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April - June 2005

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"And you must cut this flesh from off his breast: the law allows it, and the court awards it." - The Merchant of Venice


Female circumcision 'was not persecution'

Thursday 16th June 2005

The Tuesday Law report by barrister Kate O'Hanlon in the Independent on 14 June 2005 records the judgement by the UK Immigration Appeal Tribunal that female circumcision was clearly accepted by the majority of the population of Sierra Leone and that the applicant could avoid discrimination by submitting to circumcision.

[Lord Justice Auld found that] "Far from ostracism by society and discrimination by the state in its failure to protect human rights, the persecution in the present case would result in full acceptance by Sierra Leonean society of those young women who underwent the practice into adulthood, fit for marriage and to take full part as women in the life of their communities", writes [O']Hanlon. 


But does that include babies?

Pretoria News
June 16,2005

Bill makes circumcision an assault

Sheena Adams
June 16 2005 at 11:46AM

South Africa: A Bill outlawing virginity testing and making parents and doctors liable to charges of assault for circumcising children is one step closer to enactment.

The Children's Bill was finalised by the National Assembly's social development committee this week and includes a number of controversial clauses. At least one opposition party voted against the Bill's adoption, saying the version finalised by the portfolio committee was "watered down" compared to previous drafts. ...

Under the heading Social and Cultural Practices, the Bill also outlaws virginity testing, putting it in the same league as female circumcision and saying that children have the right not to be subjected to cultural and social practices which are "detrimental to the well-being, health or dignity of the child".

It adds that taking into consideration the age, maturity and "stage of development" of a male child, he has the right to refuse circumcision.

"A male child that was subjected to circumcision against his will may lay a charge of assault, indecent assault or assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, as the case may be, against the person that performed the circumcision or a person that is under an obligation to protect that child from maltreatment, abuse or degradation and failed to fulfil this obligation," it says. ...


Does the baby have any standing, then?

The Associated Press
Saturday, May 21, 2005

Influenced by infant's cries, man wants ban on circumcision

By JAMES WARDEN Associated Press Writer

Mervin Gajewski remembers hearing an infant's wails while he was having blood tests done in a Watford City hospital a few years ago.

"Somebody better help that baby. He sounds hurt," the 78-year-old Alexander man says he told a nurse.

"You would be, too, if you were being circumcised," she replied.

When a friend's daughter chose to circumcise her son last year, Gajewski decided to sue, in an attempt to get North Dakota courts to ban circumcision. A judge dismissed Gajewski's case last week, but he said he intends to continue, perhaps with an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

"I don't intend to be done with this case one way or another," he said.

Circumcision involves the removal of sensitive foreskin from the penis. The procedure is usually done on infants. Nationally, about 56 percent of male infants are circumcised, according to a 2003 survey compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Midwestern region, which includes North Dakota, had a 78 percent circumcision rate, which is the highest in the country, said CDC spokesman Bill Crews.

In a March 1999 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said there are "potential medical benefits" to circumcision, including a lessening of the risk of getting urinary tract infections. However, existing data "are not sufficient to recommend routine ... circumcision" of newborns, the statement says.

Gajewski says the reasons justifying the procedure are speculative, using the assumption that "somewhere down the line, it's going to be good for you."

"Surgery isn't done that way," he said. Gajewski believes male circumcision is tantamount to genital mutilation. The Legislature made female genital mutilation a felony crime in 1995. Gajewski's lawsuit argued that courts should extend the ban to boys.

Northwest District Judge Gerald Rustad dismissed the case last week, saying Gajewski had no standing to bring the case. Gajewski was suing on behalf of North Dakota boys younger than 18, but he is 78 years old, and does not represent any young boys, the judge said.

"Although the topic is one which could result in interesting information and analysis in the proper forum, this court has not been presented any precedent which would persuade it that (Gajewski) has standing to bring the action," Rustad wrote in his dismissal order.

North Dakota's state and federal courts have taken up the issue previously. Last September, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Fargo doctor who had circumcised an infant in March 1997. The boy's mother argued she was not told in detail about the procedure's benefits and potential risks. The woman, Anita Flatt of Hawley, Minn., also had argued that North Dakota's law barring female genital mutilation did not offer equal protection to males.

The Supreme Court said Flatt did not have standing to make that argument.

In June 1996, a Bismarck woman, Donna Fishbeck, made similar equal-protection arguments in a federal lawsuit against the state. Fishbeck's infant son had been circumcised with the consent of the boy's father, even though she objected to the procedure. U.S. District Judge Patrick Conmy dismissed the case, ruling that Fishbeck did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit. [???] A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Conmy's ruling in June 1997.

"Even if we were to declare the North Dakota statute invalid because it is underinclusive, and even if ... we could enter some kind of decree that would criminalize male circumcision, there is no assurance at all that the injury claimed by Fishbeck, either on her own behalf of on behalf of her son, would be redressed," the appeals court's decision says. [That could be said with equal truth of almost any law at all.]

Circumcision opponents say the foreskin protects the penis and can enhance sexual pleasure. Gajewski, who is not circumcised, said those benefits are being taken away without reason.

"It's unnecessary and detrimental to a male," he said. "You destroy too much potential."


SF Human Rights Commission slams unnecessary genital surgery

Intersex Report Released
Bay Area Reporter
May 5, 2005
by Zak Szymanski, assistant editor

In a groundbreaking report released this week, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission publicly called for an end to medically unnecessary interventions on intersex children and revealed that nonconsensual genital surgeries on children are more common in the Bay Area than previous testimony revealed.

The May 3 report -- entitled "A Human Rights Investigation into the Medical 'Normalization' of Intersex People" -- is the result of two years of investigation, including a public hearing held last year attended by activists, advocates, and members of the medical community. This is the first time that a governmental entity in the United States has addressed intersex issues from a human rights perspective.

The HRC report noted that these surgeries are motivated by parents' and doctors' needs to assign a gender to a child -- one that is in line with arbitrarily defined gender conformity -- which very well may be at odds with how the child will come to live or identify.

"These treatments are not performed for the treatment of illness or to alleviate pain. Instead, these surgeries are irreversible, often causing disruption of bodily functions, pain, and the need for additional surgeries," said a statement released by the HRC. "The Commission found that 'normalizing' interventions are medically unnecessary, are not medical or social emergencies, and that such interventions performed without the patient's informed consent are inherently human rights abuses."

Specifically, HRC recommendations include never performing "normalizing" interventions in infancy or childhood, and only performing medically unnecessary procedures when a patient gives legal consent.

Activists told the Commission that intersex interventions are usually informed by homophobia, as the success of treatments is often measured by a child's ability to have heterosexual intercourse in the future. In the case of hypospadias, society dictates that a male cannot be expected to sit to urinate, resulting in surgical interventions based upon sex stereotypes. Such interventions are not without risk, considering the small size of the genitals receiving surgery. The intersex movement advocates that people be able to decide for themselves, without shame, what to do with their own bodies, and the report from the HRC agrees.

Dr. Lawrence Baskin of the Department of Urology of the University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) wrote to the Commission to dismiss the testimony from intersex activists who said they were unhappy with the gender-normalizing interventions they received as children. "Of these 10 testimonies, it is quite clear that nine of these individuals have had severe emotional problems secondary to their status as intersex patients," he wrote.

Intersex activists have long pointed to such comments as examples of the obstacles they face when advocating for their rights. But ISNA Executive Director Cheryl Chase noted that the fact that a government's human rights commission has recognized the issue should be the beginning of the end to such dismissals.

HRC investigator Marcus Arana said that despite Baskin's displeasure with the HRC report, UCSF has responded separately and positively, designing a task force to address the issue and inviting input from the community.

Link to the HRC report (110pp, 929KB pdf file)

VHS tapes or DVDs of the May 27, 2004, intersex public hearing are available online at

[Bay Area Reporter volume 35, number 18, 5 May 2005]

[This raises the question: If medically unnecessary surgical interventions are inherently human rights abuses when performed on children with "abnormal" genitals, what makes circumcision of a "normal" child acceptable? ]



The Scotsman
Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Muslim Accused of Assaulting Son Through Circumcision

By James Tapsfield, PA

A Muslim “assaulted” his five-year-old son by having him circumcised against his mother’s wishes, a court heard today.

The father is alleged to have secretly taken the boy to a doctor in north London for the procedure.

Lewes Crown Court heard he then told the mother – an English Christian – what had happened and said: “There is nothing you can do.”

The 27-year-old man – who lives in Crawley, West Sussex, but cannot be named for legal reasons – denies committing an assault occasioning actual bodily harm in August 2003.

Irena Ray-Crosby, prosecuting, told the court today that the parents had been involved in a three-month relationship and the mother realised she was pregnant after they broke up.

Once the defendant, who is of Moroccan origin, realised the child was his he began raising the issue of circumcision in line with his religious beliefs.

“He told (the mother) he wanted to have the boy circumcised and she said she would agree with that only for medical reasons and never for religious ones.”

The court heard that in August 2003 – shortly after the boy’s fifth birthday – he went to stay with his father.

The defendant telephoned the mother and asked her to come out of her house to talk to him, at which point he told her about the circumcision.

According to Ms Ray-Crosby, the mother accused him of assaulting their son, and the defendant responded: “There’s nothing you can do. I’ve looked into it and it’s perfectly legal.”

He later sent her a text message saying she should give the boy salty baths in order to help him heal.

The court heard that the father had been “under pressure” from fellow Muslims to get his son circumcised, and paid £100 in cash for the procedure to be carried out.

Ms Ray-Crosby said the defendant had admitted when arrested and interviewed by police that he had not told the mother in advance of his plans. She added that there had been no medical reason why the boy needed to be circumcised.

“This is not a case that is anti-Islam or anti-any other faith. It’s simply about a boy who was circumcised without his mother’s consent.”

Ms Ray-Crosby said the father had never applied for legal parental responsibility, and therefore could not have provided proper consent for the operation to take place.


A British court has ruled that consent of both parents is required for circumcision.


14 down, 36 to go

April 14, 2005

Idaho cuts Medicaid funding for circumcision

Yesterday Governor Kempthorne signed the bill (House Bill No. 385) that ends Medicaid funding of non-therapeutic circumcision in Idaho. The provision becomes effective on July 1, 2005.

Medicaid, the health insurance programme for the poor, covers 25% of the births in the state.

The section of the bill that ends Medicaid funding is:

"SECTION 8. NONMEDICALLY NECESSARY PROCEDURE. The Department of Health and Welfare shall discontinue paying for nonmedically necessary circumcision for male infants as recommended to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee by the House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee. The estimated savings from discontinuing this procedure are $172,800 from the General Fund. Major private insurers in Idaho have discontinued this procedure based upon the newest evidence that it is medically unnecessary."

Currently 14 states have ended Medicaid funding of non-therapeutic circumcision: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

This means the whole of the Pacific Coast and Mountain region has now defunded circumcision, about one third of the area of the US.



"Joyful" - except for the guest of honour

Morocco Times
April 13, 2005

Fez to celebrate Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan circumcision

Fez, the Idrissid city, dressed in festivity attire, is ready to celebrate, as of today Wednesday and for three joyful days, the ceremonies of the circumcision of the two-year old Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan.

Adorned in the most splendid finery ever, and ornamented by all forms of beatitude and bliss that reign all over the eleven-century old city, Fez expresses its happiness to share with the royal family these memorial days.

The populations of the imperial city, and those of adjacent regions flooded in masses towards the emblazoned squares and parks of Fez where musical bands of the four corners of kingdom will be performing popular music genres of Ahidous, A•ssaoua, Hmadcha, Gnaoua, Ahouach, Abidat Rma, Taqtouqa Jabalia and Guedra, and where horsemen from all over the country joined the city to perform, on ornamented horses the famous Moroccan fantasia.

Though circumcision, removal of the prepuce, is primarily a tradition of Moslems and Jews, it has gained universal practice. In the United States of America more than one million male infants are circumcised each year.

In Morocco, this "operation" was until some decades ago an exclusivity of the barber, who, on appointment, would come to the house of the family, armed with his scissors, and his many archaic utensils. Today, the barber is gradually loosing ground to the physician or male nurses well specialized in the matter.

After the performance of the "surgery," [quotation marks in the original] the young boy, center and source of happiness for the whole family, is then dressed in "miniaturized" groom attire, with white "djellaba," white long-sleeved shirt, white traditional trousers, and red or green Fez.

In many families, it is the grandparents who take care of the event. They would make all the necessary preparations, take the young boy, without his father's knowledge, to the barber's or the physician to get circumcised. This old custom is still largely prevailing in many regions.

Some families would hire a horse to take the circumcised young boy on a ride in the neighborhood, amid zaghroudas, cheers and clapping of family, friends and neighbors.

According to scientific findings, circumcision can spare men a number of diseases that they might attract.

Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan's circumcision starts today

Morocco TIMES
4/14/2005 | 1:20 pm

... The circumcision operation of the Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan took place this morning, Thursday, in the Royal Palace in Fez. It was followed, after the Al-Asr prayer, by an offer procession of gifts in front of Bab Nhas in the Royal Palace. In addition to this, official estimates revealed that for two days 50.000 of Moroccan children will be circumcised throughout the country.



Forced circumcision of a 45-year-old is controversial

iol online
Wife held after husband's forced circumcision

Myolisi Gophe
April 02 2005 at 02:30PM

Five people accused of circumcising a 45-year-old family member by force appeared in the Khayelitsha magistrate's court this week.

They were arrested on January 2, seven days after Nceba Cekiso from Site B was "caught" and circumcised against his will.

The five, who face assault charges, include his wife Nosakhumzi Cekiso, his sister Sindiswa Cekiso, neighbour Monwabisi Ndlebe and relatives Mcebisi Majeke and Thami Neke.

They were not asked to plead and their case was postponed until April 13 to allow them to obtain legal aid.

It is alleged that the five noticed that Nceba Cekiso was still a "boy" during a mojiso of another initiate on Christmas Day and his family decided that he be "caught".

Xhosa culture allows people to forcibly circumcise boys deemed to have passed the age of initiation or who have bad habits, as a way of rehabilitation.

In this instance the ritual was half done; Cekiso was circumcised but was removed by the police on his seventh day in the bush and taken to hospital, preventing other initiation processes. In such cases men can still be regarded as umkhwetha (initiates).

Forcing people do undergo the ancient ritual, which marks the transition from boyhood to manhood has, in recent times, caused concern among human rights organisations.

Cases of forced initiation have been reported to the police and in one instance two Rastafarians objected to the procedure on religious grounds.

The incident has sparked a debate on whether or not traditionalists should still be allowed to force people against their will into the bush to undergo initiation.

Mwelo Nonkonyana of the Congress of National Traditional Leaders of South Africa, who is also an advocate, said both parties had acted within their rights and it was up to the court "to weigh which right overrides the other".

Nonkonyana said traditional leaders were fighting to change the "Westernised" constitution to consider traditional values. Submissions had been made to the Constitution Review Committee and the issue was being considered.

Originally published on page 4 of The Saturday Argus on April 2, 2005

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