January 15, 2013
American Effort to Ban Circumcision of Minors Kicks into High Gear
Genital integrity activists from across the country are demanding
that lawmakers ban the practice of circumcising boys. Popularly known as
“intactivists”, these children’s rights advocates submitted the Male
Genital Mutilation (MGM) Bill proposal to more than 2,000 legislators
this week in an effort to require gender neutrality in federal and state
laws that regulate genital cutting.
As director of MGMbill.org’s Indiana state office in Indianapolis,
Jeff Cowsert wants all boys to be able to grow up with their genitals
left intact. “When I was eight years old, my religious friends told me
about circumcision,” said Cowsert. “I was silently outraged, and for the
remainder of my childhood I mourned the fact that I didn't have a
complete body. I would not have chosen to be cut if given the choice,
and I strongly feel that infant circumcision needs to be banned so that
men can make their own choices about their own bodies when they are
Ending male circumcision is a goal shared by many women, as well.
Shelley Wright-Estevam is a mother and business owner who serves as the
group’s state office director in Selbyville, Delaware. “You shouldn’t
have to be born female to be protected from genital cutting,” said
Wright-Estevam, who has frequently been spotted spreading her message of
intactivism on the boardwalk in nearby Rehoboth Beach. “I have heard
some people argue that parents should be the ones to make that decision,
but violence against a child is not a private matter. Circumcision is
not just unnecessary; it also removes a male’s most sensitive body part.
It's unethical, painful, harmful, and occasionally even fatal.”
Male circumcision was one of the top issues for lawmakers around the
world in 2012. It started in January when a Helsinki district court
convicted a man of assault and battery for circumcising two Muslim boys.
The following month, the Swedish Pediatric Society issued a statement
calling circumcision an “assault” that should be banned. Then, in June,
the Centre Party in Norway called on the Red-Green coalition government
to grant boys legal protection from circumcision.
Two months later in August, the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute
recommended that the state impose a general prohibition on circumcision
while Denmark opened an investigation to determine if circumcision
violates its health code. And in October, Finland’s largest opposition
party promised to introduce a bill that would criminalize circumcision
But the biggest news came out of Germany over the summer, when a
Cologne district court ruled that circumcision of male children is a
crime. Although Germany’s parliament later overrode the decision by
passing a new law, the German Pediatric Association called for that law
to be rejected, stating that boys have “the same basic constitutional
legal rights to physical integrity as girls”.
Circumcision was a hot topic in America, as well, when children’s
rights groups slammed an American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement
that sanctioned parental access to newborn circumcision. New York City
also implemented disclosure and consent rules regarding the practice of
ritual circumcision after two baby boys died from contracting herpes
during the procedure. And with H.R. 2400 (the “Religious and Parental
Rights Defense Act of 2011”) failing to get past the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, the path is now clear for state governments to
prohibit circumcision of male minors within their own borders.
Matthew Hess, president of MGMbill.org, said lawmakers can’t hide
from the issue forever. “There are too many people speaking out against
circumcision now,” said Hess. “What once was a trickle of condemnation
has now become a tidal wave. Modern parents are armed with information
on the harmful effects of foreskin amputation, and circumcised men are
much more willing to speak out against what was done to them as infants.
I think the days of legalized childhood circumcision in this country
In addition to submitting the MGM Bill proposal to every member of
the 113th Congress, the group’s representatives submitted similar bills
to every state lawmaker in California, Delaware, Florida, Indiana,
Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington.