Friday, May 31, 2013

JOHANNESBURG: Minister blames 34 circumcision deaths on "greed"

Blame anything but circumcision

S. African circumcision 'hijacked': minister

by Aaron Motsoaledi

Cape Town: South Africa's health minister says traditional male circumcision rituals have been "hijacked" by people looking to make money from the rite of passage, fuelling a spike in deaths of young males.

Police have reported that 34 young men have died in recent weeks in two provinces during rituals to mark the passage into manhood at so-called initiation schools in the bush.

"Over the years, this century-old culture has been slowly corrupted and eroded to give way to commercial interests," minister Aaron Motsoaledi told lawmakers in a debate called on the deaths.

"Then mutilations and deaths started rising year by year until we are at this point", which he said was reaching crisis proportions. Advertisement

South African boys from ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele groups typically spend around a month in secluded bush or mountains areas for their initiation.

This includes the circumcision carried out by traditional surgeons -- sometimes using unsterilised instruments or lacking in technique -- as well as lessons on masculine courage and discipline.

Botched circumcisions, leading to penis amputations and deaths are an annual tragedy in South Africa. However the latest deaths, with 28 in one province alone, have prompted fresh outrage and calls for action.

"We are mostly dealing with individuals who have decided to hijack certain African cultures to amass wealth for themselves, make huge amounts of money in as short a time as possible hiding under the cloak of culture and tradition," said Mr Motsoaledi.

A health ministry spokesman could not give details on the amounts charged other than "there's a lot of money involved".

"Those who flouted these laws must be brought to book and arrested without fear and favour regardless of their social, cultural and traditional standing," the minister told lawmakers.

Earlier story

BERLIN: Penalty for female cutting to increase

europe online magazine
May 29, 2013

Germany plans to increase jail terms for female circumcision

Berlin (dpa) - The maximum jail term for conducting a female circumcision should be increased to 15 years, the same sentence as for manslaughter, Germany‘s government said Wednesday.

The cabinet resolution means the German parliament would be asked next month to amend the criminal code to make female circumcision a separate crime. Currently, it is treated as causing serious personal injury with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

[Like the circumcision law, by creating discrimination between the sexes, this law will be in breach of the Grundgesetz - unconstitutional.]

The procedure is mainly carried out on girls in Africa. German courts have the power to try crimes abroad against German citizens.

The circumcision of boys for religious or medical reasons is legal in Germany.

CHICAGO: $1.3 million for botched circumcision

The Chicago Sun-Times
May 29, 2013

Jury awards $1.3M for newborn's botched circumcision: attorneys

A baby who suffered a partial amputation of his penis during a botched circumcision performed when he was 12 hours old has been awarded a judgment of more than $1.3 million, according to attorneys for the child’s family.

The verdict was returned to the family of the boy, now 5, by a Cook County jury on Tuesday, according to a statement from the family’s attorneys.

Defendant Marc S. Feldstein, M.D., delivered Daniel Burden on Oct. 4, 2007, at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, the statement said. The following morning, during a circumcision procedure, a portion of the distal tip of the boy’s penis was inadvertently amputated, according to the statement from the attorneys.

The child was rushed to Children’s Memorial Hospital, where a pediatric urologist successfully re-attached it. Though he will be left with moderate scarring and is at risk for altered nerve sensation in the affected area, his penis should be fully functional, the statement said.

The trial began May 16 and ended Tuesday with the jury awarding the family $1,357,901.12, according to the statement.

“I’m sure that [the boy] will be grateful that this injury was not as devastating as it could have been,” attorney Timothy Tomasik of Tomasik Kotin Kasserman said in the statement. [He could have been even more grateful if his genitals had been simply left alone.] “But he will always be different, and that is something he has to live with for the rest of his life.”

Northwestern didn’t immediately comment on the case.

OSLO: Outrage over anti-cutting cartoon

Dagbladet (Norway, Bing translation)
May 29, 2013

Dagbladet comic strip aroused international attention

Artist Thomas Drefvelin says that the drawing is not directed towards a particular religion or particular peoples.

By Trude Ringheim

A comic strip printed in yesterday's Edition of Dagbladet, [drew attention from] several foreign media. Artist Thomas Drefvelin has drawn the [satirical strip].

Dagbladet cartoon - cutting off toes is OK if its tradition
 Abuse? No, this
is tradition! An
important aspect of our
Faith? Oh, then that
is all right!
Sorry for the

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz cites the Simon Wiesenthal Center that they perceive the drawing as anti-Semitic.
[The Wiesenthal Center denounced “the blood libel cartoon published in Dagbladet.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center... demanded that the Norwegian government condemn the cartoon.
“We call upon Norway’s leaders to denounce this incitement to hate and especially urge the ombudsman for children’s rights to denounce this outrageous denigration of a core Jewish rite dating back to the biblical times of Abraham,” Cooper said.
“This cartoon has crossed all lines of decency and is dripping with hate and anti-Semitism,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, in a statement. “We are now studying the possibility that this legally constitutes incitement and even a hate-crime and will therefore require legal action.”
The European Jewish Congress said it was “carefully considering” the option of legal action over the cartoon.
The Times of Israel, May 29, 2013]


Defending the drawing
Chief Editor of Dagbladet, John Arne Markussen, is aware that the drawing is of such a nature that it can be printed in Dagbladet.

-There is no doubt that the remedies here are powerful. But it is clearly an utterance that can pass in our columns, and in the public at large, "said Markussen and continues:

-We understand [the] drawing [and] suggest it is not about a specific faith or not. I also can't read from the drawing [whether] it's a boy or a girl we see here. But the way I see the drawing, there is an attempt by cartoonist to illustrate what he conceives of the practice of genital cutting, but it's not that he points to particular peoples or religions in [his] drawing, said Markussen.

[The woman is wearing a hat. Jewish women at religious services do not.
The man is spearing the baby's forehead with a carving fork (not a "devil's pitchfork") reminscent of the Shi'ite custom during the festival of Ashura.
The book is unidentifiable, not (as some critics have said) a Torah or a Bible.
The baby's genitals remain covered, and its sex is unknown.
It is the toes that are being cut off.
It is being held down in a device reminiscent of a Circumstraint (TM) used for American traditional (pseudo-medical) circumcisions.

Frames no[t] special
Designer Tomas Drefvelin, who is the guest [cartoonist] of Today magazine stated abo[ut] criticism.

-Some reading things into the drawing that I did not have the character or expressed, he said.

-What is your intention?

- I was trying to make a parody of religion-but it is not a particular or a specific religion or a specific people I drew, it is neither a boy or a girl baby, just a child. The drawing has a serious topic.

General criticism of religion
-So what do you see?

-The whole point is [w]hat the first police officer says. Police officer says: "faith? Oh, Yes, but then it's okay. " Therein lies my point that draw. Religion gets away with the worst thing just using that quote. One says only that "this is tradition" and "this is religion" and so should it somehow be okay.

-What do you say to critics?

-I have no anti-Semitic attitudes. It can be seen by my overall production, that at the base of everything I do, [is] humanism and the defence of the individual human being. Under all the rough humour, there is a defense for man, individuals and especially for defenseless children.

-You take no criticism for [the cartoon]?

-I'd maybe parodied shapes in your drawing even more than I do, to emphasize that this is not specific to a particular religion.

-So this is not an attack on Jews?

-No. Jew hatred is reprehensible. This would never occur to me to draw a strip to create hatred against a people or against individuals. Let me repeat. My criticism of religions are generic, nothing else, "said [artist] Tomas Drefvelin.

Point to the cop
Also Chief Editor of Dagbladet, John Arne Markussen points to the policeman as the Central.

-The point in the drawing as we see it, the police officer and his statements, that if one of the actions refers to religion or tradition, so one can get away with a lot.

Markussen emphasizes:

-I perceive as the cartoonist said not intend going to the attack on any particular religion or special people. That's a key point here.

-Then the drawing is not anti-Semitic?

-No, it's not. Dagbladet is a liberal newspaper, our attitudes are so far from being anti-Semitic as it is possible. Anti-Semitism is absolutely reprehensible for Dagbladet, as also for the cartoonist, Markussen [said].

JOHANNESBURG: Circumcisors use one blade, risk HIV

IOL News
May 27, 2013

Cutting to truth about circumcision

by Lebogna Seale

Johannesburg - Inexperienced and bogus traditional surgeons are using a single razor blade to circumcise several initiates - exposing them to life-threatening diseases, including HIV/Aids.

This is just one of the shocking findings of an investigation by The Star into the deaths of at least 28 initiates in Mpumalanga since the start of the circumcision season on May 7.

Other harrowing stories that have emerged include those of botched circumcisions and drunk monitors.

The Mpumalanga deaths, which have drawn condemnation from around the country, occurred in the Nkangala district towns of Siyabuswa, KwaMhlanga, Verena, Kwaggafontein, Middelburg, Bethal and Evander.

The region falls under King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele people. At least six more initiates have died in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district.

At a media briefing in KwaMhlanga on Friday, MEC for Health Candith Mashego-Dlamini said post-mortem results had shown the initiates died of haemorrhage, hypothermia and unnatural causes.

She laid the blame squarely on about 30 unauthorised traditional leaders.


Circumcision is part of ingoma, a ritual that boys go through to reach manhood.

... the circumcision rituals ... will end on July 7.


“There are many individuals who are not traditional surgeons or traditional doctors going about circumcising these boys,” said one doctor.

“They are just ordinary people whose fathers used to be well-known traditional surgeons. They think it (traditional surgery) is a birthright. It’s not.

There are those among them who use one razor (to circumcise many boys). They are just after money. ...

Two medical personnel corroborated claims of botched circumcisions saying these were as a result of unauthorised traditional surgeons performing them under pressure of tight deadlines.... the doctor said he could see about 150 within one-and-a-half hours, on average.

The Star understands the issues of workload and deadlines was among those discussed at Friday’s meeting.

Ikosi Willem “VW” Mahlangu, the leader of the Ndzundza Fene Traditional Council ... [said "]I communicate with the amakhosana and they tell me that everything is fine.

“I only realised after the deaths that all is not right.”

He added that alcohol abuse among some parents and amakhosana could also be a contributing factor.


Ingoma Forum chairman Musa Thugwana confirmed that botched circumcisions were among the factors responsible for the fatalities.


Earlier story

Saturday, May 25, 2013

MEDFORD, OREGON: Mainstream TV mentions circumcision deaths, risks, profit motive

May 23, 2013

Intactness goes mainstream

by Hugh Young

Intactivism took a step forward with the broadcast on a mainstream TV channel of a programme detailing the risks and harms of circumcision. On May 22, KOBI TV (NBC) broadcast "Circumcision Secrets" including an interview with Jennifer Margulis, author of "The Business of Baby" in which she mentioned - for perhaps the first time - the risk of death from circumcision.

Koeby Johnson is perhaps the first father on mainstream media to say that he is circumcised but has left his sons intact.

The figure of 117 circumcision deaths/year in the USA is speculative, but conservative. A study in Brazil suggests a US death rate of 156/year.

In Part 2, Jennifer Margulis mentions - again for perhaps the first time on mainstream media - botched circumcisions and the profit motive in circumcision.

BARCELONA: Gambian parents jailed for cutting daughters

The Telegraph
May 23, 2013

Gambian parents jailed in Spain for circumcising daughters

by Fiona Govan, Madrid

In what is believed to be the toughest sentence in Europe to date for parents who allowed genital mutilation on their daughters, Binta Sankano and her husband Sekou Tutay, were sentenced to six years for each crime against their young daughters.

A panel of judges at the Provincial Court in Barcelona ruled that the parents, both of Gambian nationality and resident in Spain for 20 years, were criminally responsible for the clitoridectomy performed on both their daughters.

"The couple deliberately mutilated their young daughters either directly or through a person of unknown identity," said the written judgement. "Female circumcision is not a culture. It is mutilation and discrimination against women."

The case came to light when doctors examined the girls in January 2011 and discovered that both had undergone a procedure of female genital mutilation during a period of six months since their last examination. They were aged six and 11 at the time.

It is one of the first such cases to be successfully prosecuted in Spain because despite not knowing exactly when or who carried out the procedures it was proven that they must have occurred on Spanish soil and not on a visit to Gambia and that the parents were aware it was illegal.

The parents accepted in court that the family had not travelled from their home in Villanova I la Gertru, a small town 25 miles south of Barcelona, to Gambia since 2009.

Social services had visited the parents in 2008 and discussed the issue of female circumcision.

"On that occasion the woman made a promise as a mother not to undertake such a practice on her daughters," the court ruling stated.

Both parents denied knowledge of their daughters having undergone any procedure and Sankano insisted that she was not aware that such a practice was illegal in Spain.

The written judgement observed the "inevitable clash of cultures" that occurs with migration but said: "Respect for cultural traditions must be limited against the respect for human rights as universally recognised."

There are no reliable figures for how many female circumcisions take place in Spain each year.

SOUTH AFRICA: 33 die from circumcision

May 22, 2013

33 men 'die in South African circumcision ceremonies'

by Aislinn Laing

As many as 33 young men are now thought to have died over two weeks in one province of South Africa as they took part in traditional initiation ceremonies that included circumcision and extreme survival tests.

Police have confirmed that they have opened murder investigations into all but one of the deaths in northern Mpumalanga province, which President Jacob Zuma described as a "massive and unnecessary loss of young life".

Tens of thousands of young South Africans take part in traditional initiation ceremonies each year where circumcision is normally performed by traditional healers.

Although fatalities during the winter ceremony season are not uncommon, the high toll has prompted calls for a public inquiry into the policing of the traditional schools and their care of initiates.

Just over half of South African men undergo circumcision, which has been promoted by the government as key in the fight against HIV/Aids.

Around half of those do so aged 10 to 15 as part of traditional initiation ceremonies, which generally last around three weeks and former president Nelson Mandela described in his autobiography as "a kind of spiritual preparation for the trials of manhood."

What exactly goes on during the ceremonies is shrouded in mystery, but initiates are often painted with red clay and spend long periods of living in the bush, often with little or no clothes. Some are given herbal concoctions to drink.

In the past, deaths during initiation have been caused by botched circumcisions, infection and loss of blood, or by dehydration and hypothermia.

The highest previous death toll from initiations in Mpumalanga province was reported to be eight.

Lt Col Leonard Hlathi, a police spokesman, said autopsies were still being conducted on the Mpumalanga fatalities but added that the one initiate for whom an inquest had been opened had complained of stomach pains and vomiting.

Despite suggestions that the initiates might have died at rogue schools set up by unlicensed operators seeking to make money, he said that they all occurred at officially-recognised sites where doctors were normally present.

He confirmed that police had never previously investigated initiates' deaths, but added: "We are talking about lives here that we have lost in a space of two weeks. It's too many."

Dr Wilson Makgalancheche, head of the country's National House of Traditional Leaders, said some schools failed to conduct health checks on initiates when they arrived, and some brought along younger siblings who were not ready to take part.

He said there was no question of initiations being banned. "It's a cultural practice embedded in people's lives and they feel that without these practices, they might cease to exist," he said. "The important thing is for them to be better policed and updated to fit with modern life."

Mr Zuma, a Zulu traditionalist who has spoken openly about his own circumcision for health reasons, called for "swift justice" for those responsible for the deaths.

"It cannot be acceptable that every time young men reach this crucial time in their development, their lives are culled in the most painful of ways, in the care of circumcision schools," he said.

Earlier story

SOUTH AFRICA: 29 die: ANC wants faster inquiry

May 23, 2013

S. Africa's ANC Criticizes Circumcision Investigation

by Franz Wild

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress criticized the slow pace of a police investigation into the death of 35 young men during traditional initiation ceremonies.

Twenty-nine boys and young men 13 years to 21 years old died in the eastern Mpumalanga province during this year’s rituals that involve circumcisions, police spokesman Colonel Leonard Hlati said in a phone interview today. Another six died in the northern Limpopo province, according to the ANC.

“While we are fully supportive of the practice of initiation, we believe it should not be a death sentence to so many young people,” the ANC said in an e-mailed statement today. [So how many should it be a death sentence for?]

Every year, thousands of boys participate in initiation ceremonies in South Africa, where they undergo a series of trials as a rite of passage into manhood.

In 2009 and 2010, 145 boys died because of complications related to their circumcision, and another 1,200 were hospitalized, according to a 2010 report by the Johannesburg-based Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, a government group.

Poorly carried out circumcisions can lead to infection and penile amputation, the report said.

The police are taking witness statements before turning the case over to the National Prosecution Authority, Hlati said.

Parliament’s health committee said the deaths were unnecessary and questioned whether correct procedures were taken during the circumcisions.

“Initiates are supposed to undergo tests to establish whether or not they are in good condition to be circumcised,” the lawmakers said in a statement this week. “There must also be provision of medical support in case of emergencies at the initiation schools.”

Earlier story

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

COLOGNE: Two law professors slam German law

J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-101284
May 22, 2013

Law Professors slam circumcision law

Two law professors, at the Universities of Hamburg and Passau, have published a joint paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics, slamming a law passed by the Bundestag last year. That law, pushed through under considerable pressure from religious interests, undermined an important determination of the Cologne District Court that infant circumcision is bodily harm.

After Cologne: male circumcision and the law. Parental right, religious liberty or criminal assault?
by Reinhard Merkel and Holm Putzke

Non-therapeutic circumcision violates boys’ right to bodily integrity as well as to self-determination. There is neither any verifiable medical advantage connected with the intervention nor is it painless nor without significant risks. Possible negative consequences for the psychosexual development of circumcised boys (due to substantial loss of highly erogenous tissue) have not yet been sufficiently explored, but appear to ensue in a significant number of cases. According to standard legal criteria, these considerations would normally entail that the operation be deemed an ‘impermissible risk’—neither justifiable on grounds of parental rights nor of religious liberty: as with any other freedom right, these end where another person's body begins. Nevertheless, after a resounding decision by a Cologne district court that non-therapeutic circumcision constitutes bodily assault, the German legislature responded by enacting a new statute expressly designed to permit male circumcision even outside of medical settings. We first criticise the normative foundations upon which such a legal concession seems to rest, and then analyse two major flaws in the new German law which we consider emblematic of the difficulty that any legal attempt to protect medically irrelevant genital cutting is bound to face.

Earlier story

SOUTH AFRICA: 27 die from circumcision

No, circumcision is to blame.

May 21, 2013

Local leader blames negligence in S. Africa circumcision deaths

JOHANNESBURG — Negligence is to blame for some of the 27 deaths of young males who died while undergoing ritual circumcision, a local traditional leader said Tuesday.

The death toll during the procedures -- part of traditional rites of passage into manhood -- on Friday climbed to 27, police said.

South African police last week said they had launched a series of murder inquiries into the matter and President Jacob Zuma has called on them to move faster in their investigation and arrest the culprits.

The latest four deaths occurred on Friday in the northeastern Mpumalanga province.

"We have proven that there was some negligence," Kgoshi Mathibela Mokoena, head of the traditional leaders in the provincial parliament told AFP.

He said preliminary findings showed that some of the 30,000 males currently undergoing the circumcision rites, had developed complications but were not administered proper after-care after they were left in the hands of inexperienced young men.

After conducting the procedures, some of the circumcisers left and returned to the secluded bushy sites, hours later, some of them drunk.

Other people suffered from dehydration as it was established some of the 200 odd sites dotted across the province lacked clean drinking water.

Despite the escalating death toll, police are yet to make arrests almost two weeks after the first death occurred on May 8.

"There is a huge amount of investigation, it's not a question of arresting but doing the right things during the investigation," said police spokesman Leonard Hlathi, dismissing fears some of the perpetrators may flee.

Police have so far launched series of murder inquests into the deaths of the boys and young men aged between 13 and 20 years, but Zuma said they were not acting fast enough.

"While we welcome action taken by police so far in opening murder dockets, we wish to urge them to ensure swift justice for the families and that those responsible for the deaths are brought to book without delay", he said in a statement.

The country is "outraged at this massive and unnecessary loss of young life at the hands of those who are supposed to nurture and protect them," said the president.

Ritual circumcision is common among South Africa's ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele ethnic groups.

Deaths at the so-called initiation schools in South Africa are common, with several hundred cases recorded in recent years due to bleeding and infections.

Boys spend around a month in secluded bush or mountains sites for the sessions that also include lessons on the virtues of masculine courage and discipline.

Monday, May 20, 2013

ZIMBABWE: Men not accepting circumcision

The Standard (Zimbabwe)
May 19, 2013

Resistance hinders circumcision programme

by Moses Chibaya

The government set an ambitious target to circumcise three million men by the end of 2015, in its bid to reduce HIV infections in the country.

But to date, only 8% of the target population has been reached, less than two years before the deadline.

United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) country director, Tatiana Shomiliana, said there was need to re-strategise so that more young people can be mobilised for the circumcision programme.

She said while resources had been availed to circumcise over 100 000 males in 2012 alone, far less than half the target was achieved.

“An analysis is going on. We are trying to understand why. Do we target wrong people? Do we message wrongly?” Shomiliana said.

She said wrong packaging of messages was contributing to the poor response to the programme. Shomiliana cited the message “Be a winner, get circumcised” which she said does not clearly bring out what it is that one would be winning by getting circumcised.


SOUTH AFRICA: Woman who won't challenge fatal tradition "should be sacked"

ENCA (South Africa)
May 18, 2013

MEC in hot water for circumcision comments

MPUMALANGA - The Mpumalanga Health MEC should be fired over her circumcision comments, according to the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union.

Candith Mashedo-Dlamini last week said tradition forbids her (as a woman) to get involved in the deaths of 23 young men who lost their lives at the start of the circumcision season in Mpumalanga.

Nehawu says the MEC's reluctance to take action amounts to a dereliction of duty.

It's the second organisation to condemn the MEC’s comments.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor on Friday lashed out at the lack of adequate safety measures at circumcision schools.

“This is a tradition... this is a tradition... so in other traditions whether there are deaths or what - but a woman can't come closer to that. But because there are police now, we're relying on the police so that they can give us reports," Mashedo-Dlamini said.

Nehawu commented that it was proof that Mashego-Dlamini was completely out of her depth - and did not deserve the responsibility of running health issues in the province.

Sizwe Palma, Nehawu spokesperson, said: "23 people have died, lives have been lost, families have lost their loved ones, and yet the only thing that the MEC could offer was that there's nothing she could do because of tradition and culture! It's unacceptable... The laws and the human rights in this country are more important than any other religion, any other culture or any other tradition for that matter. So the MEC has failed in her responsibilities, she needs to go."

Pamla said the ruling party’s silence on this matter was also concerning.

"The people of South Africa deserve better... the ANC-led government has to [be accountable for] the people of South Africa. So we expect the national Cabinet to act, we expect the ANC itself to condemn this and then take steps to show that it really cares about the people of this country," Palma said.

However, traditional authorities in Mpumalanga said that only God knew who was going to die and when.

"It is recklessness, it is irresponsible of anyone to be using God... when man-made actions and man-made methods have resulted in the deaths of these young people," Palma reacted.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor demanded that the custodian of tradition in Mpumalanga, king Mabhoko, apologise to parents who lost their sons.

Earlier story

Saturday, May 18, 2013

SOUTH CAROLINA: Parents want child's sex assignment surgery case to set precedent

Post and Courier (South Carolina)
May 15, 2013

Parents sue MUSC, others for performing 'unnecessary' sex-assignment surgery on baby

by Lauren Sausser

Premature twin babies were born in Greenville on Nov. 20, 2004, each weighing less than 2 pounds.

What is intersex?
Intersex, or disorders of sexual development, encompasses a variety of “conditions that lead to atypical development of physical sex characteristics,” according to the American Psychological Association.
In layman's terms, many babies with intersex conditions are born with genitalia that resemble some combination of male and female reproductive organs.
The American Psychological Association and the Intersex Society of North America acknowledge that it's hard to determine how many babies are born with intersex conditions, because the government does not track those statistics.
“Here's what we do know: If you ask experts at medical centers how often a child is born so noticeably atypical in terms of genitalia that a specialist in sex differentiation is called in, the number comes out to about 1 in 1,500 to 1 in 2,000 births,” the society's website said.

Weeks after their birth, the twins' mother stopped visiting them in the hospital. She was nearly impossible to reach by phone, a Department of Social Services report noted. Their father wasn't around either, but the worst wasn't over yet.

One of the twins, a girl, eventually died. The second child, called M.C. in court records to protect his identity, spent 21/2 months in the Greenville Hospital System. The infant posed experts with a medical mystery. Doctors couldn't figure out if the baby was a boy or a girl.

On Tuesday, the Columbia couple who eventually adopted M.C. from state custody in 2006 filed what might be a one-of-a-kind lawsuit against the Medical University of South Carolina, DSS and the Greenville Hospital System. They say the defendants carried out an “irreversible, painful and medically unnecessary” sex-assignment operation on their son before he was old enough to choose a gender himself.

M.C. was born with a rare intersex condition called ovotesticular disorder of sexual development. It affects only one out of every 83,000 babies, the Intersex Society of North America estimates. He had parts of the male and female reproductive systems.

Court papers say physicians alternatively identified M.C. as male and female in medical records. There was no clear indication that the child was more male than female, or vice versa, at the time of the surgery in Charleston, the lawsuit alleges.

Surgeons removed evidence of M.C.'s male reproductive organs when he was 16 months old, but it is not clear why doctors ultimately decided on assigning the child as a female. Medical records included in the lawsuit show that physicians working with M.C. indicated there “was no compelling reason that she should be either male or female.”

The Crawfords initially raised M.C. as a girl, although, “It became clearer and clearer over time that he was letting us know that his gender was a boy,” Pam Crawford said in a telephone interview.

For example, he played with typical “boy toys,” wore boy clothes and always dressed up as a superhero for Halloween, his mother said.

Now, “M.C. is living as a boy with the support of his family, friends, school, religious leaders and pediatrician,” according to court records. He is in first grade. The Crawfords filed the medical malpractice lawsuit Tuesday morning in Richland County Common Pleas Court.

A separate federal lawsuit was filed in Charleston, alleging that M.C.'s constitutional “procedural due process rights to bodily integrity, privacy, procreation and liberty” were violated. The federal lawsuit names MUSC Drs. Ian Aaronson and Yaw Appiagyei-Dankah as defendants, as well as Dr. James Amrhein of Greenville Hospital System and former DSS Director Kim Aydlette.

Meredith Williams, Candi Davis, Mary Searcy, all DSS employees involved with M.C.'s case, and three other unidentified DSS employees, are also named as defendants. The lawsuits seek unspecified damages.

MUSC and the Greenville Hospital System issued statements saying that the hospitals would not comment on the pending litigation. A call to the Department of Social Services was not returned.

The lawsuit does not specify who paid for the surgery but alleges that the three doctors named as defendants “formed the treatment team that ultimately urged SCDSS officials that M.C. undergo sex assignment surgery in order to make his body appear female.” At the time of the operation, the child was in custody of the state, which authorized the recommended procedure.

The Crawfords said they hope to set a legal precedent that sex-assignment operations should not be performed until a child is old enough to make a choice.

“His choice has been taken from him. It's too late for our child. We want it to stop for other children,” Pam Crawford said.

Mark Crawford said the decision to make M.C.'s operation public wasn't easy, and the family is trying to protect their son's privacy during the court case.

“Developmentally, as appropriate, we'll try to explain these things. I think M.C. understands that his body was kind of in between male and female. ... I think he understands that's the way nature made him,” he said. “But when it comes to explaining surgery and lawsuits, that will have to wait.”

The lawsuit may be the first of its kind in the nation, according to lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group helping the Crawford family file the lawsuits.

Alison Piepmeier, director of Women's and Gender Studies at the College of Charleston, who is not involved in the Crawford case, said the lawsuits are evidence that gender-identity issues are being discussed more openly than ever before.

“There are a small but significant number of people born every year who are called intersex,” Piepmeier said. “What the experience that these folks show us is the categories that we assign — male and female — may be too limited.”

Earlier story

SOUTH AFRICA: 23 die from circumcision

Herald Sun
May 17, 2013

Ritual circumcision kills 23 in S Africa

SOUTH African police said they had launched a series of murder inquiries after 23 males died while undergoing circumcision during traditional rites of passage into manhood.

The 23 - aged between 13 and 21 - died in various places across the country's northeastern Mpumalanga province over the course of a week.

"We have opened 22 cases of murder and one of inquest," regional police spokesman Leonard Hlathi told AFP.

One of the deaths was labelled an inquest because the boy reportedly had an existing health condition.

There have been no arrests yet as police compile statements and await post-mortem results.

Ritual circumcision is common among South Africa's ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele ethnic groups.

Deaths at so-called initiation schools in South Africa are common, with several hundred cases recorded in recent years due to bleeding and infections.

Boys spend around a month in secluded bush or mountains areas for the sessions that also include lessons on the virtues of masculine courage and discipline.

There are usually two circumcision seasons - in winter during the months of May through July and in summer between November and December.

Government and the ruling African National Congress Party have expressed concern at the deaths which have nonetheless sparked little public outrage.

Government spokeswoman Phumla Williams called on the initiation schools "to ensure that precautionary health measures are exercised during this period to minimise illnesses and death".

Minister in The Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane said he was saddened by the loss of young lives.

The "loss of several young lives in Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country is regrettable," Chabane said this week.

Earlier story

SOUTH AFRICA: More than 20 die from circumcision

May 16, 2013

Over 20 South African boys die in circumcision rituals: police

by Jon Herskovitz, ed. Pascal Fletcher

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - More than 20 South African boys have died over the past week during coming of age rituals, police said on Thursday, and they blamed botched circumcisions as the likely cause of death.

Northern Mpumalanga province's police department has opened 22 murder cases but no arrests have been made so far, spokesman Colonel Leonard Hlathi said.

Every year in South Africa, boys aged 10 to 15 years from several of the country's tribal groups are circumcised in traditional "initiation rituals". The ceremonies usually take place over a number of weeks in remote rural areas.

Deaths are often caused by blood loss or infection when circumcisions are poorly performed by traditional practitioners. [The "poor performance" is a post-hoc judgement. Nobody checks how "well" the circumcisions were performed on the boys who didn't die.]

Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane this week called the recent deaths "regrettable".

"This has happened to young people who were still at their prime, looking forward to a brighter future where they could still reach their potential," he said in a statement.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Parents sue state over intersex child's assignment surgery

May 14, 2013

State sued over 'hermaphrodite' toddler's sex surgery

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) —A South Carolina couple is suing the state to challenge its decision to perform sexual-reassignment surgery on a toddler in its care who was born with both male and female internal sexual genitals.

Mark and Pam Crawford, adoptive parents of the now 8-year-old child, spoke to the media Tuesday morning about the lawsuits filed in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center in federal and state courts.

The Crawfords say the child was born with intersex condition, which means a person is born without sexual anatomy that fits the definition of a male or female.

The suit alleges the South Carolina Department of Social Services decided to perform "dangerous and mutilating surgery" in April, 2006 on the 16-month old to make the child a girl.

Named in the suit are the Department of Social Services, The Medical University of South Carolina, Greenville Health System and several other caregivers.

"Doctors decided to play God," said a SPLC representative Tuesday morning in front of the federal courthouse.

"It's too late for my son, but we want to put other doctors on notice," said Mark Crawford who noted the action was "drastic and permanent."

Pam Crawford said her son was operated on "simply to conform to society."

The Crawfords adopted the child, a few months after the surgery. They say he identifies himself as a boy to his pediatrician. Recently he asked for a boy's haircut and boy's clothing.

The lawsuit states doctors, acting as agents of defendant hospitals, performed the surgery for the purpose of "assigning" the child the female gender despite their own conclusion that the toddler "was a true hermaphrodite but there was no compelling reason that she should either be made male or female."

At birth, the child was identified as a male because of his external genitalia, but shortly after that doctors discovered the baby had "ambiguous genitals" and both male and female internal reproductive structures, according to the lawsuit.

Defendants decided to remove the child's healthy genital tissue and "radically restructure his reproductive organs in order to make his body appear to be female," the lawsuit states.

The suit filed in federal court alleges the defendants violates the child's right to privacy by deciding to go forward with the surgery. The state suit alleges medical malpractice and gross negligence.

According to the Intersex Society of North America, the condition is seen in approximately one in every 2,000 births.

The couple is suing for damages, but left the dollar amount up to the courts.

Attorneys said this may be the first lawsuit of its kind in the nation.

WISTV asked DSS for comment on the lawsuit, but they have not yet replied.

SWAZILAND: Circumcision plans go awry

May 13, 2013

Circumcision plans go awry in Swaziland

MBABANE, 13 May 2013 (IRIN) - It was an ambitious plan to circumcise the majority of men in Swaziland, an effort to reduce the risk of HIV transmission in a country with the world's highest HIV prevalence. How could it have gone wrong?

“First they told me that circumcision will not really protect me against HIV. Then they tell me that I cannot have sex for some weeks or months after circumcision. I told them ‘fusaki’ [get out]!” Eric Dlamini, a 22-year-old law student, told IRIN.

These views are at the heart of the failure of the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI) to achieve more than a fraction of its targeted goal, the circumcision of 80 percent of Swazi males between ages 15 and 49 within a year.

The programme, a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the US-based Futures Group, was launched in 2010, and extended to 30 March 2012 when initial efforts showed a failure to achieve targeted results. But only about 20 percent - or 32,000 - of the targeted demographic were circumcised through the programme.

US$15.5 million was spent on the programme, or $484 per circumcised male.

“We do not believe [ASI] was a failure but an additional prevention measure that is contributing to the overall combination efforts to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country,” US Embassy in Swaziland spokesperson Molly Sanchez Crowe told the local press.

Imposed from outside?
Male circumcision has been scientifically proven to reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse by as much as 60 percent. Follow-up studies have found that the effectiveness of male circumcision in HIV prevention is maintained for several years.

Government health officials, like Minister of Health Benedict Xaba and Khanya Mabuza, the acting director of the National Emergency Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA), have noted that ASI taught the country important lessons and left behind several clinics and other health infrastructure.

But a year after the programme ended, Swazi health officials are still trying to figure out what went wrong. Health workers, who spoke to IRIN on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that the programme was hastily implemented. They wondered why the short implementation time was not extended. Ending the programme, they fear, may suggest to international donors that the country is a hopeless cause.

“We have been struggling with HIV for 20 years, and we see programmes come and go. Some are fads... and some are not well thought out. The Swaziland programme came from the outside. The health ministry was willing to go along because there was money there. But it was imposed,” said Thandi Mduli, an HIV testing officer in Manzini.

Officials with health-oriented NGOs admitted to IRIN they are “terrified” of criticizing an initiative funded by the “mighty” US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and involving the global population control NGO Population Services International (PSI).

The ASI programme was an attempt to duplicate in Swaziland the circumcision successes seen in Kenya and other countries, without apparently doing the pre-campaign ground work. Kenya has carried out an estimated 477,000 circumcisions since its programme started in 2008, according to the government.

In 2011, UNAIDS and PEPFAR launched a five-year plan to have more than 20 million men in 14 eastern and southern African countries undergo medical male circumcision by 2015.

Reasons for failure
“There were a lot of issues involving male circumcision that were not properly explained to Swazi men, so they rejected it and they talked to their friends, and word of mouth was negative instead of positive. This is the opposite of what a campaign like this needs to work,” said NERCHA's Mabuza.

Other issues included unfamiliarity of the procedure. “When I heard I would still have to wear a condom, I said, ‘What is the point?’” said Samkelo Mduli, a university student.

A survey commissioned by the Futures Group in 2011 found that although there was a 91 percent awareness of circumcision, nationally, the largest barrier to circumcision was fear of pain. Other barriers included fear of something going wrong, and a general lack of understanding of the procedure.

Another reason for the rejection of circumcision was not anticipated by ASI promoters: belief in witchcraft, which is widespread in Swaziland. Criminals are known to seek “strengthening” potions made with human body parts. Killings associated with “ritual murder” routinely correspond with national elections. Victims, usually children or older people, are found with body parts missing. One attack made headlines in the Swazi press recently.

“That’s also what I wanted to know, and they wouldn’t tell me - what happens to my foreskin once it is cut off?” said Mduli.

Health Minister Xaba alluded to this when he told the Times of Swaziland, “Some men feared that the foreskin could end up in wrong hands, being used by some unscrupulous people for their ulterior motives.”

“This is embarrassing and nobody wants to talk about it,” said the programme director of a faith-based HIV/AIDS initiative in Manzini. “The circumcision initiative failed because of this arrogance on the part of its promoters. It would have been easy to be honest and explain to the Swazi men that their foreskins would be incinerated like all surgical refuse. But the promoters said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t talk about witchcraft. What will the donors say?’”

HIV Rates: Circumcised men21.8%
Intact men19.5%
Source: (p235, pdf p256)

SOUTH AFRICA: More than 15 die from circumcision

The New Age (South Africa)
May 12, 2013

More than 15 die at initiation school

by Sphiwe Masilela

WITH just a week spent at the bush, at least over 15 boys have died at this year’s winter school and various police departments have launched investigations following the death of young boys who wanted to be men.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson, Colonel Jay Naicker said Marian hill police were investigating a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after more than eight boys between underwent circumcision.

“We can confirm an incident that occurred where more than eight boys between the ages of 13 and 15 were allegedly circumcised without their parent’s consent in Milkyway Road, Dassenhoek,”

Colonel Leonard Hlathi, Mpumalanga police spokesperson said they were also investigating cases of inquest following the death of eight boys aged between 15 and 21, who died at the initiation schools around KwaMhlanga and Verena areas respectively.

“The incidents occurred on the 08th and 09th of May 2013, where four of the victims were admitted at the local hospital and died later. Two were certified dead on arrival whilst two at one of the initiation schools,” said Hlathi.

He said a probe has been launched in regard to this incidents and the post-mortem will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

“Police are also in the process of verifying whether the initiation schools were registered or not,” he added.

An 18-year-old boy from Dennilton also died at the initiation last Tuesday in Bronkhorstspruit.

It is alleged that the boy bled a lot and resulted in the death.

Police spokesperson, Constable Zanele Vilakazi said: “An Inquest docket has been opened at the Bronkhorstspruit Police station and further investigations conducted to determine the cause of death. It is alleged that the young man was circumcised on Monday night and his body recovered in the early hours of Tuesday morning,” added Vilakazi.

No arrests have been made.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

COLOGNE, etc: Demonstrations mark court ruling

May 7, 2013

Demonstrations mark anniversary of Cologne court ruling

Demonstrations were held in widely-scattered places today to mark the first anniversary of the historic Cologne court ruling that infant circumcision is a breach of human rights.

That decision was subsequently undermined (but not overthrown) by a law pushed through under pressure from religious interests, allowing non-therapeutic circumcision.

In Cologne, German Pediatric Society President Dr. Wolfram Hartmann addressed a crowd outside the court where the decision had been handed down:

in English and German

In London, Men Do Complain demonstrated outside the German Embassy:

Demonstrations were also held in Chicago, Houston and New Orleans.

LEXINGTON, KY: Intact men more likely to use condoms

Intact men use condoms more, and more confidently

This paper is also ground-breaking using the word "intact".

Int J STD AIDS. 2013 Mar 20. [Epub ahead of print] A comparison of condom use perceptions and behaviours between circumcised and intact men attending sexually transmitted disease clinics in the United States.

Crosby R, Charnigo RJ.

This investigation compared circumcised and intact (uncircumcised) men attending sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics on condom perceptions and frequencies of use. Men (N = 316) were recruited from public clinics in two US states. Circumcision status was self-reported through the aid of diagrams. Intact men were less likely to report unprotected vaginal sex (P < 0.001), infrequent condom use (P = 0.02) or lack of confidence to use condoms (P = 0.049). The bivariate association between circumcision status and unprotected sex was moderated by age (P < 0.001), recent STD acquisition (P < 0.001) and by confidence level for condom use (P < 0.001). The bivariate association between circumcision status and infrequent condom use was also moderated by age (P = 0.002), recent STI acquisition (P = 0.02) and confidence level (P = 0.01). Multivariate findings supported the conclusion that intact men may use condoms more frequently and that confidence predicts use, suggesting that intervention programmes should focus on building men's confidence to use condoms, especially for circumcised men.

PMID: 23514832 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

ISRAEL: Intactivist group spreads the word in Hebrew

May 2, 2013

Israeli Intactivist group produces Hebrew materials

Gonnen, an Israeli Intactivist group, has produced stickers and postcards in Hebrew:
1. (card, front)

Brit Mila Gluya front
[a double entendre in Hebrew]

On normal skin the size of the foreskin there are 50 nerve endings. In the foreskin, there are 1000 nerve endings.

There are risks and complications in the cutting of the foreskin. Some of the problems are only revealed in adolescence. Some people are not aware that they were damaged and think it's normal.
Removal of the foreskin is no guarantee for social acceptance.

1. (card, back)

Brit Milah Gluya - back
"In the natural state, the corona within the foreskin is protected as an internal organ, moist like the eye. In infancy, the foreskin is connected to the organ and protects it. An organ without the foreskin is exposed to infection.
Many of the circumcised require corrective surgery to widen the urethral opening under full anesthetic.

Following the removal of the foreskin, the psychology of sexual relations is changed.
Sexual intercourse with a foreskin is gentler, more sensitive, and more satisfying.
For additional details, visit 'Gonen on the child'
and in the forum 'Passing on Brit Milah' on Tapuz.

2. (sticker)

Brit Mila sticker
Circumcision = Abuse

3. (sticker)

Kol Mila sticker
I am against circumcision
and any unnecessary word
[a double entendre in Hebrew]

4. (sticker)

Pipi Good sticker
The association for the abolition of circumcision.

5. (sticker)

Yehudi lo sticker
The association for the abolition of circumcision

- translation by Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon

PAPUA NIU GINI: Women deplore circumcision

Papua Niu Gini: Women Deplore Circumcision

Sage Journals
Qual Health Res February 2013 vol. 23 no. 2 180-193

Why Women Object to Male Circumcision to Prevent HIV in a Moderate-Prevalence Setting
Angela Kelly, Martha Kupul, Herick Aeno, Patti Shih, Richard Naketrumb, James Neo, Lisa Fitzgerald, John M. Kaldor, Peter M. Siba, Andrew Vallely

Adult male circumcision has been shown to reduce the transmission of HIV. Women’s acceptability of male circumcision is important in Papua New Guinea’s preparedness to introduce male circumcision, and in ethical considerations of its use as a biomedical technology for HIV prevention. We conducted 21 focus group discussions and 18 in-depth interviews with women in all four regions of Papua New Guinea. The majority of women objected to the introduction of male circumcision for three main reasons: circumcision would result in sexual risk compensation; circumcision goes against Christian faith; and circumcision is a new practice that is culturally inappropriate. A minority of women accepted male circumcision for the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and for the benefit of penile hygiene and health. Women’s objections to circumcision as a biomedical method of preventing HIV reemphasize the importance of sociocultural and behavioral interventions in Papua New Guinea.

NEW ORLEANS: Intact America confronts Ob/Gyns at their conference

Intact America
May 4, 2013

Intact America Pickets Ob/Gyn Conference

Intact America's mobile banner at the ACOG conference, 2013
Intact America's mobile banner at the ACOG conference

Genital autonomy activists have gathered in New Orleans to call on the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to join the global medical community’s movement away from neonatal male circumcision.

Intact America held a press conference, placed an advertisement in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and used a mobile billboard, saying “Tell America’s Obstetricians – No More Circumcision.” The sign includes the message “His Body, His Rights” to underscore the organization’s human rights concerns. Approximately 70 activists were expected to take part in the demonstration, displaying banners, carrying placards, and handing out literature

Executive director Georganne Chapin said, "The leaders of ACOG apparently do not think their members – who, according to estimates, perform at least half of the one million circumcisions in the United States on unconsenting baby boys each year – should hear the arguments that have led medical authorities across the developed world to reject the surgery as unnecessary, inherently risky, and a violation of baby boys’ right to an intact body."

The ACOG rejected IA's application to rent space for an educational booth in the convention’s exhibition hall, saying male circumcision “is only indirectly related to women’s health and of only casual interest to members of ACOG.” So Chapin decided Intact America should communicate with ACOG directly.

“It is both sad and disingenuous that ACOG claims circumcision is of no interest to the very doctors who perform the surgery hundreds of thousands of times each year,” Chapin said. “It is also not surprising they have embraced the widely-discredited 2012 circumcision policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)." That policy "lauded the benefits of circumcising infants, while admitting that evidence for such benefits is lacking, acknowledging that the risks have never been adequately studied, and ignoring the ethical problems inherent in permanently removing normal genital tissue from individuals who cannot consent.”

The AAP’s policy was endorsed by ACOG. In contrast, IA endorses the view of 38 international pediatricians, urologists and medical ethicists, whose response to the AAP is published in the its own journal, Pediatrics

“There is growing consensus… that physicians should discourage parents from circumcising their healthy infant boys,” the physicians say, “because non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys in Western societies has no compelling health benefits, causes postoperative pain, can have serious long-term consequences, constitutes a violation of the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and conflicts with the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere: First, do no harm.”

“Intact America’s intent for this demonstration in New Orleans,” said Chapin, “is to make sure ACOG hears and understands the ethical quagmire they have put themselves into.”