mutilation undone. They need help too! So, as Rael has repeatedly stated, it’s urgent to have all the old scriptures reviewed by an independent committee on human rights so that all religious group practices are in agreement with the Declaration of Human Rights.”

Rejected Amendments to German Circumcision Law
Amendments to the German law to legalize the genital mutilation of male children were put forth by circumcision opponents in the final Bundestag debates. Among the amendments that were rejected,  was a provision that parents cannot be allowed to circumcise a child if he is able to, and does verbally express his wishes to not be circumcised. (e.g., if the child can and does say "NO," the parents can no longer circumcise him)

The Bundestag majority rejected this amendment, meaning that according to the new law, the parents can physically drag him into the doctor's office, restrain him and circumcise him against his express wishes, and he has no protection.

Another amendment proposed that parents waited until he was 14 to decide whether or not he wanted to be circumcised.

This too was rejected.

 In Muslim traditions, boys are circumcised at later ages against their verbalized express wishes.

Sexist Double-Standards and Special Pleading
The tendency around female and male genital cutting is to sensationalize female genital cutting, while downplaying male genital cutting. While female genital cutting is rejected as "mutilation," and attempts to medicalize it are squarely condemned, the media seems to welcome, perhaps even encourage "research" which tries to find so-called "medical benefits" in male genital cutting.

While male circumcision advocates can get away with reading off a laundry list of the so-called "medical benefits" of male circumcision, advocates of female circumcision who try to clothe their cause in science are immediately stopped in their tracks.

Not so long ago, 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 move 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 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."

When AAP fellow Dr. Hatem al-Haj, PhD, MD published a 41-page Arabic-language paper titled “Circumcision of Girls: Jurisprudence and Medicine," where he says female circumcision is recommended and even “an honor” for women, he was fired by the MAYO Clinic. (Interestingly enough, a petition started to revoke this man's certifications states in bold lettering: "Remember: It doesn't matter how "little" you cut a little girl's vulva. It's still felony child abuse.")

Yet Jewish doctors who circumcise boys can get away with both reciting the "circumcision has medical benefits" sutra, and expounding with beaming pride that circumcision is this "time-honored tradition."

I'll have to steal the quote from above and make it part of the intactivist movement:

It doesn't matter how "little" you cut a little boy's penis. It is still child abuse, and a violation of the most basic of human rights.

To continue with my own quotes:
Genital mutilation, whether it be wrapped in culture, religion or “research” is still genital mutilation.

It is mistaken, the belief that the right amount of “science” can be used to legitimize the deliberate violation of basic human rights.

Thank you, Clitoraid, for acknowledging that the genital cutting of BOTH sexes is a gross violation of the most basic of human rights, and for resolving to help victims of BOTH genders regain what was stolen from them.


Related cause:
Help find ways to restore intact organs for men who want to undo their mutilations

Related Blog Posts:
Circumcision is Child Abuse: A Picture Essay

Germany "Protects" the Forced Genital Mutilation of Boys

The Cologne Ruling and the Limitations of Religious Freedom  

So Where's the "Sunat" Party?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Religious Freedom" and "Parental Choice" Not Absolute: Yet Another Example

Perhaps the most classic of arguments invoked in favor of male infant circumcision are those of "religious freedom" and "parental choice." In actuality, "religious freedom" and "parental choice" aren't absolute, and I've given examples of this in past blogs.

Often, those who defend the forced circumcision of male children appeal to people's resentment of government intervention. They would like to pretend like being a parent is a carte blanche for parents to do whatever they want with their children, and the government never intervenes.

The blunt fact of the matter is that, if being a parent justified everything one does with their children, there wouldn't be need for child protective services.

Last year, a mother lost custody of her 8yo daughter for injecting Botox into her face for a child beauty pageant. This prompted New Jersey law makers to make it illegal to inject Botox into children, UNLESS it is for actual medical purposes. (Sound familiar?) The year before, a man was given prison time for tattooing his gang's symbol onto his son's abdomen. In Oregon, a law was 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.

And, the classic case that trumps "religious freedom" and "parental choice," in 1996 a ban was instituted, banning female genital cutting of any kind. All female genital cutting, ranging from infibulation, to a "ritual nick" as proposed by the AAP, is illegal in the United States, and punishable by law. No exempt for "religious" cutting of female children's genitals exist.

To add another example where "religious freedom" and "parental choice" fail, a Texan man has been jailed for carving a pentagram on the back of his son. It could be said that this man was merely practicing his "freedom of religion," and exercising his "parental choice." But these arguments just aren't going to fly, aren't they.

Interestingly enough, in another recent case, a Canadian man recently lost a high court appeal to have charges of aggravated assault against him thrown out; he tried to circumcise his own child with a knife. His arguments? "He was practicing his religious beliefs."

"This is a case about child abuse... This is not a case about the applicant's religious freedom or circumcision generally," it was argued.

How the material circumstances of the case bear on the man's religious freedom or circumcision generally is beyond me. Now, it seems, the government is determining what "proper" religious rituals are, and defining what constitutes "child abuse."

Andrew Freedman of the AAP "task force" on circumcision defense circumcised his own son on his parents' kitchen table. Yet, for the Canadian case, the trial judge found the kitchen was not a sanitary place for a surgical procedure.

So when is it "child abuse?" When is it not?

Why was it "child abuse" for one man to cut his child's genitals on the kitchen table, on the grounds of "religious beliefs" and "parental choice," but not the other?

How far are "religious beliefs" and "parental choices" protected until the government is allowed to intervene?

Other "parental choices" that don't fly under "religious freedom."

A father slashes his child's head for the Holy Day of Ashura
Muslim women perform "sunat" (ritual genital cutting) on a girl
Child marriage in India

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Germany "Protects" the Forced Genital Mutilation of Boys

"For the right to circumcise little boys."

Well, it appears that Germany chose to cave to political blackmail and pass a law to "protect" the so-called "religious right" to take a child and mutilate his genitals.

I've already commented on this before, so instead of repeating myself, I'm just going to dissect a Reuters' article reporting this turn of events, since they're not publishing comments.

"The ban - imposed on the grounds that circumcision amounted to "bodily harm" - triggered an emotional debate over the treatment of Jews and other religious minorities, a sensitive subject in a country still haunted by its Nazi past," begins the article.

The Cologne ruling was not mistaken; unless there are medical indications, circumcision DOES amount to bodily harm, and the boy involved in the ruling was one of many cases in point.

What's interesting is that one bodily harm, circumcision, is being defended by alluding to the bodily harm German Nazis imposed on Jews. A bit of an oxymoron. "Shame on Germany for wanting to protect children from bodily harm; remember what they did to Jews sixty years ago." (?)
"The outcry prompted Germany's centre-right government and opposition parties to draw up legislation confirming the practice was legal - overruling the decision by a court in the western city of Cologne."

As if the legality of forced genital mutilation on minors was something to confirm. I'm afraid German Common Law is rather clear on this, as are the laws of many other industrialized nations. Germany's government was faced between upholding its Common Law, and divorcing themselves from Nazi labels.

"The new law passed by an overwhelming majority in Bundestag lower house said the operation could be carried out, as long as parents were informed about the risks."

This may actually be a light at the end of the tunnel for human rights activists; ultra-orthodox rabbis in New York are fighting to keep the City from passing a law that demands precisely this.

Still, Germany would never allow female circumcision "as long as parents were informed about the risks."

"Jewish groups welcomed the move."

In New York, Jewish groups are fighting to keep the city from requiring them to inform parents about the risks, as this is seen as an "infringement of  their religious freedoms."

"This vote and the strong commitment shown ... to protect this most integral practice of the Jewish religion is a strong message to our community for the continuation and flourishing of Jewish life in Germany," said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress.

 Jewish life, yes. Muslim life? Only if your child is male; some Muslims see female circumcision as "an integral practice of the Jewish religion." Take a look at what's happening in South East Asia;
 the Malaysian Health Ministry wants to medicalize female genital cutting.

Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference said it hoped the bill would help safeguard religious freedoms. No comment was immediately available from the country's Central Council of Muslims.

SOME religious freedoms. Actually, only this particular "religious freedom" as it applies to healthy, non-consenting boys.

Does the new law protect these "religious freedoms?"

A father slashes his child's head for the Holy Day of Ashura

Muslim women perform "sunat" (ritual genital cutting) on a girl

Child marriage in India

The May ruling centered on the case of a Muslim boy who bled after the procedure and the ban only applied to the area around Cologne."

But this forced lawmakers to consider a change in the law, as, actually, the Cologne ruling reinforces German Common Law.

"But some doctors in other parts of Germany started refusing to carry out circumcisions, saying it was unclear whether they would face prosecution."

Actually, they stopped because it was rather clear to THEM that they would.

"Under the new law, a doctor or trained expert must conduct the operation and children must endure as little pain as possible, which means an anesthetic should be used. The procedure cannot take place if there is any doubt about the child's health."

No such provisions and exceptions exist for female genital cutting.

Female genital cutting is always wrong, and it doesn't matter if a doctor or a "trained expert" conducts the ceremony, and that the children "endure as little pain as possible."

For most other surgery as performed by doctors and physicians, surgery is performed AS A RESULT of a doubt in the child's health. i.e., there is medical necessity that prompts it. This seems to be the only case where a child must be HEALTHY to undergo surgery.

"Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said no other country in the world country had made the religious circumcision of boys an offence."

Plenty of laws to make religious circumcision of girls an offence though...

"In our modern and secular state, it is not the job of the state to interfere in children's' upbringing," she said.

Except if the child is a girl, I'm sure.

Child welfare group Deutsche Kinderhilfe disagreed, saying the government had "(pushed) through the legalization of the ritual of genital circumcision ... against the advice of child right campaigners and the medical profession."

And they are right.

This is purely a political move, and everybody knows it.

German Common Law is rather clear on this matter, and the Cologne Ruling serves to make it even clearer. German lawmakers are choosing to look the other way because they fear Nazi labels.

All double-standards, self-contradiction and beating around the bush. Let's see how this move plays out, as it flies in the face of Germany's Common Law. Special pleading. What's next? "Protecting" female circumcision? Sharia Law to appease the Muslims?

I've asked before; how far are "parental rights" and "religious freedoms" protected?

As long as doing so doesn't label you Nazi, it seems.

Closing Remarks
Most of what I have to say on this matter I've already done so on past post, but I wanted to copy and paste the closing remarks here.

Intactivists, do not despair; to those of you who do, you should have this coming. We shouldn't despair when politicians with agendas change the laws to appease voters and preserve popularity. Laws don't change anything. They never do. In a social movement, laws are the very last thing to change. What we need to work on is changing people's attitudes. Female circumcision was swimmingly outlawed because our country already viewed the practice with disdain. History shows us that laws reflect social change, not bring it about. And, it looks like, judging by news articles and reports, the fact that more and more people are openly talking about the practice, the very fact that it's being questioned in courts, change is already happening.

Do not despair, and keep educating. More and more people listen every day.

 "Truth suppress'd, whether by courts or crooks, will find an avenue to be told"
~Sheila Steele

 "Do nothing secretly; for Time sees and hears all things, and discloses all"

The views I express in this blog are my own individual opinion, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of all intactivists. I am but an individual with one opinion, and I do not pretend to speak for the intactivist movement as a whole, thank you.

Related Post:
The Cologne Ruling and the Limitations of Religious Freedom

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New University of California Logo: Circumcision Clamp?

When I first saw it I couldn't believe it. I thought it had to be some kind of joke. I first laid eyes on it on my Facebook news feed, when a friend decided to post a funny story about it. Some people think it looks like one of those animated "now loading" computer icons.

I thought, "You've got to be kidding me! Really?"

I decided to Google it, and sure enough, there it was.

What's disconcerting to me is that the logo looks like a circumcision device, the closest one I could think of is the Mogen clamp. (Mogen went out of business because they couldn't afford the million dollar lawsuits as a result of the botched circumcisions it was responsible for.)

It looks like a circumcision clamp with the letter "C" on it, which I know stands for California, but I couldn't help associating it with the word "circumcision."

Which raises a few questions in my head.

Is this seriously for real?

If so, what were the creators thinking?

What was on their minds?

I'd like to know who is responsible for this disgusting imagery.

If this is real, the University of California needs to get rid of this logo at once.

That is, unless it wants to be known as the "University of Circumcision..."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Annie Lennox Tacitly Endorses Male Circumcision as HIV Prevention - TWICE

Just a few days ago, Annie Lennox sung at the Hope Rising! "benefit concert" in Toronto, put on by the Stephen Lewis Foundation. This would sound like a noble thing to do, as, at least ostensibly, it benefits AIDS programs in Africa. Why would it be a bad thing to want to help end HIV/AIDS? You'd be a heartless, soulless wretch to be against helping those poor people in Africa.

The problem here is, what is defined as "help?"

And do Africans need or want it?

Annie Lennox is to be commended for putting her celebrity towards a good cause that seeks to end suffering in an unfortunate corner of the globe. Actually, there are a few songs I like for when she sung with the Eurhythmics. But does she know exactly what charities she is supporting? What they stand for?

Who is Stephen Lewis?
Wanting to end HIV/AIDS is a noble cause, but the Stephen Lewis Foundation is founded by none other than Stephen Lewis, whom we intactivists know to be absolutely coo-coo for male circumcision and getting every male in Africa circumcised under guise of HIV transmission.

Here are some things that Lewis has been quoted saying:

An "Orgy of Male Bonding"
There was some titter of laughter and gentile applause which resonated throughout the room. So I felt it was the appropriate moment to tell the crowd that I was circumcised. Which I did. There followed what can only be described as an Orgy of Male Bonding. I have never been so embraced and hugged so extravagantly by numbers of people simultaneously as they conveyed to me that they understood the importance of circumcision and recognized that it's withstood the transmission of the virus.
(Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: Disease and climate change in Africa.)

In Praise of Paula Donovan of UNICEF
She [ Paula Donovan] realized that male circumcision was a good preventative way to slow the spread of AIDS. So she took that analysis further. She suggested to the male leadership in Nairobi, that UNICEF propose that circumcision accompany the regular process of immunization of infants... Paula was easily 10 years ahead of her time, because that's exactly what's being discussed in several countries now... and what did the UNICEF hierarchy do at the time? They grabbed their genitals in protective embrace and laughed it off like only male sexists can laugh things off. ...the UN took more than a decade to see male circumcision for the inspired preventative technology that it is.
Circumcising Infants to Protect Them from HIV
USAID, UNAIDS and the World Health Organization conducted a fascinating analysis to estimate the value of scaling up circumcision to reach 80% of the adult and newborn male population in 14 African countries by 2015. ...It's really incredible when you think about it, and it's already happening.
 --Lewis, S. (2010, January 07). Male circumcision, part 2. Retrieved

Ancient Blood Ritual is a new Technology
The most unexpected and successful preventative technology, which has been chronicled in the last couple of years, is male circumcision.

--Stephen Lewis. Fora, TV. (2008). Stephen Lewis: disease and climate change in Africa.
Stephen Lewis happens to be Jewish; this may be the reason that he thinks of male circumcision, particularly infant circumcision, as "inspired preventive technology."

Note: Thus far, no "researcher" has been able to demonstrably prove that the foreskin facilitates HIV transmission, and that circumcision reduces it.

Does Annie Know?
Does Annie know that this is the person she has chosen to help? Do the other singers who have participated? Other singers who have contributed to Lewis via his concert is Alicia Keys, K'naan, Angelique Kidjo, Sarah McLachlan, Rufus Wainright and Holly Cole.

Do they know?

Not The First Time
Annie might be forgiven for ignorance, if it weren't for the fact that this is the second time she seems to be tacitly lending her support and endorsement for male circumcision as HIV prevention.

Annie Lennox appeared at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, 2010, where circumcision as HIV prevention was given heavy promotion. From what I can remember, Michel Sidibe, who had then just barely become the new head of UNAIDS, had given a speech where he praised circumcision as the latest innovation to help fight HIV/AIDS. Another speaker who delivered his speech (I don't remember his name) also mentioned circumcision. Without even questioning what had just gone on, Annie Lennox was trotted out as one of their AIDS/HIV celebrity champions, hounding people for money.

Now that I remember, the tone of the entire Vienna conference was one where spokesmen were making donors and potential donors guilty for not giving more. AIDS movement organizers were entitled to more funds, and donors were guilty for not giving enough. Annie Lennox, if I remember correctly, was barking at the audience.

Not in these exact words, but something along these lines, I could remember her saying something like "Take out your wallet. Take out your checkbooks. What did you come here to do? If you're not here to donate, what are you even doing here?" The poor people of Africa are entitled to HIV/AIDS relief (even if it means genital mutilation), and the only thing standing in the way were penny-pinching donors. Maybe she thinks it made her sound sheik, determined and resolute, but to me it just made her look like a bad televangelist trying to guilt people out of their money.

Open Letter to Annie Lennox
Back then, I decided to write an open letter to Annie Lennox, which I posted on her forum, and I sent to a number of e-mail addresses for her. I even posted it in various locations on Facebook. One could still Google my blog handle (Joseph4GI) and "Open Letter to Annie Lennox" read what I wrote, which is basically what I've been writing about in this blog. (Her forum can be accessed here. I've re-posted it on my blog as a separate entry just for good measure.) 

Do Celebrities Actually Care?
At this point, I must ask, are celebrities actually interested in the human rights of the people they are supposedly trying to help?

Or is it all just empty PR and don't care anything further than that being involved in charity, at least superficially, boosts their image?

Is Annie Lennox actually interested in HIV/AIDS prevention? Or is she merely trying to use the HIV/AIDS cause to boost her image and keep from becoming a has-been?

If it were female circumcision the UN was pushing as HIV prevention, would she still be singing at these "benefit concerts?"

The time will come when Annie Lennox, and all who gave their tacit endorsement of male genital mutilation, will be embarrassed to ever admit they did.

Having sung for Stephen Lewis will leave an indelible stain in their careers.

Celebrities, investigate the charities you contribute to.

You may be helping to perpetuate human rights violations on the very people you say you are trying to help, and sooner or later you will be held responsible.

Memory Lane: My Open Letter to Annie Lennox, 2012

Following her appearance at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, 2010, I wrote the following open letter to Annie Lennox. I'm just re-posting it as an accompaniment to my latest post regarding her latest appearance at the Hope Rising fundraiser concert in Toronto.

Is this about HIV/AIDS prevention and human rights?

Or is this a mere PR project for her?

An Open Letter to Annie LennoxFriday, July 23, 2010

Dear Annie Lennox,

I am Joseph Lewis, and I'm a US Citizen, resident of the City of Stockton in the state of California. I'm writing to you today because I saw you on some footage taken at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

I must commend you for your activism against AIDS. I had heard some of your music before (my favorite song by you is Love Song for a Vampire), and I must say I never imagined that you'd be such an activist in this field. You do it so passionately as well. You went to the conference in Vienna with an in-your-face attitude, and I think that’s what it’s going to take to get governments involved.

I was writing because I wanted to express my concern for part of what is being vehemently promoted at the Vienna Conference, and that is the promotion of male circumcision.

As a human rights activist, and as a member of the male sex, and as someone who appreciates not having undergone circumcision as a child, I am concerned as to why any organization has even considered research that centers around the vilification of a perfectly healthy body part, and legitimizing its destruction, especially in healthy, non-consenting individuals.

Would organizations such as the WHO, UNAIDS or UNICEF ever consider "research" on female circumcision? If "studies showed" that female circumcision "could reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV/AIDS by 60%", would these organizations ever endorse it and call for mass female circumcision campaigns? Would you, Annie Lennox, ever get behind them? Why or why not?

I hope that I have brought attention to the underlying sexism in this campaign to circumcise a mass population of men. "Research" and "benefits" seem to matter only when it comes to male circumcision; female circumcision would NEVER be endorsed, not even if there were "studies" that said that it reduced HIV risk by 100%. I’m sure of it.

Here are some studies that show a correlation between female circumcision and a lowered HIV transmission rate. I somehow doubt that the WHO or UNAIDS would ever take them seriously though.

Stallings et al. 2009
"Risk of HIV among women who had undergone Female Circumcision is roughly half that of women who had not. Association remained significant after adjusting for region, household, wealth, age, lifetime partners and union status."
Female circumcision and HIV infection in Tanzania:
For better or for worse?
3rd IAS conference on HIV pathogenesis and treatment
International AIDS Society

"Women who have undergone Female Circumcision have a significantly decreased risk of HIV-2 infection when compared to those who had not."
Kanki P, M'Boup S, Marlink R, et al.
"Prevalence & risk determinants of HIV type 2
(HIV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1
(HIV1) in west African female prostitutes
Am. J. Epidemiol. 136 (7): 895-907. PMID 

You might tell me that female circumcision causes all this damage, that women lose the ability to orgasm. "Studies show" that male circumcision "doesn't affect satisfaction", and thus this is why circumcision can be recommended. But did you know, studies ALSO show that women who have been circumcised do not lose their ability to orgasm? In fact, women who have undergone infibulation, which is the worst kind of female genital mutilation in the world, are still able to orgasm.

Still, others claim that having one’s labia removed actually INCREASES “satisfaction."

Please understand that I am in no way trying to justify female circumcision: The point that I'm trying to make to you is that when something is wrong, when something is a human rights violation, it doesn't matter how many studies have been written for it. It doesn't matter if it’s couched in medical terms. It doesn't matter that it is performed in a clean environment by doctors, with clean utensils and pain killers. Genital mutilation is genital mutilation, whether it is performed on women or men.

And my question is HOW can this have happened? How have organizations managed to come to the conclusion that they can endorse male genital mutilation under the pretext of "HIV prevention?" What would be the outcry would that the WHO endorsed female circumcision for the same reason? What would be YOUR reaction, Annie Lennox? My question to you is how could you stand idly by while UNAIDS head Michel Sidibe and Deputy President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe celebrate that they were able to coerce men to take up the practice of circumcision? How would you react if you heard women celebrate and say "we are so happy and excited that women are accepting female circumcision."?

The slogan for the conference in Vienna is "Rights here, right now." One of the speakers that I saw footage of was one Claudia from the country of Chile. Human rights, she said, is the freedom to choose. It means choices. Choices to live how you want, have sex with whomever you want to, use injected drugs, etc. The WHO's endorsement of circumcision is already being used to promote the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting children who are not even having sex yet, and therefore at zero risk for any sexually transmitted disease. What about THEIR human rights? If an adult man wants to get circumcised, that is his body, and therefore his prerogative. But why should children be forcefully circumcised if they're not even at risk, where they would benefit more from mother-to-child prevention?

I recently saw this video on the website for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, and I was heartbroken.

Here is this young man. He is impressionable, and he is afraid. He is old and smart enough to make his own choices. And yet he succumbs to the pressure of his father. Where is “choice?” Where are "human rights" here? That boy did not want to undergo circumcision. He did it out of fear, and out of wanting to appease his father. WHY is circumcision being endorsed when all it takes is education? Why must men be coerced to take up circumcision if they are smart and capable enough to learn to change their behavior? The people of Kwazulu Natal. Did they really need to be convinced to take up circumcision?

Have you read this, Annie?


Jairus*, 41, a family man, knew the procedure would reduce his chances of contracting HIV, but said his wife would be suspicious.

"My wife believes I am faithful - if I go for the cut, she will just think I have been dogging [cheating] on her," he said. "I don't want to create that mistrust."

"We Luos do not circumcise ... it is like betraying my culture, and even my friends we grew up with will look at me badly," said John Ngesa, 37.

Older married have been were particularly reluctant to be circumcised, partly because they see themselves at low risk of contracting HIV, even though it has been spreading fastest among married and cohabiting couples.
"I am married, so where do I get HIV, yet I am a faithful man? I trust my wife," Dan Musa, 43, told IRIN/PlusNews. "When you are faithful you are safe."

Annie, promoting circumcision is going to hurt in more ways than one. It will create a new stigma; having a foreskin makes you HIV positive. To add to that, if a circumcised man is found to be HIV positive, what will people say? That he must have been doing drugs since his circumcision was supposed to protect him? And what will they say of the uncircumcised HIV positive man? That he should have been circumcised to begin with? In other reports, doctors actually suggested that HIV positive uncircumcised men be circumcised "to avoid the stigma." So isn't this just creating more stigma, not to mention it's a waste of money to circumcise an HIV positive man (assuming studies were true)?

Usually, medical studies tend to study how to preserve the human body, not vilify it and justify its destruction. For example, the study of cancer is a tedious one, and usually researchers are trying to find ways to avoid the loss of organs, such as the testicles, the prostate, and/or the mammary glands. Circumcision "studies" are unique. They're the only ones of their kind that seek to preserve a procedure, and not the human body.

Do you know if there has been any research for alternatives for HIV/STD prevention WITHOUT having to circumcise? Is the WHO or NIH doing anything to eventually move past circumcision? Is there research looking for ways in which men don't have to consider circumcision anymore, and is the WHO considering it?

Let's get real here. Circumcision, for all intents and purposes, is the mutilation of a person's healthy genitals. The WHO and others are promoting male genital mutilation and HIV/AIDS "prevention" is the pretext. It should strike you as odd, Annie, that these "researchers" are fixated on trying to legitimize a particular surgical procedure, male circumcision of all things. Recommending female circumcision would NEVER fly, no matter how much “research” the WHO or UNAIDS presented.

Annie, there are many problems with the "studies" people are trying to use to promote circumcision, the biggest one being that their "conclusions" conflict with a few realities.

In America, for example, 80% of men are already circumcised from birth. The rates of infant circumcision are dropping, but at large, the population remains circumcised. These rates are at their highest in the East Coast, where cities such as Philadelphia and Washington DC rival HIV hotspots in South Africa. In the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic first hit, the rate of circumcised men in America was at 90%. One needs to question how something that never worked here in our own country is suddenly going to start working wonders in Africa.

In other countries, the "protection" remains to be seen as well. AIDS is a rising problem in Israel, where the majority of the male population is already circumcised. On Wednesday, July 7th, two weeks ago, Malaysian AIDS Council vice-president Datuk Zaman Khan announced that than 70% of the 87,710 HIV/AIDS sufferers in the country are Muslims (in other words CIRCUMCISED). The Muslim, circumcised population accounts for 70% of the incidence of HIV, but only 60% of the population, which would mean that the circumcised population is getting HIV at a much higher rate than the non-circumcised population.

There are also studies that contradict the trials the WHO is using.

Two recent studies examining African circumcision rates and HIV prevalence found that circumcision status was not significantly associated with HIV. Garenne examined data from 13 sub-Saharan countries found no association, and Connolly C, et al. found that circumcision made no difference in HIV rates in South Africa. Talbott Jr. concluded that, once commercial sex-worker patterns are factored in, male circumcision is not significantly associated with lower HIV.
Michel Garenne. African Journal of AIDS Research 2008, 7(1): 1–8.Connolly C, et al..Male circumcision and its relationship to HIV infection in South Africa: Results of a national survey in 2002. S Afr Med J 2008;98:789–94.
Talbott JR. Size Matters: The number of prostitutes and the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. PloS One. 2007;2(6): e543.
The promotion of circumcision is hurting the African community in different ways. As you may or may not know, circumcision is an important rite of passage for men in certain tribes in South Africa. In case you haven't already been informed, there have already been 47 dead casualties to circumcision rituals this year. Many more have lost their penises to gangrene. Endorsing circumcision is giving tribal groups where circumcision is important the go-ahead for their dangerous rituals. It is considered unmanly to run to the hospital, so many men stay behind fear of being ostracized, being forced to run the risk of death or of losing their genitals.

A recent issue of the WHO Bulletin noted that African ritual circumcisions have a 35% complication rate, while clinical circumcisions have an 18% complication rate. A neonatal circumcision complication rate of 20.2% was found in Nigeria. As you may know, Annie, funds for the fight against AIDS are scarce. Dealing with these complications is going to divert resources away from other more-needed programs, such as mother-to-child transmission reduction, and treatment of people who are already infected.

Bailey RC, Egesah O, Rosenberg S. Male circumcision for HIV prevention: a prospective study of complications in clinical and traditional settings in Bungoma, Kenya. Bull WHO. 2008;86(9): 669-677.
Okeke LI, Asinobi AA, Ikuerowo OS. Epidemiology of complications of male circumcision in Ibadan, Nigeria. BMC Urology. 2006;6:21.
“Male circumcision to prevent Aids is pushing other healthcare programmes, including other HIV and Aids interventions to the back-burner..."

And, as if things weren't already bad enough, there are some opportunistic charlatans taking advantage of the WHO's stance to sell their wares. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has issued out a warning on the so-called "TaraKlamp" because of its high rate of adverse effects.

"Adverse events from use of the TK were far higher: 37% compared to 3.4% for the forceps-guided method. This was a statistically significant result (p=0.004). Men circumcised using the TK also reported worse pain than men circumcised using the forceps-guided method. Furthermore, the device clearly causes consternation: 97 men refused to participate in the trial, 94 of them giving the reason that they did not wish to use the TK.

The TK trial was stopped early due to the unacceptably high rate of adverse events. The researchers concluded, "Given the high rates of adverse events in this study and the low number of available studies, we strongly caution against the use of the TK for young adults, and we recommend careful evaluation of the procedure when performed on children."

And the people of KwaZulu Natal are being told to withdraw the use of the TaraKlamp, and they are  REFUSING to do so.

"We don’t have any evidence that suggest that the Tara KLamp method is more unsafe that the forceps method," said Chris Maxon, spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

THE Southern African distributors of the Tara KLamp circumcision device have rejected a call for it to be put on hold until safety concerns had been addressed.

"Where are you? A catastrophe is taking place in your backyard and you're ignoring it."

These are your words, Annie Lennox. Please don’t let charlatans abuse the AIDS/HIV cause to sell their wares.

Here is what Dr. G Singh, inventer of the TaraKlamp had to say about the Orange Farm study:

"All it needs is a simple withdrawal of your manuscript and gracefully accept the reality. I am even not asking for an apology, for I am a very forgiving man..... but there is a limit!"
Annie, there is a danger in telling men that circumcision “reduces the risk of HIV.” It gives men an excuse to forgo the use of condoms. It’s already happening.

"He [my husband] was circumcised and felt he didn't have to wear a condom. When we found we had HIV after testing, he blamed me. He said, 'You brought HIV into this house.' It was because I tested first, when I was pregnant with my second child..."

According to the Wawer study, women would be 50% more likely to get HIV from a circumcised partner. The study was ended early, because the results weren’t favorable to the researchers, who were looking to find some sort of positive connection between HIV and circumcision.

As you may already know, we are living in hard economic times, and governments are looking for ways to cut AIDS funding. You yourself have been involved in taking governments to task. Funds for making “universal access” for AIDS/HIV treatment are scarce. Reports are saying that HIV numbers are coming down, and that this is due to a change in behavior. African youth are choosing to wear condoms. They are having less sex partners and remaining faithful. In light of this, how does it make any sense to be spending a single penny on promoting and carrying out circumcisions? How does it make any sense to giving any consideration to the dubious benefit circumcision is supposed to offer, when we know that it’s condoms and education that does the job?

The millions spent on circumcision could be put to better use. It could go towards mother-to-child prevention treatment. It could go towards the treatment of already infected individuals (Julio Montaner said that treating HIV positive people dramatically decreases HIV transmission). It could go towards condoms and education. On the contrary, the promotion of circumcision discourages the use of condoms which would be more effective than circumcision, putting lives at risk, and endorsing the violation of the basic human rights of minors. Indeed, it is putting men who don't want to get circumcised between a rock and a hard place.

Male circumcision is male genital mutilation. It is a human tragedy that pillars of modern medicine, such as the WHO, UNAIDS and UNICEF ever even considered "studies" that aimed to legitimize it. There are better ways to prevent HIV, and researchers should be looking for them. No organization would so much as even CONSIDER a "study" that a tried to say something good about female circumcision. All the studies in the world would never be enough to justify female genital mutilation, not even if there were studies that said that it would cut down on HIV by 100%. WHY has this happened with male circumcision?

I just wanted to say, thank you for acting as a whip to get countries to donate their money for funds for AIDS treatment and prevention. But I also wanted to say that I hope with all my heart that you don't support this promotion, this “research” of male genital mutilation. It is my hope that you will use your voice to express opposition against this. Genital mutilation is being promoted, and HIV/AIDS is being used as the pretext. I support the AIDS movement right away, and I want to help end it, but I cannot support the effort if it is going to be used as a pretext to endorse genital mutilation.

I beg that you please use your position wisely. I hope that in your fight against AIDS, you have the dignity and integrity to stand up for what's right. You would not stand idly by, would that leaders called for the mass circumcision of girls and women. I ask that you please react in the same way to the promotion of circumcision of men, as you would to the promotion of the circumcision of women.

Annie, I beseech you, please use your powers to call attention this quackery some people call “research.” People should be studying how to stop HIV, not how to preserve genital mutilation practices. Interested “researchers” are abusing the AIDS/HIV movement to pursue their own agenda. It has happened with male circumcision, and it is happening with female circumcision.

"I'm not denigrating charity per se. But we need to have a paradigm shift in our heads. We need to say: this is about human rights."

It is my hope, Annie Lennox, that you mean these words from the bottom of your heart.

Please forgive my lengthy message.

Thank you for your time.

Joseph Lewis

Monday, November 5, 2012

RICKI LAKE: Obligatory Circumcision Segment Disappoints

After a long hiatus, American television talk show host Ricki Lake has made a comeback to the television screen, tackling hot-topic issues that stir debate. She's not unique in this endeavor, as there are other shows on TV she has to compete with, which aim to captivate audiences using the same tactic.

It seems, nowadays, that no mainstream television talk show is complete without a segment on infant circumcision, which is always sure to draw ratings, as it is already a charged topic in this country. Dr. Phil did his own circumcision apology piece (transcript available here), as has Dr. Oz (even though he is a cardiologist and has little or nothing to do with pediatrics or even urology?). Very recently, "The Doctors" did an episode on it. (See a critique video of it here.) (All sources last accessed 11/5/2012.)

But what would Ricki do differently than other talk shows and TV programs which always try to sell viewers on the "Great Controversy" trope?

Not very much, apparently.

High Expectations from Intactivists
Being involved in the making of the film documentary "The Business of Being Born," intactivists believed they had found a champion in natural birth and parenting. There have also been rumors that her own boys were left to have their normal intact genitals, so when we heard that she was dedicating a segment of her show to address the issue of circumcision, we thought maybe she was going to actually give the issue the attention it deserves.

Instead, the segment turns out to be another mainstream circumcision apologetic piece that sells the classic "Great Controversy" trope to gullible audiences.

The "Great Controversy" Trope: How it works
In order to encourage the belief that male circumcision is a surgery that is carried out for medical reasons, media outlets present male circumcision as a controversial and ongoing debate between altruistic "expert" medical authorities, who are attempting to vouch for male infant circumcision as "disease prevention," and the resistance of extremist "special interest" groups. However, this portrayal of reality is not at all consistent with the view of male infant circumcision given in the position statements of world medical authorities.

While the media presents male circumcision as an "ongoing debate" happening between medical "experts" and angry activists, the trend of opinion on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly negative in industrialized nations. No respected medical board in the world recommends circumcision for infants, not even in the name of HIV prevention. They must all point to the risks, and they must all state that there is no convincing evidence that the benefits outweigh these risks. To do otherwise would be to take an unfounded position against the best medical authorities of the West.

While the latest AAP statement dances around so-called "medical benefits," and even puts emphasis on the "benefits outweigh the risks" soundbite, they still say, as they did in their last statement, that the "benefits are not enough to recommend infant circumcision." (Even so, parents should consider them, doctors are obliged to act on a "decision" based on the consideration of said "benefits" [which professionals at the AAP could not use to endorse the practice?], and the state should pay, apparently...)

It is thus, still true, that there isn't a single medical organization in the industrialized world that recommends the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting individuals. 

On with the show...
So for her circumcision segment, Ricki invited a couple who were fighting about whether or not to circumcise junior, two doctors (one for, one against circumcision) who were going to set them straight (at least in theory), and, perhaps for a twist, one man who got circumcised as an adult (age 37), and attests that "there is no difference."

The setup is already rather skewed. Of the two doctors, only one, Dr. Jay Gordon, is actually qualified to talk about the issue, as he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The other, Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, is an Obstetrician, who specializes in the health and well-being of WOMEN, and whose only connection to children is that she profits from circumcisions she performs on them at the request of her FEMALE clients.

Additionally, only a man who is satisfied with his circumcision as an adult is invited to talk, as if he represented all males. Hugo Schwyzer claims to have been circumcised at the age of 37, and that, for him, sex is the same, if not better than he was circumcised. His schtick is that, as someone who was circumcised as an adult, he has "lived both sides," and can therefore vouch, from his own experience, that "there is no difference," if not that circumcision has "improved" his sex life.

Hugo Schwyzer on Ricki Lake

As her predecessors before her, Ricki presents to her viewers a "controversy" that doesn't actually exist. The "experts" on her show may say this or that, but the fact is that the AAP still does not endorse infant circumcision. Despite all the hullabaloo the AAP tries to raise about so-called "medical benefits" in their last position statement, it still says that they are "not enough to recommend circumcision."

So why is it doctors are even presenting them to parents for "consideration?"

What "decision" is there to make, where there is no medical condition present that necessitates surgery?

Without medical or clinical indication, how is it doctors are performing surgery on healthy, non-consenting minors, let alone be eliciting any kind of "decision" from parents?

And why is an obstetrician profiting from performing surgery on individuals that are outside of her purview?

Why invite only a man who was satisfied with having been circumcised as an adult?

Why not invite a man who WASN'T satisfied?

Why not also invite a man who is 37 and is quite content with his intact genitals?

Ricki's segment turns out to be one giant pro-circumcision infomercial, like all other talk show segments on circumcision, but would have probably been more balanced if the doctor testifying in favor of it would have actually been a pediatrician, urology, or someone who is actually qualified to talk about the issue, and, if she would have invited more men to talk about having been circumcised as adults, and maybe even intact men. Hugo Schwyzer is but one man with his own experience, and does not speak for all men who were circumcised as adults. (Nevermind the men who resent the fact they were circumcised as children.) 

Behind the scenes... Pre-determined outcome?
Ricki Lake might be forgiven if she actually thought she was giving a fair and balanced view. However, judging from commentary on Facebook, it doesn't sound like that's what she nor her team wanted for the show.

Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, was interviewed to go on Ricki's show and had this to say:

"They pre-interviewed me for the show, along with several other intactivists, and rejected all of us. They did not want anybody on the show who was uncompromising on the issue of children's rights to an intact body. I was appalled by the producer's tone; she said things to me like, "What makes you think that you know more than doctors?"

And it doesn't sound like they're actually interested in balance. It sounds like the tone and outcome of the show was pre-determined.

What a dissappointment."

Maybe this is why we didn't get to see other men besides Hugo Schwyzer?

After Ricki: Strawman Attack Fest
The shameless circumcision plugging did not stop at the day-time talkshow segment on circumcision, but continued at the end of the day on "After Ricki" part of the show. They trotted out their circumcision champion, Hugo Schwyzer, and had an all-out strawman attack fest against those who oppose the forced genital mutilation of minors. They are lucky there weren't any intactivists there to stand up for themselves.

According to Hugo, infant circumcision is not a human rights issue but a "medical" one (Because children are born with penile problems?) and a "religious" one (Since when do doctors perform religious blood rituals?), one that parents make like vaccination (Because if your son is circumcised, he is immunized against ...?), and that *he's* the best human in the world to talk about it because *he's* seen both sides, and *he* finds no difference in his sexual experience. (Adult men that differ with him be damned...)

According to the people in the After Ricki segment, they "spoke with intactivists" but they "didn't have the facts to backup their claims," that "it was difficult to grasp what they were trying to state," and that "they responded to claims of health benefits with human rights arguments" and "claimed that the HIV and HPV studies were flawed but they wouldn't offer facts to back that up." They tried to minimize the fact that nerve endings are severed as "irrelevant to sexual experience." Then they talked about how the obstetrician on the show "carries babies gently and doesn't strap them like frogs in a lab," (Right, because THAT'S the issue intactivists have with circumcision), and they dismissed the surgical risks.

Had they actually allowed intactivists on the show, viewers would have known that we are actually quite able to substantiate our claims, and refute theirs with facts. Our message isn't exactly "difficult to grasp," as we question the clear ethical dilemma of cutting off parts of healthy children's genitals. We are actually quite able to refute the so-called HIV/HPV "research" and provide the evidence. Instead of actually bringing one of us on the show, they decide to make strawman attacks in our absence.

It's interesting how they tried to minimize the fact that the most sensitive part of the penis is amputated during circumcision, and tried to make the issue about "pain management," and how "gentle" the mutilator is. Everyone arguing is wrong, because Hugo Schwyzer "lived both sides," and he is the end-all be-all "authority" on the matter.

The Anti-Semite Card strikes again...
What circumcision plug piece is complete without whipping out the anti-Semite card? What didn't happen on the day-time segment of Ricki Lake ended up happening on "After Ricki."

Here's how it happened.

After Ricki Lake's poor handling of the circumcision issue on her show, I went on a posting rampage on the show's Facebook page, and I wasn't going to hold back.

I had seen this Hugo Schwyzer and his strange circumcision story somewhere else before, and even then, the story seemed rather wishy-washy, incoherent, disconnected and somehow, invented. He romanticises his circumcision, and his story reads much like one of those trashy circ-fic erotica you find on circumcision fetish sites like CircList.

I posted this on the Ricki Lake Facebook page:

Beware this Schwyzer guy. (The guy Ricki interviewed who loves his circumcision.) I have a feeling he might be a fake. I think you can still find his story on NYMag. If I remember correctly, he got cut as a way to offer a "new me" to his fiancee, after sleeping around like a dog. I remember him downplaying desensitization, actually claiming he felt "too much" before getting cut, and "just right" after. I hear now he's claiming he was cut because he tore his foreskin. Interestingly, he comes from a Jewish background. Keep your eye on this guy. Could be a plant, if not a mere circumfetishist out to romanticize circumcision. Ricki, it would have been nice if you could have included a guy who was NOT happy about getting circumcised. I know a few men who were cut as adults who are not as happy as Hugo Schwyzer.

Notice how my post focuses on the coherence of Hugo's story. I mention his Jewish background because it is a matter of irrefutable fact that circumcision is an important ritual for both practicing and non-practicing Jews, and Hugo may have deeper conditions for circumcision than a mere gesture of love for his girlfriend.

Instead of addressing my main points, they ignored them, and they took that little snippet on the After Ricki segment, and made it about how circumcision legislation is all being backed by anti-Semites.

Word got around to me that my post was taken and twisted out of context, so I went ahead and posted on the Facebook page for Ricki Lake's talkshow:

Before they write me off as "anti-Semitic," I'd like to hear them deny, first, that circumcision is a cherished tenet they've been fighting tooth and nail for since Greco-Roman rule. The fact is that being Jewish is a conflict of interest, because infant circumcision is first and foremost divine commandment, if not the most defended sacrament for Jews. This isn't "anti-Semic" it is simply matter of historical fact. Stop pretending like you can be Jewish and care about other things like "medical benefits" and "demonstrating love for a partner." Sorry, I don't buy Schwyzer's story; it contrasts with other stories of men who were circumcised as adults who note palpable desensitivity. Hugo Schwyzer does not represent all circumcised men. Ricki, please give balance to your show by inviting someone who dares to differ with this man. Thank you.

The fact is that circumcision has been defended by Jews since Greco-Roman rule. It is an important "mitzvot" for them, quite possibly the most important one. Even for non-practicing Jews, this is often seen as their last connection with their Jewish heritage. This is a conflict of interest in presenting "evidence" in favor of circumcision.

Hugo Schwyzer, and any other Jewish pro-circumcision nut, is gravely mistaken if they think invoking the anti-Semite card is going to keep me from pointing these facts out.

Accusations of "Anti-Semitism" would only be true if:

1) Circumcision was exclusively Jewish.
2) Circumcision were universal among Jews.
3) Intactivists focused purely on stopping Jewish circumcision.

The fact is, circumcision is not exclusive to Jews; only 3% of all circumcisions in this country are Jewish brisim; the rest are secular, gentile circumcisions performed at hospitals. The fact is that some of our most outspoken voices happen to be Jewish. 1/3rd of Israelis oppose infant circumcision, according to recent polls. The fact is that intactivists oppose ALL forced genital cutting of minors regardless of race or creed.

It is pathetic the way Jewish advocates of circumcision try to act like they're being "singled out."

There are plenty notable Jews in our movement Ricki could have invited. Eliyahu Ungar Sargon, for one. Victor Schonfeld, Rebecca Wald, Dr. Dean Edell, Ron Goldman, Rosemary Romberg, just to name a few.

Plenty to choose from, but Ricki Lake chose not to invite any of them, quite possibly exclude them from her show. 

Who is Hugo Schwyzer?
Hugo Schwyzer is a self-appointed "feminist guru" who has a checkered past, and a history of lying and changing his stories. In his own words, "Not long after my 31st birthday came my last drink and drug, a suicide attempt, and a spiritual rebirth that led to a radical shift in my sexual ethics. Consciously, when I made the commitment to stop sleeping with my students."

Schwyzer is pretty much a pariah in feminist circles, although he still has this pop-culture reputation that he cultivated by selling his twisted story. You can see what other feminists are saying about him on the Facebook page Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer.

Does Ricki Lake screen her guests? I wonder how this one got past her team...

This is a devastating blow to her show's credibility. 

Since I first read his story on NYMagazine, I thought it didn't make any sense. I've always thought Hugo Schwyzer was lying about this, because other stories I've heard from men who got cut as adults contrast with his; most men I've talked to say they absolutely regret it. Not to mention the research that shows that circumcision removes the most sensitive parts of the penis, and that it causes sexual problems for men. His story simply doesn't add up.

He claims both that he had problems with his foreskin, AND that he underwent circumcision as a way to offering a "new me" to his fiancee. He claims he felt "too much sensitivity," and after his circumcision it was "just right," but how would he know he was experiencing "too much" BEFORE getting circumcised? So which is true?

Did he get circumcised because he was experiencing problems? Because his feelings were "too intense?" Or as twisted gesture of "love" for his new wife after a life of promiscuity? (Or were his real reasons for getting circumcised a desire to connect with his cultural heritage?) This would be the first time I've heard of a guy experiencing feelings that were "too intense" from having a foreskin. Hugo romanticizes his circumcision a little too much, which is why I compare it to circumcision erotica one can find on circumfetish websites like CircList. 

Given his history of lying and changing his stories, it is my opinion that Schwyzer has actually always been circumcised from birth, coming from a Jewish background, and this entire schpiel was completely made up with the specific purpose of trying to take steam out of the intactivist movement.  
After all, circumcision advocates have always tried to argue that circumcision "makes no difference," and in recent times, that it actually "enhances" the sexual experience (compare these arguments to the original reasons it began in the West), and what better way to bolster this argument than by becoming "living proof?"

And who is actually going to check the facts? Who can argue with a subjective experience?

Sorry, I don't buy it. I for one want to see medical records, before and after pictures, the works.

Additionally, Schwyzer protests a little bit too much on the Jewish side of things.

I can already imagine him spinning my comments off as "anti-Semitism" as he did on the After Ricki segment. Yes I could just hear him saying that inquiring as to the history of his dick makes us comparable to Nazis pantsing Jews during the holocaust, when all we want is a fact check given his history.

Even giving Hugo the benefit of the doubt...
I'm nobody to dismiss anybody's subjective experience. It could be that Hugo Schwyzer's story is genuine and real.

But even so, Ricki could have done a better job of adding balance to her show by interviewing a man who resents having been circumcised as an adult. Even if Hugo's story is legit, he's not the only man out there who has lived quote/unquote "both sides if the debate." There are other men who were circumcised as adults who are not as happy as Schwyzer, and he does not represent them all. There are also plenty of men who are Hugo's age and are happy with their intact organs. It would have been nice to hear from those men too, not just one man's experience.

In recent times there has been a movement to have all men who emigrated to Israel circumcised. There are is a large number of Jewish diaspora from Russia, for example, who were not circumcised because circumstances did not allow. There are reports that many of these men, who are circumcised as adults, actually regret having undergone the procedure, having lived their whole lives with anatomically correct genitals.

I wonder why Ricki thought it was necessary to even bring an adult man who chose to get circumcised out of his own volition on her show, when what is being discussed is the circumcision of healthy, non-consenting minors. I'm sorry, but a Jewish man happily choosing to get cut as an adult is not the same. Ricki has, in effect, ignored the crux of the argument, which is the choice of the individual, something Hugo had (if his story is even true), but babies do not. 

Redeeming Quality
Despite all that went on on her show, Ricki Lake has one redeeming quality; at the very least, she is allowing comments of dissent on her talkshow's Facebook page, and apparently is even reading them on the air.

In addition to the comments already posted, I posted the following:
Ricki, assuming Hugo Schwyzer's story is true (I have my doubts), he is but one man with one experience and does not represent every circumcised male out there. You could offer a more balanced approach by interviewing men who are NOT happy having been circumcised as adults. Additionally, it is inappropriate to be interviewing an OB/GYN, seeing as male genitalia are outside of her purview as a specialist in WOMEN's health. Thank you for allowing dissent on your FB page.

In closing...
Ricki Lake's segment on circumcision leaves much to be desired. Intactivists were hoping she would put as much passion into this issue as she did in her Business of Being Born documentary. Instead, she disappoints by delivering more of the same circumcision apologetics as predecessors before her. I agree with Georganne Chapin that it doesn't sound like Ricki and her team were actually interested in any real, balanced "debate," rather, that the tone and outcome of the show was planned and pre-determined. She trots out the same old "Great Debate" trope, and pitting a physician who specializes in child care, against a physician whose expertise is supposed to be the health and well-being of women (whose only connection to infants is that she circumcises them for financial gain), and a man who got circumcised out of his own volition for personal, (possibly cultural and/or religious?) non-medical reasons, isn't exactly my idea of "balanced."

The views I express in this blog are my own individual opinion, and they do not necessarily reflect the views of all intactivists. I am but an individual with one opinion, and I do not pretend to speak for the intactivist movement as a whole, thank you.