Intactivism News

April - June 2009

To more recent news

(More recent items first)

Earlier items


The Telegraph
June 30, 2009

Man uses nail clippers in DIY circumcision

A man who gave himself a DIY circumcision using nail clippers was taken to hospital for emergency treatment.

The young man had to be rushed to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. The wound was disinfected to cleanse it before he was given a bed in an observation ward.

"This is something we would advise men never to attempt," a medic said, "The results can be quite horrific and long-lasting and have quite an affect on a man's sexual performance.

"Using a pair of nail clippers must have caused excruciating pain, even if he had had a few drinks beforehand."

In April last year a leading brain surgeon used a £30 DIY drill to carry out a successful operation on a fully conscious patient. ...

[This story was reprinted widely, many with reporters' droll comments. Several carried speculative images of nail-clippers - none showed a penis. None has reported why he did it. Did he think he was protecting himself from HIV?]


Mmegi (Botswana)
June 24, 2009

Botswana laws discourage us - men

Staff Writer

SELEBI-PHIKWE: Men in Selebi-Phikwe have said they are hindered by Botswana laws from effectively participating and supporting their partners on HIV/AIDS issues.

"Even in our workplaces we are denied permission to visit clinics with our girlfriends. We are told that we do not have children because we are not married to the mothers. Even the Minister of Health knows this. Botswana laws sidelines us when it comes to responsibility for our own children as unmarried men," the men said during a panel discussion on male circumcisin and challenges faced by men in supporting their partners on issues of HIV/AIDS. The discussion was organised by BOCAIP. The me

n Henry Marsh used a BHenry Marsh used a Bosch PSR960 cordless drill because he did not have his normal equipment on him. But Mr Marsh had to use the drill because he was on a trip to Ukraine in Eastern Europe to help people let down by a vastly inadequate health system. Halfway through the operation to remove the tumour from Marian Dolishny's head, the power ran out. Thankfully the neurosurgeon, who normally practises at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south, London, was able the complete the operation and save a life. osch960 cordless drill because he did not have his normal equipment on him. But Mr Marsh had to use the drill because he was on a trip to Ukraine in Eastern Europe to help people let down by a vastly inadequate health system. Halfway through the operation to remove the tumour from Marian Dolishny's head, the power ran out. Thankfully the neurosurgeon, who normally practises at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south, London, was able the complete the operation and save a life. said it does not mean that those who are not married are ignorant about HIV/AIDS issues. They said only married males in Botswana are recognised as men. They said unmarried men are discouraged by the stigma associated with accompanying their girlfriends to health centres. "We are sometimes forced to ignore those (health) services due to long queues and prayer services at health facilities when we are supposed to rush to work," one of the men said. They said most men work while their female partners are free to visit health facilities. The men were speaking after BOCAIP official Rebecca Nkalanga said they are ignorant on issues of HIV/AIDS. A majority of the men rejected circumcision, which has been introduced to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Some participants suggested that the Ministry of Health should stop circumcision because it has its own shortcomings. They said the ministry should put more emphasis on condom use. They claimed that a circumcised man might become incontinent in old age.

Others said circumcision is going to cause many problems because it will encourage unprotected sex as the circumcised may think they are now immune from HIV infection.

Some men accused the ministry of desperation leading to the introduction of circumcision. This is despite the fact that the number of people that have already enrolled for HIV/AIDS prevention programmes are increasing, indicating that Batswana heed the ministry's calls. They did not like the six-week period in which they are not supposed to have sexual intercourse or masturbate after circumcision.

They said they want to hear first hand motivational talk from those who have been circumcised. However one of them declared that he was circumcised three years ago and everything is normal. He still uses condoms as usual. The men wanted to know why government continues to buy female condoms while their use is very minimal. They said women must be included in panel discussions on HIV/AIDS because they sometimes mislead men into indulging in risky behaviours.

An officer from the District AIDS Coordinating office, Elizabeth Moshi said there are many misconceptions about circumcision. She said some tribes perform it compulsory at an early age and even Jesus was circumcised. She expressed concern that some people tend to blame other illnesses on circumcision yet some health challenges comes with old age.

Health official Kodziba Magundayi said that it has been proven that male circumcision can help reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.


The Times (South Africa)
June 28, 2009

Culture a lame excuse for outdated initiation methods that kill our youth

Mondli Makhanya

For this annual march of death to stop, this matter has to be elevated to the national agenda

The definition of murder is to intentionally cause the death of another person. Culpable homicide, on the other hand, is to cause the death of another person through negligence or neglect.

Those are the definitions that our learned friends use to describe these heinous things we humans do to each other.

Whether it is murder or culpable homicide, killing happens. And when people get killed like this there are supposed to be consequences. The person or people responsible for the deaths of others should be charged with murder or culpable homicide and be punished accordingly.

Well, that is how it is supposed to happen. Especially when, on the face of it, the case is open and shut.

Not so when it comes to the lives of poor peasants in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and other parts of the country. Their lives, if the events of past years are anything to go by, are worth very little. The cheapness of their lives was very evident this week when it was revealed that the death toll for this winter’s circumcision season in the Eastern Cape had risen to 11.

That means 11 young lives were cruelly cut short in the name of culture and tradition. These 11 young men were killed during what is essentially the very backward practice of slicing off the foreskins of young men in an unhygienic manner and making them live in conditions that make them susceptible to life-threatening infections. When these conditions and the cruel procedures result in death, or when initiates have to amputate their infected sexual organs, the defenders of these practices feign surprise.

Before I get lynched by cultural fundamentalists, let me clarify that it is not the practice of initiation that is backward.

Our constitution protects the cultures of our land and our common sensibilities dictate that we should promote this diversity. The rituals that accompany the transition to adulthood form an essential part of all cultures and should be celebrated.

However, it is the insistence that this transition be accomplished using methods from two centuries ago and that initiates be put through cruel drills that riles one. This cruelty, which is supposed to make men out of boys, has been blamed for many of the initiation-related deaths.

To its credit, the Eastern Cape government has been waging a tireless battle to modernise the practice but has had little more than cursory support from other institutions.

The government of that province, where most of these deaths occur, has passed a law regulating the practice, established a certification system for circumcision schools, set up task teams to police them, raided the premises and arrested those who run non-accredited schools.

They have encountered the resistance of feudal lords who run the Eastern Cape, the indifference of the national authorities and the lethargy of a police force that couldn’t care less.

Many izingcibi, the traditional doctors who run these schools, simply refuse to be certified — arguing culture and tradition cannot be regulated by secular laws. They have stated that the conditions and the cruelty meted out to the boys are necessary for their growth as men.

For this annual march of death to stop, this matter has to be elevated to the national agenda. We all have to ask ourselves how we would react were these middle-class suburban kids who went to the school around the corner and shared the hobbies and habits of our own children.

We have to see them as more than inanimate rural beings.

Organisations such as the ANC Youth League and the youth formations of other political parties have to join the fight against this practice. In taking up young people’s issues, they have to prioritise putting an end to this killing of young boys under the guise of culture.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, which carries a lot of clout in rural communities, must do more than issue mealy-mouthed statements condemning law-breaking izingcibi as they normally do following initiation-related deaths. They have to realise that more than anyone else, they have the ability to influence communities to police illegal initiation practices. But for some reason they are coy about being at the forefront of this battle and some of their members are very resistant to government intervention.

Another person who has her work cut out is Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, the newly appointed minister of women, youth, children and the disabled. She has a responsibility towards the young people who are and who will be affected by this practice.

But the most important weapon in this battle has to be the law. Endangering the lives of people is a crime which must be prosecuted. There have to be high-profile prosecutions that will send a message to other potential murderers that in this republic the law is supreme and supersedes culture, religion and ideology.

The last word on the matter must go to Eastern Cape health department official Sizwe Kupelo, who told the South African Press Association this week: “It’s high time that everybody stands up to put a stop to this. If communities did speak out against the barbaric individuals who are killing these boys, this would stop.”


IOL news (South Africa)
June 25 , 2009

Circumcision toll rises to 12

Septicaemia claimed the life of a boy from Bisho after he underwent an illegal circumcision, the Eastern Cape health department said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the boy died on the way to hospital on Wednesday.

This brought the death toll in the province's winter circumcision season to 12. All the victims had been at illegal circumcision schools.

Besides the boy who died on Wednesday, two boys died from natural causes (such as respiratory diseases) and the rest from dehydration.

Illegal circumcision carried three distinct risks, Kupelo said. [So does legal circumcision.] Boys risked death from a variety of medical complications, amputation of genitals due to infection or gangrene and HIV infection due to unsanitary circumcision methods.

Last week two boys lost their penises to gangrene, he said.

Traditional leaders in the areas reported a mushrooming of illegal initiation schools.

The department appealed to parents to monitor their children because it was clear the boys were determined to go into the bush or into the mountains to attend the schools without consulting their parents.

"We are working with traditional leaders and police in an attempt to stop these unnecessary deaths," Kupelo said.

A total of 200 boys had been rescued by police and the provincial health department from illegal initiation schools over the last few months.

Nine people had been arrested in connection with the illegal schools.


Intact America
June 22, 2009

Somali anti-FGC campaigner spreads her net

Campaign to change US mindset

A Somali campaigner against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) wants the US to abandon Male Genital Cutting (circumcision) as well.

Filmmaker and activist Soraya Miré has joined with Intact America, a lobby group formed earlier this year, to launch a nationwide campaign to change the way America thinks about male circumcision. They argue the surgery is painful and medically unnecessary, removing healthy genital tissue from non-consenting baby boys, violating medical ethics and human rights.

"The same universal human right to an intact body that I have fought for on behalf of women and girls must apply to boys as well," Miré said, "especially those who are too young to make an informed decision about the integrity of their bodies.

"We need to ask ourselves: How can it be wrong to surgically alter the genitals of a baby girl without her consent but okay to surgically alter the genitals of a baby boy?"

The campaign hopes to influence a review by the Centers for Disease Control of studies of adult African male circumcision in the context of the HIV epidemic in Africa, with the goal of developing a recommendation to be released here in the United States.

"Studies of adult men in Africa cannot be used to justify subjecting non-consenting American baby boys to irreversible surgery that will remove healthy tissue from their genitals for the rest of their lives," Intact America's executive director Georganne Chapin says. "Let young men make decisions about their own bodies, when they reach an age to make that decision for themselves."

Before parents allow that, she says, they should ask themselves if they would allow it to be done to their daughters.

Chapin was supported at the press conference by two physicians, a Marquette, Michigan pediatrician and his wife, a family practice physician.

"Physicians have an obligation to look after the well-being of their patients, " Dr Robert Van Howe says. "The child is the patient, not the parent. Neonatal circumcision is definitely not in the patient's best interest. It is a violation of the child's most basic human rights, and a violation of a physician's oath to do no harm." He says the surgery does more harm than benefit for the baby boy, who can not give informed consent.

Dr. Storms stopped performing circumcisions in 1988. Research Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program at the MSU medical college, she says she could no longer ignore the fact that there is no medical justification for the surgery.

"I realized I was cutting off healthy tissue from a baby that couldn't say no. I wasn't treating or diagnosing disease. It violated my sense of ethics and everything I was taught in medical school about my obligation to heal the sick and do no harm."

"Clearly, circumcision is harming these infants," Storms says. "Physicians should just say no to neonatal circumcision."

The campaign has been bankrolled to the tune of $1 million by a Texas businessman. Dean Pisani says he and his wife were pressured to have their expected baby circumcised by the obstetrician and doctors in Illinois hospitals even before they knew his sex.

The Pisanis researched the topic "and could find no rational or persuasive argument to subject a baby to surgery that had no medical benefit. We came under pressure from doctors prior to the birth of both of our children, but none could substantiate the medical necessity to perform the surgery. The pressure from doctors was both inappropriate and indefensible." ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

Full transcript of the press conference.


UG Pulse (Uganda)
June 22, 2009

Anti FGM bill to be tabled in Uganda's Parliament

The Chairperson of the Parliamentary forum for Population and Food Security, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi has said he is ready to table a Private Members’ Bill to parliament for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilations.

Dr. Baryomunsi says the practice of female circumcision which is practiced as custom in some Ugandan communities has been condemned by medical experts as dangerous.

He says the bill will help put an end to Female circumcision or Female Genital Mutilations as a dehumanizing act against women and female children. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

Dr. Baromunsi says the bill which is ready is expected to be tabled and passed by end of 2009. Young girls among the Sabiny are circumcised as a cultural rite of passage into adulthood in functions that take place every December of an even year.



IOL News (South Africa)
June 19, 2009

Boy in hospital with rotting penis

A 14-year-old boy was taken to a hospital with a rotting penis in the Transkei on Friday after a botched circumcision at an illegal initiation school, the provincial health department said.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the youth was one of 48 who had been attending a school at Zele near Libode.

The man running the school, who has had previous brushes with the law over illegal circumcisions, was arrested on Thursday.

Kupelo said the youth was one of four taken to St Barnabas Hospital in Libode on Friday morning.

By the time he was admitted, the glans (head) of his penis had fallen off.

Another of the four also had a gangrenous penis, to which doctors were desperately trying to restore a blood supply, while the remaining two had wounds that were merely septic.

None of their lives were at risk, Kupelo said.

The four were all either 13 or 14 years old, far below the minimum of 18 laid down by the province's circumcision legislation.


Kupelo also said a 20-year-old man was arrested in East London on Thursday for performing circumcision on a nine-year-old child. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)


More madness

Lusaka Times
June 18, 2009

Zambia Police to circumcise all male recruits

The Zambia Police Service says plans are underway to introduce a mandatory circumcision policy for all male recruits.

Kamfinsa Police training school commanding Officer, Malcom Mulenga, says male circumcision will help prevent HIV and AIDS cases in the Police service.

Mr. Mulenga, says the Zambia Police Service has continued to lose qualified manpower as a result HIV/AIDS.

He was speaking when the American government handed over a Voluntary Counselling and Testing centre to the Zambia Police Service.

At the same function, Home Affairs deputy Minister, Misheck Bonshe, welcomed plans by the Zambia Police Service to circumcise male recruits.

And the United States Charge d’ Affairs for Zambia, Michael Koplovsky, said his government has set aside K1.5 billion for the construction of health centres for police officers.

"Mandatory or coerced male circumcision is a violation of a range of human rights, including rights to dignity, bodily integrity and personal autonomy."

p15 (online p19 of 34)


More deaths

IOL news
June 18, 2009

Circumcision death toll grows to three

The death toll in the Eastern Cape's winter circumcision season has risen to three, the provincial health department said on Thursday.

Spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said police who raided an illegal circumcision school in the Ntabankulu area of Transkei at the weekend had discovered the body of a 22-year-old initiate.

"He was buried in the forest," Kupelo said, "It was not even a proper burial: they just dug a shallow hole and put branches on top."

Police were investigating the cause of death, which was at this stage not known.

Kupelo said there had been about 95 initiates at the school, set up in deep bush. Most of them had fled along with the men running the school, while four had been returned to their parents.

Kupelo said a man operating an illegal school in the Libode area was arrested on Thursday morning.

A 15-year old youth from that school died last Friday after being admitted to hospital in Port St Johns.

Kupelo said local chiefs were also keen to impose a traditional sentence on the man, who had had previous brushes with the law.

Six other people have been arrested so far this season for performing circumcisions illegally or running unregistered schools.

A total of 34 youths were admitted to various hospitals, including nine who had tried to circumcise themselves.

Five of the 34 were in a critical condition, and would be transferred to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha.

Post-circumcision hospital admissions were usually as the result of septicaemia of the wound, or dehydration. - Sapa

[Earlier deaths.]


June 14, 2009

Boy dies after circumcision

Johannesburg - One boy died and four others are in a critical condition after alleged botched circumcisions near Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape, SABC news reported on Sunday.

Ten others were in a stable condition after they were rescued from an illegal initiation school.

The boys, aged between 15 and 17, had been admitted to the Sipethu hospital.

Police spokesperson Mlungisi Mathidane said that when police arrived at the school on Saturday, the 14 boys had disappeared into a forest.

Police arrested one person and tracked the boys down on Sunday.

[Earlier deaths.]


More circumcison madness ...

The Zim Diaspora
June 11, 2009

Zimbabwe opens male circumcision clinics

THE Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is promoting male circumcision as part of measures to reduce HIV infection and will this month open male circumcision clinics in Bulawayo, Mutare and Mt Darwin.

According to the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, studies have shown that circumcision reduces the spread of the virus by up to 60 percent.


HIV Rates:

Circumcised men aged 20-45


Intact men aged 20-49


Source: National surveys, available at: www.measuredhs.com/countries/

"We are advocating for male circumcision as part of measures to control the spread of HIV. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

"Because male circumcision does not provide complete protection, circumcised men should continue to use other HIV prevention strategies, including abstinence, reduction in the number of sexual partners, correct and consistent use of male and female condoms and knowledge of status," says NAC.



Taragana Blog
June 10, 2009

Unprecedented Scale-Up of Voluntary Male Circumcision Begins in Swaziland and Zambia

WASHINGTON - The Male Circumcision Partnership expands access to proven HIV prevention intervention

In a significant move from research on male circumcision to full-scale implementation [without any intervening field trials], the Male Circumcision Partnership is launching a massive scale-up of voluntary male circumcision services in Swaziland and Zambia.


HIV Rates:

Circumcised men


Intact men


Source: National surveys, available at: www.measuredhs.com/countries/
Figures for Zambia not available.

The Partnership is supported by a five-year, US$50 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Population Services International (PSI). PSI and partners Marie Stopes International, Jhpiego, The Population Council and the governments of Swaziland and Zambia estimate that the project will provide voluntary male circumcision services to nearly 650,000 men. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)


... and some sanity from a man on the spot

Our Man in Cameroon
June 8, 2009

Circumcision is a red herring

(Blog by Steve Jackson, a Volunteer Service Overseas [UK, the US equivalent is Peace Corps] volunteer in Cameroon.)

I’m not going to argue with the science behind these circumcision pieces.


HIV Rates:

Circumcised men


Intact men


Source: National surveys, available at: www.measuredhs.com/countries/

That’s not to say I either agree or disagree with it – I think the science is beside the point because this is not even remotely practical. I work for an organization in Cameroon that supports local villages in helping to stop the spread of AIDS while assisting people living with HIV/AIDS to hopefully have as normal lives as possible.

If you can imagine what we are battling with in terms of getting messages across – I have some issues with ABC (abstinence, be-faithful, condom). Personally I’d go with condom, condom, condom and let people choose their own ideals – but I can work with this. Now even within that area I can show you this picture.

Condoms do not protect - sticker

(Based on a test
of latex gloves,
not condoms.
Gloves are dipped
in the latex once,
condoms twice
and are tested
to fewer than 4 pores
per 1000 condoms.)

This is proudly on display at a local Catholic church. And people believe this stuff. Recently the Pope decided to pay this country a visit and told everyone that condoms were making the problem worse.

On top of that you have traditional healers – recently my boss told me of one that had claimed to have cured two AIDS patients. It turns out where it said “negative” on their medical records was next to Malaria not HIV. But these claims and rumors take hold. I haven’t seen it here but we’ve all heard African tales of how having sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS.

People have sex with partners who they know to have HIV. Even with the threat of being infected people take that risk. My point is this – there are already so many rumors and half truths and downright lies that people are entirely confused.

People are already willing to risk sex with people they know to carry the disease. You start telling them a simply surgical procedure will make them less likely to contract the disease and it will soon be widely understood that you CAN NOT become infected if you are circumcised.

And how would that circumcision take place? It’s not like there are mobile, sterile, clinics on hand. How long before it becomes an extension of the body mutilation that is practiced here (not heard of female genital mutilation in this area but there is a practice of breast ironing which is quite horrific).

In other words – how long before circumcision is carried out by a traditional healer, witch doctor, family member etc – in entirely unhygienic circumstances? Hugely painful for an adult – hugely dangerous for a child.

I am saying this without any doubt at all – if you tell people that circumcision helps reduce the risk of AIDS then they will think they can have sex without danger. The problem would get worse.

On top of that I do have huge ethical issues with this piece – and I do think that it has been treated relatively lightly. Certainly if we were talking about female genital mutilation I am not sure if either the research, or the reporting of it in such a positive manner, would have ever occurred.

If you want to fight AIDS then you need foolproof methods. It’s not enough to just lower the odds. People here are already having sex with infected partners and taking the risk. You cannot further encourage people to take risks. Sexual practices have to be virtually 100% safe before people can be educated in such methods and ways of living.

And if we are unable or unwilling to provide the developing world with condoms and the consistent education to use them correctly – then why waste our time on circumcision – a less effective, more costly, more painful, more dangerous method?

This idea that – “say it won’t work but don’t deny the science” – is entirely beside the point.

If it won’t work it won’t work. So let’s move on.

Truth is there is already perfectly good, cheap ways to defeat the spread of HIV/AIDS we just have to stop the misinformation (much of it coming from the developed world) and commit to teaching the same methods and same practices.

There are already enough red herrings without introducing another one.


The Age (Melbourne)
June 7, 2009

Doctors to leave our baby boys intact

[first appearnace of the "i" word in a mainstream headline]

Stephen Cauchi

THE Royal Australasian College of Physicians has flagged it will not change its policy against circumcision despite evidence the procedure can prevent the spread of HIV and other sexual diseases. [It is striking that someone felt the need to give the story a pro-circumcision spin, even in the first sentence.]

The college, which represents physicians and pediatricians in Australia and New Zealand, has adopted the position that "there is no medical indication for routine neonatal circumcision" since 2004.

But it has been reviewing this stance in part following recent scientific research suggesting that the risk of HIV infection could be dramatically reduced by the practice.

Three trials conducted in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda between 2005 and 2007 showed conclusively, according to the World Health Organisation, "that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent".

Further research, published this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that circumcision can reduce the transfer of human papillomavirus — the chief cause of cervical cancer in women — by 35 per cent, and herpes simplex virus — the chief cause of herpes — by 25 per cent.

The journal said the findings underscored "the potential public health benefits of the procedure". [Three more paragraphs of pro-circ spin.]

The college, which began its review in 2006 and was supposed to come out with a revised policy at the end of 2007, will not do so until the end of this year, as it considers the new evidence.

It is estimated that 10 to 20 per cent of male infants are circumcised in Australia.

The chairman of the college's panel considering the issue, David Forbes, of the University of Western Australia's school of pediatrics, said the African studies had delayed the new recommendation, but so too had the fact "it is a contentious and non-clear-cut issue".

"It's quite clear that there's evidence that circumcision in adult males helps prevent HIV in Africa," said Professor Forbes. "It's not so clear that circumcision in Australia in infants is of benefit to the infants or the community.

"Policy is about getting the right message to health planners so that we have safe but cost-effective expenditure."

New concerns about the practice of circumcision in Australia were raised last week after the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute found that parental consent might not be enough to protect the circumcisers of baby boys from later legal action.

No specific laws regulate the removal of the foreskin.

Professor Forbes said he wanted to have the college's position "finalised by the end of this year, hopefully before".

He said the benefit of reducing human papillomavirus "appears not to be such an issue in Australia" because a vaccine was being produced. And there were important differences between the HIV situation in Africa and Australia: HIV rates in Australia were far lower and condom use was much higher.

He said while there was clear evidence that circumcision reduced the rate of urinary tract infection, this alone did not justify routine use of the procedure as the infection rate was so small.

He said the 10-strong panel consisted of pediatricians, surgeons and policy and public health experts. "There are extremely strong views at both ends of the spectrum for those who promote circumcision and those who oppose it," he said.

"Undertaking elective surgery of minors who are not able to consent is for many pediatricians an even bigger issue, especially when there are examples of (Muslim) societies who elect to have it at puberty when people can choose."

Dr Forbes declined to preview what the college's recommendation would be. "Policy change tends to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and given that there are no trials of neonatal circumcision for prevention of HIV, I wouldn't expect revolutionary change. I would expect evolutionary change."

[And then they give the last word - four paragraphs - to an extremist in the opposite direction:]

Roger Short, from Melbourne University's department of obstetrics and gynaecology, hopes the college will view circumcision in a more favourable light.

"It would be exciting to see the Royal College come forward with a slightly more progressive attitude than its previous pronouncements," he said. "The evidence is coming in, and it is irrefutable, that there are major benefits."

Professor Short said there were no grounds for making circumcision mandatory. [Take that, Brian Morris!] Instead, the college should change its recommendation.

"I think we should go from saying 'when in doubt, don't circumcise' to 'when in doubt, do'."


In Tasmania ... or anywhere?

June 2, 2009

Laws unclear on circumcision of babies

There is uncertainty about whether performing circumcision on baby boys in Tasmania is legal.

Child Commissioner Paul Mason is concerned that some procedures, if undertaken without the competent consent of the child, may traverse the infant's rights.

It prompted the preparation of a paper for public discussion, examining whether the law is clear about the legal rights of doctors and whether they could later be found civilly responsible or criminally liable.

The Professor of Law at the Tasmanian University, Kate Warner, says they found that the law does not have sufficient certainty.

"It's quite clear that if a person has the capacity to consent then in that case, there's not a problem," she said.

"It's just in relation to children or babies, when they haven't got the capacity to consent and whether or not parents would have the ability to consent on their behalf."

[See next story]


Asking the right questions ...

the Tasmania Law Reform Institute
June 2, 2009

Non-therapeutic male circumcision - call for submissions

Today, the Tasmania Law Reform Institute released issues paper no 14, Non-therapeutic male circumcision.

In the paper, the Institute identifies uncertainty about when and under what circumstances a non-therapeutic circumcision can be performed legally on an infant male. Given that circumcision has not previously been the subject of thorough legal analysis in Australia, the lack of clarity in the application of the existing law to circumcision is the primary problem that the paper seeks to overcome. The crux of the uncertainty is whether the consent of the parent of a male infant being circumcised can provide protection from criminal and civil actions brought against a person for performing a circumcision. Doctors and those who perform circumcision in a traditional way need to know the circumstances in which they will be protected from the law.

The Institute received the reference from the Commissioner for Children who is a member of the Council of Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity. The Commissioner asked the Institute to investigate the legal issues relating to the circumcision of males under the age of majority. The Commissioner was concerned that some procedures, when performed without medical indication and without the competent consent of the child, may traverse the rights of children.

The Institute has released the paper to provide information to encourage public deliberation and feedback on an appropriate legal framework for non-therapeutic male circumcision in Tasmania. Further, any reforms to clarify the uncertainty in the existing legal framework might also present an opportunity to set or clarify the standards that those who perform circumcision have to meet.

Any group or person is invited to respond to this issues paper. Following consideration of all responses it is intended that a final report will be published, containing recommendations.

The Institute invites responses to this Issues Paper by 28 August 2009. Following consideration of responses a final report will be published, containing recommendations to the Attorney-General.

The paper can be downloaded from www.law.utas.edu.au/reform/


How to make boys hate music

May 27, 2009

Music May Temper Pain in Preemies

WEDNESDAY, -- Playing music seems to reduce pain and encourage feeding in premature infants, University of Alberta researchers report.

Music is being widely used in neonatal units across North America, but how beneficial it is to the infants remains unclear.

Lead researcher Dr. Manoj Kumar, an assistant clinical professor in the neonatal division of the pediatrics department at the university, said the study "found some evidence to suggest that music may have beneficial effects in terms of physiological parameters, behavioral states and pain reduction during painful medical procedures in the neonates."


The report is published in the May 27 online edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

For the study, Kumar's team analyzed data from nine trials, including six that looked at music played while infants underwent painful procedures such as circumcision or having a heel pricked to obtain blood samples. The others looked at music played for premature infants.

Measurements such as heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation and pain were used to evaluate the benefit of music.

In studies that involved circumcision, music was found to have benefits for the infants' heart rate, oxygen saturation and pain. Several studies that involved a heel prick also reported evidence that music could have a benefit in reducing pain and improve behavior. The music played ranged from classical to lullabies and nursery rhymes.

"Calmer infants, a stable condition in the child's physiologic functions such as heart rate and higher oxygen saturation, and lesser pain during the painful procedures such as circumcision and blood sampling via heal prick" were all reported, Kumar said.

... However, Dr. F. Sessions Cole, director of newborn medicine and head of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital, thinks the jury is still out on whether music in intensive care units works in reducing infant discomfort.

... he noted that "the authors indicate that the methodological problems with all of the reported studies preclude any conclusions about the efficacy of music therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit."


Bauer thinks that randomized trials are needed to really show whether music therapy in such situations is beneficial or not. [But will they randomly assign any babies to not being circumcised?]


BBC News
May 28, 2009

Circumcised die in South Africa

Eight boys have died and three are in hospital after botched circumcisions in the South African province of Mpumalanga, officials say.

The teenagers were at an initiation school in the town of Kwamhlanga.

One of the initiates died in hospital and the seven others were found by health officials dead at the school.

Circumcision is a traditional rite of passage for many boys in South Africa, where authorities have long campaigned to stop botched initiation ceremonies.

Although it is unusual for so many boys to die at the same time, deaths from circumcisions are occasionally reported [but happen regularly and frequently] in South Africa, where blunt, un-sterilised knives are sometimes used.

'Excessive blood loss'

Fifteen initiates were admitted to Kwamhlanga Hospital since Saturday, Simphiwe Kunene, of the Mpumalanga health department, told the South African Press Association news agency.

Eleven were later discharged and three were still being treated, but one died.

Seven more bodies were found at the initiation school when forensic pathology officials were called, bringing the total fatalities to eight.

"At the moment, we are not in position to say what killed the young men, but the three who are still in the hospital had shown signs of excessive loss of blood," another health department spokesman Mpho Gabashane told South Africa's Times newspaper.

Mr Kunene told Sapa that health officials were working with traditional leaders to ensure resources were available that could prevent further loss of life.

In 2001 the government passed an act requiring a licence from a medical officer for each circumcision, but traditional leaders said that infringed community rights.

The BBC's Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the tradition is also sometime exploited by those looking to make money by setting up illegal initiation schools.


So much for parental choice

Sunday Night (Australia)
May 24 , 2009 [No longer available online, but up at YouTube.]

Morris calls for compulsory circumcision

Orif Brian Morris:

In a segment expressing all the usual pro-circ bias (cute gurgling babies, circumcision as a "snip", statistics of huge reductions in {vanishingly rare} diseases) and token appearance by Intactivists making weak dermurrals, University of Sydney Professor Brian Morris (pictured) is given plenty of time, and says (unchallenged), "Circumcision should be made compulsory".


Is anyone surprised?

Zimbabwe Metro
May 27, 2009

One razor used to circumcise 15 boys

Participants at a recent HIV and Aids stakeholders conference in Harare were left shell-shocked when one of the presenters revealed that one razor blade was being used to circumcise about 15 people at initiation ceremonies in Shangani,Matebeland North.

Mr Timothy Ndunu of Sesithula Vamanani Caring, an HIV and Aids organisation, told participants that the Hlengwe people of Shangani had embarked on a “massive circumcision” drive in a bid to eradicate the prevalence of the disease in their community.

He said the drive had been packaged as initiation ceremonies and instead of curtailing the spread of HIV and Aids they were actually exposing people to danger because unhygienic methods were being used.

“These initiation ceremonies have become a grave concern in as far as eradicating the Aids scourge is concerned. They lack basic hygienic requirements and are also short of resources thereby exposing patients to a high risk of HIV infection.

“It is also at these ceremonies that boys and girls who might not necessarily be teenagers but are physically advanced are taught how to conduct themselves in bed, hence the children tend to begin experimenting at an early age,” he said.

Mr Ndunu said early marriages were becoming more prevalent and children in the community were prematurely leaving school.

“Besides the dangerous circumcision being done, there is also the dangerous practice of wife inheritance, which has not helped either,” he said.

“The Shangani people are in a very remote area. A lot of these issues that we are discussing here are not known back in Hlengwe village. In the instances that they get such information, it tends to fall on deaf ears.

“A lot of work needs to be done in this area in terms of conscientising these villagers because they tend to ignore information that is contrary to their traditional norms without regard to the consequences”, said Mr Ndunu.

“Many people in this community do not believe in the information that some organisations teach them because they have their own way of doing things that they are used to.

“However, our organisation has been working very hard with these people because they represent a time bomb that is waiting to explode,” Mr Ndunu said.

Male circumcision has been proved to be an efficacious, lasting and cost-effective strategy for combating HIV in high-prevalence countries but becomes dangerous when unsafe methods are employed. The revelations come at a time when the country is recording remarkable progress in the prevention of HIV infection.


Go Blue Ridge
May 12, 2009

Marlowe Found Guilty

Written by Adam Hicks

33-year-old Johnny Eric Marlowe was found guilty on seven charges this afternoon in Caldwell County Superior Court.

According to our Foothills Bureau, Marlowe’s charges stemmed from him repeatedly assaulting his wife and another woman he treated like a second wife.

Marlowe fathered 11 children, all under the age of 13, with these two women.

Marlowe represented himself in the trial. The jury only deliberated for about 10 minutes before finding him guilty.

Marlowe will be given a mental evaluation before his sentencing and will stand trial at a later date on charges that he circumcised two of his sons with a utility knife days after they were born. The alleged incidents occurred while Marlowe was living in Caldwell County.

[It is not clear what he will be charged with: the is no legal restriction on anyone who wants to carry out a [male] circumcision.]

Earlier story.


May 7, 2009

Botswana plans to circumcise nearly half a million

GABORONE (AFP) – Botswana, which has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates, has launched a scheme to circumcise nearly half a million men to curb the spread the disease, the health ministry said Thursday.

The country hopes to circumcise 460,000 men over the next five years, after a series of studies found that circumcised men were two to three times less likely to contract HIV, said Janet Mwambona, a public health specialist in charge of the project. [At 20 minutes each, that's 77 years at 50 weeks/year, 40 hours/week, of doctors' time, not to mention the other resources required.]

"For the public health benefits of the preventive effect of circumcision to be realised, the Ministry of Health is supposed to cover 80 percent of eligible males in Botswana," she said. [Would it not be more economic to target those at high risk?]

Government is running television and radio campaigns to encourage men to visit clinics for safe circumcision procedures. [If it were confined to consenting adult men, there would be no objection. It is the cautious men, at lowest risk, who will step forward.]

"All primary and district hospitals are currently booking clients and performing the procedure," added Mwambona.

About 50 healthcare providers, including 27 doctors have undergone training on surgical circumcision.

The rapid spread of HIV and AIDS once threatened the survival of the approximately two million people of the land-locked southern African country, until the introduction of antiretroviral drugs in 2003.

According to a 2005 UNAIDS report, Botswana's HIV prevalence among pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 24 has stayed between 35 and 37 percent since 2001. [...marketly higher than the rate among men...]

The rate among the older pregnant women was last measured at 43 percent in 2003.

[The last National Health and Demographic Survey in Botswana was in 1988, so figures for HIV among circumcised and intact men are unavailable. The circumcision rate is reportedly less than 20%, and this is allegedly linked to the high HIV rate, though rates of both in other countries vary widely and independently.]



The Standard (Nairobi, Kenya)
April 24, 2009

Man faces the knife after wife's betrayal

By James Kuria

A middle-aged man in Solai, Nakuru was forcibly circumcised after his wife revealed to villagers that he was uncircumcised.

For 10 years, Tom and wife had managed to keep a cheerful and well-provided home. They were blessed with two children.

Before they got married, the wife did not know her boyfriend was uncircumcised. They had a magnificent church wedding.

But on their wedding night the woman was shocked to learn that her newly married husband was uncircumcised. She was so aggrieved she bitterly accused the husband of hiding crucial information from her.

Tom, however, managed to cool her down and the two finally agreed to keep it a secret. In return he promised to do anything he could for his wife. This included taking her for outings to Mombasa every so often.

With his meagre salary, Tom tried by all means to keep his promise to his wife. Sometimes he was forced to borrow money from friends to enable him cater for his wife’s leisure needs.

This went on until their children started schooling — and the facade started coming apart. The Mombasa trips became rare as Tom shouldered bigger responsibilities like school fees.

The wife started grumbling and accusing her husband of not keeping his promises. She felt betrayed but whenever she threatened to reveal their secret, Tom would borrow money to take her to Mombasa.

Sometimes he would even sell domestic property like furniture.

With time, Tom became henpecked and started performing domestic chores like cooking, doing his own laundry and cleaning the house.

His once happy marriage became a nasty experience. He lived in fear that his wife might one day betray him. This made him to develop stress and finally, resulted to drinking.

When elders at the church he attended learnt about his behaviour, he was expelled. This, however, did not stop him from coming home drunk each night. This aggravated the wife even further and she started looking for the slightest excuse to spill the beans.

Two weeks ago Tom came home drunk in the evening and started beating her for not cooking for the children. He seems to have forgotten that his wife was supposed to be handled with care or else.

The wife screamed and called neighbours for help. "Wooi! Wooi! Come and see my uncircumcised husband beating me!" she hollered repeatedly. Her words attracted curious neighbours and passersby.

When a crowd gathered, she started revealing the secret she had sworn to keep. Tom escaped and locked himself in the house after the crowd demanded to know the veracity of his wife’s allegations.

Some youths, however, broke into the house and brought him out. They stripped him naked and everyone was shocked to confirm that the man they respected had for years was indeed uncircumcised.

"Nilitahiriwa nikiwa mdogo (I was circumcised when I was young)," Tom pleaded in his defence while trying to cover his nakedness with his hands. Nobody believed him. Some young men screamed at the top of their voices, "Atahiriwe sasa tukiona! (Let him be circumcised now as we watch)."

However, an elder’s meeting was convened and it was agreed that Tom be taken to hospital for circumcision. It was also agreed that his wife and some strong young men would accompany him to see to it that it was done.

Some elders accompanied them as they frog-marched Tom to a nearby dispensary.

The woman did not escape unscathed though. Some people wanted to know why she had kept such a ‘shameful’ secret for so long.

[This just illustrates the extraordinary ferocity of the wish to cut genitals, for any reason or none.]


Parents must make many decisions for their children

April 22, 2009

Father sought after son, 7, forcibly tattooed

Fresno, Calif. (AP) -- Fresno police are looking for a gang member they say held down his 7- year-old son while another man tattooed his belly with the group´s dog paw insignia.

Investigators learned of the crime Tuesday when the boy´s mother brought the child to the offices of a multi-agency gang task force to report it.

The father, identified as 26-year-old Enrique Gonzalez, faces six charges including mayhem, child abuse, false imprisonment, battery, participating in a criminal street gang and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang.

Police arrested 20-year-old Travis Gorman, the alleged tattooer, on similar charges. He is being held in the Fresno County Jail and could not immediately be reached.

The Bulldogs are Fresno´s largest criminal street gang.


The Star-Phoenix
April 23, 2009

Region restricts circumcisions

Procedure no longer performed at RUH

By Lana Haight, The StarPhoenixApril 23, 2009Comments (9)

The Saskatoon Health Region is moving to further restrict infant circumcisions, despite new research that shows benefits of the procedure.

[Did you ever see a story that began, "New research shows benefits of circumcision, despite widespread concern that it is unethical."? Any story that casts doubt on the merits of circumcision must be undermined at the first opportunity.]

"This is not patient-centred care," said Dr. Steven Goluboff, a family physician in Saskatoon.

[Or quoted opposition to a policy change before stating clearly what it was? Cosmetic surgery on neonates was not patient-centred care.]

As of April 1, infant circumcisions are no longer performed at Royal University Hospital even though that's where all babies in Saskatoon are born. Parents wanting their baby boy to be circumcised must make arrangements with a family doctor to perform the procedure either in the doctor's office or at the outpatient departments at St. Paul's or Saskatoon City hospitals.

A lack of nursing staff is one of the reasons for the change, says Dr. David Poulin, vice-president of medical affairs for the Saskatoon Health Region.

"You need the nurse right there, providing full attention to the procedure, and if you're booking several procedures in a row you have to have nurses there for a certain amount of time," he said.

"It just became an extra thing to try to staff for and particularly if you are already having some staffing challenges on the unit, it became much harder to manage."

A report prepared by senior administrators in December 2008 recommended infant circumcisions not be allowed in any of the city's hospitals, citing limited human and fiscal resources.

"Appropriateness is also an issue," said the report.

"It is not appropriate to provide access to an unnecessary procedure in acute care."

After several family doctors took issue with the decision to stop allowing newborn circumcisions in all of the hospitals, the health region administration agreed to allow them at St. Paul's and City.

Goluboff disputes the reasons given by the administrators.

"I think they made a big mistake. I think they picked the wrong minor procedure to single out," he said.

"I mean it takes me five minutes (to perform a circumcision)." [Then he's doing it too hastily.]

He also takes issue with the report identifying circumcision as "unnecessary."

"We shouldn't be suggesting that it's a bad thing to do to little boys," said Goluboff.

"I believe that this policy was based on a philosophy that circumcisions are bad and shouldn't be done."

[Here's hoping!]

The Canadian and American pediatric societies direct physicians to discuss with parents the pros and cons of having their newborn boys circumcised. The Canadian society is currently reviewing its policy in light of new research.

In 2006-07, 526 babies were circumcised in Saskatoon hospitals.


Poulin makes no promises that infant circumcisions will continue to be performed in outpatient departments. All ambulatory care services in the Saskatoon Health Region are under review and it's possible access to newborn circumcisions could still be eliminated at health region facilities.



O upright judge! ... O learned judge! - Merchant of Venice Act IV scene 1

April 22, 2009


An Oregon court has ruled that a 14 year old youth need not undergo circumcision at his father's demand.

"Misha" Boldt is a young man who has faced an unwanted circumcision since he was nine years old, occasioned by the (alleged) conversion of his custodial father. The father is an attorney who managed to gain sole custody of his son. The divorce has been long, public and acrimonious.

The natural mother (representing her son) lost at the lower level and again on appeal to an intermediate Oregon court. Doctors Opposing Circumcision interposed an amicus (friend of the court) brief and were partially successful in getting the intermediate Court ruling overturned. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the boy's testimony was necessary and a hearing must be held. They did not, however, forbid the circumcision or suggest the boy's opinion would be determinative.

Judge Lisa Greif interviewed Mischa in chambers on Wednesday in the presence of attorneys.

No representatives were present of the Jewish groups - the Anti-defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Orthodox rabbis' organization - who together had filed an Amicus brief to support the father in the run-up to his unsuccessful appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Judge Greif went on the record and said the boy had testified in chambers at length. She said he testified, unqualifiedly, that he did not wish to be circumcised, and did not wish to convert to Judaism or Russian Orthodoxy (his mother's religion).

The judge added that the boy understood exactly what circumcision is, knew its risks and claimed benefits. She ruled that the circumcision was out as an option.

Now comes a decision, following the instructions of the Oregon Supreme Court, about whether the lad's difference with his father, amounts to a 'substantial change in circumstances' sufficient to change custody.

Judge Greif said from the bench, on the record, that Misha had begged her not to send him back home with his father that day and that he was afraid of the father. But under Oregon law, custody arrangements can only be changed for imminent threat of bodily harm.


April 21, 2009

Are discordant couples a hope or fallacy in HIV?

Benjamin Bakudaala

GIVEN our statistical data of the already existing HIV/AIDS strategies, we can easily predict the prevalence rate at least for the next two decades to come. So far we know that Abstinence (A) equals 100% protection. Be faithful (B) equals 100% protection. Condom use (C) equals 98% protection.

Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission equals at least 50% protection and Using sterilised or new sharp objects equals 100% protection from HIV/AIDS”.

Before we can push for circumcision or the ABC plus campaign, we may need to look at the 1990 Rakai District report that talks about the discordant couples who have continued to have unprotected sex and in the long run became infected. Dr. Ponsiono Kaleebu talked about this report recently in an interview with The Saturday Vision April 4.

However, Dr Kaleebu should throw more light on how many times one can have sex before being at risk of getting infected. Because individual y may get infected at his first or fifth time while individual x may get infected at his tenth or twentieth time.

The ABC plus HIV/AIDS control campaign that is calling for more funds so that it is effectively and efficiently implemented should have some viable statistical data from discordant couples who were already infected from the time the supposed discovery of the infection started in Uganda (1982 in Rakai District) and the husband who was circumcised did not get HIV.

[Much has been made of one Rakai study in which none of the circumcised husbands became infected during the course of the study - but a third of circumcised candidates for the study had been rejected because they were HIV+ already.]

If the trend is to promote circumcision as the best HIV/AIDs control measure, then the trained HIV/AIDS counsellors are now going to alter the m[e]ssage from encouraging the other control measures which are better than circumcision.

In my opinion promoting circumcision as an HIV/AIDS preventive measure is to encourage adultery, and thus high HIV/AIDS cases within the country especially among couples.

Instead of coming up with less effective HIV/AIDS control measures, let us make a review of the initial control measures and request for more funding to promote them. It is better to promote the methods that have been tested and proved credible in HIV/AIDS prevention.

The writer is a volunteer coordinator Nkokonjeru Project Hope


Swedish Radio
April 19, 2009

Boys Injured After Illegal Circumcision

A Stockholm hospital is warning parents about a man who has caused injuries to boys he has circumcised. The man lost his licence to circumcise back in 2007 following several incidents, but according to the hospital has continued carrying out the operation illegally since then, with several boys being rushed to the hospital with serious injuries.

In Sweden you don’t have to be a doctor to carry out circumcisions on boys younger than 2 months old, as long as a nurse is present to give pain relief.

The man, who isn’t a doctor, lost his licence to circumcise at home after carrying out the practice without a nurse present, and on boys over 2 months of age.

Circumcision on boys is a traditional practice in the Jewish and Islamic faiths, and since the man was banned there has been no-one with a licence in the Muslim community in Stockholm to carry out the practice, meaning many Muslim families have gone to private clinics and even to a licenced circumcisor, or mohel, in the Jewish community here.


WBBM780 radio
April 15, 2009

Suit Claims Part of Baby's Penis Removed During Circumcision [Well, duh!]

CHICAGO (STNG) - A Northwestern Memorial Hospital obstetrician is being sued for allegedly botching a circumcision of a 1-day-old baby and cutting off a portion of the infant's penis.

[So what does circumcision cut off? Defining the foreskin as "not part of the penis" is a typical example of the circumcised mindset.]

The suit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court by David Burden on behalf of his son Daniel Burden, claims that on Oct. 5, 2007, one day after Daniel was born, Dr. Marc Feldstein performed a circumcision on the boy. However, rather than removing only the foreskin, the doctor cut and removed a portion of the baby's penis, the suit said.

After the procedure, baby Daniel was transferred to Children's Memorial Hospital to have emergency corrective surgery.

Burden accuses Dr. Feldstein, Northwestern Women's Health Associates and Northwestern Memorial Hospital of medical negligence. The suit asks for more than $50,000.


Scientists are human ...

April 13, 2009

Medical researchers face conflicts of interest

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Dr. Bruce Psaty of University of Washington in Seattle knows how easy it can be to fall under the spell of a friendly relationship with drug companies.

As an assistant professor, he published an article on using beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure that caught the attention of the pharmaceutical industry.

"My family and I were invited to a first-class resort, where I presented the results at a sponsored conference," Psaty wrote in a commentary this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

He agreed to help develop a set of slides on beta-blockers and soon found himself suggesting that the drug company's studies be featured, ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

... research suggests that most people are comfortable with just a little bit of cheating, without considering themselves dishonest. He says subtle conflicts of interest often color decision making, yet most people -- especially doctors -- think they are immune.


Ariely said return favors could come in the form of excluding a sicker patient from a clinical trial, which might affect the study results. "Not on purpose, but I'm trying to help my friends [or the conclusion I want], just a little bit."


Psaty ... suggests doctors look for red flags in studies that might indicate bias.

"Was the question a good question? Did they set the study up right? Did they use the weakest possible comparator to make a drug [or surgery] look good in a trial?" he said.And when a medical journal editorial disagrees with the primary interpretation of the author, "that is a potential marker of a study where there may been some bias from conflict of interest," he said.

[And where a researcher has a strong personal investment in one outcome of a study, no external intervention is needed for bias to take effect.]


Elder abuse

Jerusalem Post
April 12, 2009

Ouch! Brit mila at 87


Involuntarily, my hand moves to my crotch as I watch attempts to convince S. to undergo the long overdue procedure.

"Come on, dad, if you don't do it now you might never get another chance," pleaded S's sons.

But so far S., 87, a pious-looking Jew wearing a black kippa and sporting a long white beard and sidelocks, is not budging.

"I can't do it," he mutters, shaking his head.

It is Sunday, the fourth day of Pessah. S. is surrounded by his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, who have all gathered at Bikur Holim Hospital in downtown Jerusalem to support him.

A non-profit organization called Brit Yosef-Yitzhak, which has provided more than 35,000 pro-bono circumcisions since it was founded 20 years ago, is footing the bill for the entire procedure.

A doctor has assured S. that the cut will not hurt. A mohel has patiently explained the procedure dozens of times. A special kosher-for-Pessah feast has been prepared to celebrate completion of the brit mila.

All that is needed is S's okay.

He and everyone else undoubtedly have more pleasurable things to do than spending Pessah vacation in a hospital. But they are here because, according to Jewish tradition, a brit is not something that should be delayed. Each day that goes by without cutting the foreskin is a transgression, a rebellion against God's will.

Nevertheless, I can't help but sympathize with S's apprehension as I watch another attempt to convince him to go through with the brit mila. It takes a lot of guts to allow another man, no matter how amiable he might be, to take a knife to one's member.

It's not just the pain factor. How does a God-fearing Jew like S. come to terms with the realization that throughout his entire life he remained uncircumcised, like some primitive pagan? [Or like some civilised Scandinavian, European, South or Central American, Japanese...?] An uncircumcised Jew is fundamentally flawed. Agreeing to undergo a brit at the age of 87 would be an admission of this flaw. Better to enter denial. [Talk about blaming the victim!]

A debilitating stroke forced upon S. the revelation that he was not properly circumcised. While undressing his father, S's son noticed something strange. S's private part was presented to Rabbi Shlomo Mahpoud, a renowned circumcision expert. The ruling: not kosher.

Apparently, when S. was born in Isfahan, Iran, the local mohel made a crucial mistake. S. was erroneously defined by the mohel as a baby born fully circumcised. Therefore, he only needed to have a drop of blood drawn. Over eight decades later this fatal mistake has come back to haunt S.

According to Aryeh Amit, director of Brit Yosef-Yitzhak, S. is not alone; There are a whole lot of foreskins waiting to be snipped.

"We believe there are 5 million Jewish men walking around without a proper brit mila," Amit said.

"The rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late spiritual head of Chabad] said in 1984 that there were 10 million Jews living in the Soviet Union. If you assume that half were males and that the Communists prevented 95% of them from getting a brit you already have close to 5 million," he said.

In addition, said Amit, there are thousands of Jews whose foreskins were removed with a "clamp," a scissor-like device that grabs the foreskin.

"These clamps are a silent Shoah [Holocaust]," said Amit, whose father, Yaron, established the organization in 1989, shortly after the Iron Curtain fell and hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union, previously forbidden to practice Judaism, began reclaiming their heritage. [What an insult to the six million!]

There are also Jews who were circumcised by a doctor. These circumcisions are not kosher, because doctors, even Jewish ones, do not have the intention of performing God's commandment when they cut.


One of the rabbis at the hospital offered a decidedly metaphysical explanation for S's opposition.

"There are always negative spiritual forces that fight against the performance of any good deed," the rabbi said. "The better the deed the more the opposition grows. [S's opposition] just shows what strong powers are contained in the foreskin."


April 11, 2009

State details safety lapses at Beth Israel

Sloppy cleaning, lax training are cited

By Stephen Smith

During a surprise visit last month, state investigators witnessed a worker in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center nursery sloppily cleaning a board that had been used during a minor surgery, contaminating a nearby counter. ...

(to the rest - if this link fails, contact us)

So far, disease trackers have identified 19 infants and 18 mothers who have fallen ill with infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a germ that thwarts treatment by first-line antibiotics. The source of the cluster of cases remains a mystery, although genetic testing has shown the same strain had infected all of the patients, a strong clue there is a common source.

The state inspectors were unstinting in their critique of what they observed as they toured labor and delivery rooms and the nursery on three days in early March, declaring flatly at one point that "the hospital failed to implement an appropriate and effective infection control program for the prevention, control, and investigation of infections and communicable diseases."


And, on several occasions, the investigators observed worrisome lapses related to circumcisions, including an instance when a nurse didn't change gloves before tending to the dressings of a baby. Of the 19 infants who have become ill with the drug-resistant staph infection, 15 have been boys, according to Dr. Anita Barry, who is overseeing the investigation of the cases by the Boston Public Health Commission.

"I think the circumcision dressing example was one we found particularly problematic," Dreyer said. "You've got examples of contamination that may be in the context of kids with open wounds from circumcision. The danger is spread of infection."

As a result, Beth Israel Deaconess has put in place a policy designed to guarantee sterile techniques for circumcision.


[Doctors Opposing Circumcision first warned againt MRSA in October 2005, but were ignored.]


When backward is progressive

The Times of India
April 11, 2009

Circumcision no longer acid test to identify Indian spies

Omer Farooq Khan, TNN

ISLAMABAD: In the past, jubilant Pakistani authorities have announced that foreign (read Indian) agents were involved in explosions and attacks in the restive Swat region based on examination of the corpses of the killed attackers.

But the “acid test” cops and officials used to determine whether any of the dead ones was Indian was to check whether the man had been circumcised. If not, they would summarily dub him Hindu and therefore an Indian agent.

But as more such cases showed up, in places where there was not a ghost of a chance of any Indian involvement, doctors and officials began to worry about the methodology. It’s then that they stumbled on a little-known anthropological fact about Pashtun tribes in Waziristan, from where many of the Tehreek-e-Taliban or Pakistani Taliban come.

It appears that many in the backward tribal areas of the country like Waziristan don’t undergo the mandatory circumcision that all Muslim males should undergo. ["Should"? Says who? Even though this story is published in India, it is biased towards circumcision.] The story took a rather comic turn when some of government’s own injured paramilitary soldiers, when examined, were found to be uncircumcised. This was especially true of wounded soldiers of the Frontier Constabulary from Waziristan, engaged in fighting Taliban militants.

Kamran Khan, a legislator from Waziristan in Pakistan’s lower house of parliament, told the Times of India that many in the poor tribal areas fail to undergo circumcision because it is either not mandated in their tribal codes or because in many villages there are neither hospitals or even barbers, who perform most circumcisions in rural areas.

‘‘People are either circumcised in hospitals or barbers do the job. Neither we have hospitals in Waziristan nor institution of barbers,’’ Khan said, adding that poor people of Waziristan can’t afford to take their male children to other areas for circumcision. [And might choose not to, even if they could.]


Detroit Examiner
April 8, 2009

Why todays parents are saying no to circumcision

I have one thing to ask before you continue on with this article. Open your mind, read the information without defenses. I have had my own personal journey with circumcision, my son is circumcised, and I will admit I thought the idea of not circumcising was just…weird. So I get the resistance to the culture shift, I really do.

We are the only country that routinely circumcises our infants at birth for non religious reasons. This is not the norm in other countries. In fact when speaking with a European friend of mine who was expecting a boy, she said she would not only not circumcise her son, but that she would never stand for it. When you live in a culture that does not routinely circumcise, the question becomes why would you.

So, do Europeans and their intact penises have mystery penis problems? Are they dirty? Do they have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases? The answer is no. Really? Are these not the main problems that we are trying to avoid?

First let’s examine some of what is lost after a circumcision is performed in the United States (In the US, most hospital circumcisions are done to the Bris Periah standard of removing every ounce of foreskin and, in a large percentage of cases, some shaft skin).

Foreskin: The foreskin comprises around 50% of the movable skin system of the penis. In fact the average foreskin if spread out, would be about 15 square inches. The average adult foreskin has three to four feet of blood vessels and amazingly between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types. All of this is removed.

Ridged Band: The ridged band is comprised of soft ridges near where the inner and outer foreskin meet. This is the primary erogenous zone in an intact male penis.

Meissner's Corpuscles: Meissner’s Corpuscles are thousands of coiled fine touch receptors. This is arguably the most important sensory component of the foreskin.

Other losses include:

  • Gliding Action
  • Frenulum * Dartos Fascia
  • Immunological System
  • Lymphatic Vessels
  • Estrogen Receptors
  • Apocrine Glands
  • Sebaceous Glands
  • Langerhans Cells
  • Natural Glans Coloration
  • Length and Circumference
  • Dorsal Nerves

So while the adult penis "works" when circumcised, it is arguable that it doesn't come close to the experience it is designed for. I was always under the impression just a little extra "flap" of skin was removed -- such an old myth.

One of the first defenses to circumcision I always here is that a cut penis is cleaner. In reality the opposite is true in infancy. The intact infant penis does not retract so care is so much easier. You just wipe and go! And when the boy is older and the foreskin separates from the glans I am positive they can learn to pull back the foreskin and rinse. We teach our girls proper hygiene and our boys are just as capable. In fact world wide female circumcision is a much more practiced procedure. And the main reason cultures site is that a circumcised vagina is cleaner. Things that make you go hmmm...

Let's tackle sexually transmitted diseases. This is a big one and I will to be brief and clear. The study done in Africa regarding circumcision and HIV has caused much undeserved buzz. The study says circumcision decreased the transmission of HIV. While this may be true, the study was never finished. Time for the circumcised group to heal was not factored into the equation, and they stopped mid study to circumcise the control group.

Just pause to really think about whether routine infant circumcision decreases STD's in the united states. We have the highest rates of circumcision and we do not have lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Also, why don't countries that do not routinely circumcise, and are on the same level socially as America, have much higher HIV rates than us? The data is out there, and it just does not support this theory.

This just barely scratches the surface but my hope is it will give you pause -- and prompt some investigation into the issue on your own. Here is a great article on what can happen when a circumcision goes wrong. Is it worth the risk?

An empowered woman ... say[s] no to circumcision


April 8, 2009

Niger: 10 villages in Niger kick against female circumcision

Ten villages in western Niger have decided to end the practice of female genital mutilations, including female circumcision, publicly calling inhabitants in the Tillabéry region to abandon such a practice which is dangerous to the lives of girls, women and babies, according to a press release from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), made available to PANA Tuesday.

According to the release, the prevalence of female genital mutilation/female circumcision (FGM/FC) in Niger fell considerably between 1998 and 2006, from 5 to 2.2 per cent.

However, this figure masks significant regional disparities: the regions of Tillabery, Diffa, and Niamey are mostly concerned by this practice.

About 66 per cent of women living in Gourma, in the western part of Niger near Mali, are circumcised.

"UNICEF hails this statement to abandon female circumcision, considered by Niger authorities as a serious violation of women's and girls' rights," said Akhil Iyer, UNICEF country representative in Niger.

"Female circumcision has a negative impact on their health, their ability to have children and be educated. This public statement is an act of courage and an important step forward for the country," Iyer declared.

Forced circumcision, usually performed without anaesthesia, is extremely painful and traumatic for girls [and boys].

They are exposed to HIV/AIDS infection if blades used are not sterilized, the risk of bleeding and medical complications, including infections that can lead to infertility and deliveries that can be fatal for mothers and children.

In Niger, 650 women per 100,000 live births die of complications related to pregnancy or delivery each year.

UNICEF and the government of Niger have been working since 1992 in close collaboration with the Niger Committee on Traditional Practices (CONIPRAT) to protect the health and integrity of women and girls.

In 2003, Niger reached a crucial step by criminalizing such practices, contributing to advancing maternal and child health indicators.

In 2007, CONIPRAT and its partners implemented a strategy for a positive social change in the ten villages of Makalondi (west of Niger).

For 18 months, members of the community, representing 13,000 people, acquired new skills and knowledge to better understand the negative impact of some behaviours and the need to change them.

This approach, which promotes dialogue between women and men and between generations, will be extended to other villages in 2009.

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