Friday, March 20, 2015

LONDON: Consented female genital piercing is mutilation

The elephant in the room is now trumpetting loudly, while the Double Standard flies high.

BBC News
March 18, 2015

Vagina piercings count as FGM, even if you're a consenting adult

by Amelia Butterly
All women who have a pierced vagina will be classified as having suffered female genital mutilation (FGM), the Department of Health says.

Even if an adult consents to having it done, she will still be said to have undergone a "harmful procedure".

The Department of Health says it'll take "every precaution" to record "abusive" genital piercings.

But the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Union (TPIU) has told Newsbeat body piercing is "in no way related" to FGM.

"It undermines the serious nature of FGM to in any way compare it to a consensual body piercing. FGM is often carried out on minors by force and clearly without consent," says spokesman Marcus Henderson.

More than 200 FGM-related cases were investigated by the police nationally in the past five years.
The government advises you to contact the NSPCC if you or someone you know is worried about FGM - and if there is immediate risk you should tell the police.

"Most responsible piercers won't do any intimate piercings on anyone under the age of 18," says Mr Henderson.

"Now we're faced with a situation where men are able to make up their mind and consent to an intimate piercing where women are not."

One London-based professional piercer, who wanted to remain anonymous, says his customers do not consider genital piercings to be at all similar to FGM.

"It's nothing to do with mutilation," he says. "I think [piercing] is more to do with adornment of the body or the discovery of new sensations."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "While there are challenges in this area and adult women may have genital piercings, in some communities girls are forced to have them.
"The World Health Organisation has quite rightly defined this as a form of FGM.

The government has said it has no plans to amend the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 to specifically include cosmetic surgery on the genitals.

In its report the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs said the Act should be changed to make it clear these procedures would be a criminal offence if done on girls under 18, unless for mental or physical health reasons.

Earlier story

LONDON: FGC law should outlaw "designer vaginas" - MPs

The Guardian
March 14, 2015

Outlaw 'designer vagina' surgery, say MPs

Home affairs committee says FGM Act should be expanded to cover cosmetic procedures that have no medical purpose, though government says this is already covered in law
by Alexandra Topping
Genital surgery to create so-called “designer vaginas” should be outlawed under legislation designed to prevent female genital mutilation, according to a group of MPs.

A report from the home affairs select committee has called the laws governing female genital cosmetic surgery ambiguous and said the 2003 FGM law must be changed so it covers the procedures, which have no medical purpose.

“We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted on Harley Street,” said Keith Vaz, the chairman of the select committee.
[Strictly speaking, cosmetic surgery is already outlawed in England under the  Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2003: (2)But no offence is committed by an approved person who performs—
  (a)a surgical operation on a girl which is necessary for her physical or mental health..
- because it is a stretch to say that a "designer vagina"  is "necessary for her ... mental health"]
The government has previously stated that the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 does not contain any exemption for cosmetic surgery, and it had no plans to amend the act. But “evidence demonstrates that the police, midwives and campaigners would all like to see greater clarity on this point,” stated the report.

The select committee also risked creating a diplomatic spat with the Royal Colleges – which represent medical professionals – accusing their members of not doing enough “to encourage their members to report cases of FGM”.

The report notes that in Heartlands hospital in Birmingham, 1,500 cases of FGM were recorded over the past five years, with doctors seeing six patients who have undergone the procedure each week. “There seems to be a chasm between the amount of reported cases and the lack of prosecutions,” it says. “Someone, somewhere is not doing their job effectively.”

The first ever FGM case was brought to trial this year, but in February the NHS doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena, 32, was acquitted in less than 30 minutes amid claims that the Crown Prosecution Service had brought the case because of political pressure.

Given the failure of the prosecution, there may be an “even greater reluctance” to report, the study said, but it urged the Royal College of GPs to give training to every doctor about FGM: “Doctors are on the front line. Their professional organisations must do more to encourage their members to report cases of FGM. Without their active reporting of these cases, the full extent of FGM will remain hidden.”

Decrying the prevalence of FGM in the UK and the lack of prosecutions, the report accused the Crown Prosecution Service, police and health professionals of playing pass the parcel.

“The DPP informed the committee that she could only prosecute on the basis of evidence, the police said that they could only investigate on the basis of referral, and the health professionals told us that they could not refer cases because their members were not fully trained and aware of the procedure,” it states. “While agencies play pass the parcel of responsibility, young girls are being mutilated every hour of every day. This is deplorable.”

The select committee welcomed the government’s decision to make reporting FGM mandatory, but said it remained unclear what would happen in the event that a professional should fail to make a report. It called on the government to set out the sanctions that would apply and establish an advisory panel of FGM campaigners, to be consulted before any major policy decisions are taken.

Equality Now, a campaign group, said the focus should not be on prosecution, but prevention.

“Mandatory reporting should go hand-in-hand with mandatory training of those professionals who have a child safeguarding obligation,” said Mary Wandia, the FGM programme manager at Equality Now. “Such training is urgently needed and is the next step. It should come before holding those people to account.”

SOUTH AFRICA: Successful (?) penis penis transplant after botch

The Guardian
March 13, 2015

Man gets world's first successful penis transplant after botched circumcision

by David Smith in Johannesburg

A 21-year-old man in South Africa has received the world’s first successful penis transplant and accepts the organ as his own, doctors said on Friday.

The operation took a team of surgeons nine hours and has allowed the patient to become sexually active.

The man’s penis was amputated three years ago after a circumcision went wrong at a traditional initiation ceremony. The patient, who has not been named, received the new organ from a deceased donor on 11 December and has regained all functions.

Professor Andre van der Merwe, head of the urology division at Stellenbosch University, whose staff carried out the operation at Tygerberg hospital in Cape Town, said the recipient is doing “extremely well” both physically and psychologically.

“The patient accepted the penis as his own,” he told the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA). “He told me in no uncertain terms that the fact it belonged to somebody else is completely out of his mind and he’s moved on with this as his own penis. That’s absolutely the way we want it.”


“We repaired a small hole in his urethra, the pee pipe, last week so we could remove his catheter and just that induced an erection on the operating table. We were so surprised at that erection that he certainly is getting very good results for his transplant.”

Van der Merwe described the groundbreaking operation as “very, very difficult”. He told eNCA: “What we did was to manage the small blood vessels in the penis, which are really only a little bit more than a millimetre wide, to existing blood vessels in the abdomen that has come down, and we could connect that up.

“So many things could have gone wrong. Actually one of the blood vessels did clot up for a few hours. We could relieve the clot, thankfully.”

Immediately after the operation there was an “oozing” that led to bleeding, he continued. “We were dealing with infection and clot formation and bleeding. That was the most difficult thing initially.”

But the patient is “a very fit young man” and making “a good recovery”.

...the South African man and his partner are coping well, according to Van der Merwe. “Huge psychological effects. If you add an organ you make a ripple effect on somebody’s ego, you can even induce psychosis …

... bogus surgeons are blamed every year for numerous deaths and injuries, including gangrene caused by unsterilised blades. Experts estimate that around 250 lose their penises each year to medical complications.

“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world,” Van der Merwe said in a statement. “For a young man of 18 or 19 years, the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men.” ...

But not so fast:

March 13, 2015

The Penis Transplant Is Not A Breakthrough Yet

by Benjamin Davis

The news of the first penile transplantation washed across Twitter  feeds this morning and the usual casually assertive statements were made. One of the surgeons involved in the operation even trumpeted the results as “a massive breakthrough” in a press release from his institution.

Allow me to deflate the party somewhat on this “breakthrough.” As described, the surgeons sewed very small nerves and vessels together. This is done every day, in every hospital in the US (think vasectomy reversal). There is nothing surgically novel about sewing two ends of a urethra together or really small blood vessels either for that matter (remember that John Wayne Bobbitt’s severed penis was sewn back on relatively quickly).

But long-term function is a different — and major –  issue. The penis in question has only been functioning for a few months. It is the long-term function that is important, particularly in light of the fact that rejection of transplanted organs often takes years, not months. Would the headlines be different if the patient loses his penis next month? Or if he develops a post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, which is commonly deadly?

The good news: The patient appears to be doing well and has erections. ...  One media misconception laid to rest: If he had a 1 cm penis to begin with (as described) then his ability to orgasm and ejaculate were already preserved. It is the erection and urinary ability that is new.

But similar, albeit perhaps more strident sentiments, were expressed when the first double-hand transplant and face transplant patients were announced. And how is that going? Well, I would say extremely slowly but with some limited success....

My larger concern for these patients is that most of these young men whom the operation could be helpful for are not living in medically accessible regions. As outlined by reports from the CRL Commission in South Africa, over 500,000 men were hospitalized from ritual circumcisions.

Transplanting the penis was the easy part. Taking care of it will be the really hard part. Transplant patients need constant blood work, medication changes, biopsies, and exams (remember the first hand transplant patient refused to take his meds – and his hand was removed). For patient’s who live in remote areas of the world with limited medical care a penis transplant is not going to help and unlikely to be a common procedure in the future. Sorry. I wish I thought differently.

IOWA: "Taunting doesn't make males want to be cut": study

KDAL radio
March 10, 2015

Surgery may not stop locker-room taunts about penis appearance

by Madeline Kennedy
(Reuters Health) - Surgery to change penis appearance may not do much to stop locker-room teasing in high school, a new study suggests.

The urologists who conducted the study say parents who bring their young sons to be circumcised - or to get rid of some leftover foreskin after a circumcision - often say they're worried that their child may be teased later in life because of the appearance of his penis.

“We were looking to find out if the parents’ concerns about teasing in the locker room were valid,” said Dr. Chris Cooper, the study’s senior author from the University of Iowa.

As reported this month in The Journal of Urology, the researchers surveyed 290 undergraduate men at the University of Iowa about their high school gym classes and sports and any teasing they witnessed or experienced in the locker rooms.

Overall, 47 percent had seen others being teased about their penises - usually on a weekly basis.
Penis size was the reason for 83 percent of the taunts, the researchers found. A third of taunts focused on not being circumcised or having a “strange” looking penis.  [So which is it? The two are not synonyms - and what do they propose to do about the strange-lloking penises - especially the ones whose strangeness is dure to a botched circumcision?]

Only 10 percent of the students reported actually being teased themselves, but Cooper said that may be an underestimate. Again, though, penis size and being uncircumcised were commonly to blame for the teasing.

The vast majority of the college students in the survey were circumcised, the researchers write. There was no difference between the uncircumcised and circumcised groups when the students were asked if they wished their penis had a different appearance. [But there is a big difference in the practicability of changing it, so the question is hardly equivalent in the two groups.]

The researchers found that the experience of being teased or witnessing teasing also did not have a significant effect on whether students wished for a different penile appearance.

Furthermore, being uncircumcised did not increase a student’s overall odds of being teased.

“The question then becomes: for those young men who were teased, would corrective [?] surgery have made a difference?” Cooper said in a phone interview. [His cultural bias is showing.]

The answer, he said, is that while some children might benefit from having surgery to correct the appearance of their penis, the main subject of teasing - size - is not correctable by surgery.

Cooper said the study's results are limited, because they only surveyed one group of men from one Midwestern college, with higher-than-average circumcision rates.

Charbel El Bcheraoui, a global health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved with the new study, told Reuters Health by email that teasing "is a form of verbal bullying which can have long-term and short-term psychological effects on the victim."

Those risks include social isolation and decreased self-esteem, said El Bcheraoui.

This type of teasing should be addressed using social and educational strategies, he said.

As for whether an individual should undergo surgery to alter the appearance of his penis, Cooper said it's ultimately a judgment call. [...raising the question of whose judgement we are talking about.]

SOURCE:   The Journal of Urology, published March 2015.

NORWAY: Hospital ritually cuts first baby

The Local (Norway)
March 10, 2015

Norway hospital does first ritual circumcision

A newborn baby had his foreskin surgically removed on Monday under local anaesthetic, while his Muslim parents waited outside the operating room.

“They were very happy,” Ole Tysland, head of surgery at Sørlandet Hospital in Kristiansand, said of the couple. “Most people are glad that we now have the possibility to do this in the hospital.”

Tysland said that several doctors in his hospital believed carrying out the operation was unethical.
“They would say that this is a type of surgery that is not indicated. It’s more a tradition than a necessary operation,” he said. “But they don’t have to do it. We have found other doctors that don’t mind, so we use a doctor who thinks this is OK.”

He said that the hospital did not allow religious officials, or even the children’s parents, into the operating theatre while the circumcision was taking place.

“They stand outside the door and they take the child when we come out with it, and I don’t think it’s a problem. They accept this way of doing it.”

Ritual circumcision has in theory been available under Norway’s public health system since January 1st, following a bill in parliament in 2013.

But it has taken several months for hospitals to start carrying out the operation.

Dr Tysland said that Sørlandet was only offering ritual circumcision to boys under four weeks old, as otherwise the child would require an expensive general anaesthetic.

Norwegian Health Minister Bent Høie caused an uproar in the international Jewish community when he first proposed regulating circumcision, known as Brit Milah in the Jewish community, at the start of last year.

In the end, Norway’s government stopped short of mandating hospital circumcision, instead only insisting that a doctor must be present.

It did, however, rule that public hospitals must start offering the operation to encourage Jewish and Muslim parents to have it done in the safest possible way.

FLORIDA: Arrest ordered of mother protecting 4yo from cutting

Sun-Sentinal (Palm Beach, Florida)
March 10, 2015

Judge orders West Boynton mom's arrest in circumcision case

by Mark Freeman
Despite the threat of being jailed Tuesday, a West Boynton mother hid with her 4-year-old son in a domestic violence shelter, the latest twist in a widely reported court fight to stop the boy's planned circumcision.

But Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen still signed a warrant for Heather Hironimus' arrest, refusing requests from her lawyers to first consider a mental health exam of the boy and appointing an independent guardian to speak on the child's behalf in court.

"The child is scared to death of the procedure and doesn't want it," said attorney Thomas Hunker. "There have been no safeguards put in place to protect the child's psychological and emotional condition with regards to this surgery."

Attorneys for the child's father, Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton, requested the crisis shelter's name and location during a brief hearing Tuesday, so the mother could be served with a court order for Nebus to pick up his son. But Gillen said he would not order the disclosure of the shelter's name.

The mother and son "sought refuge" at the shelter on Feb. 23, when it was her regular time to have custody of the boy, Hunker said. Nebus then was attempting to make arrangements for a Broward doctor to remove the child's foreskin.

The warrant authorizes law enforcement to take Hironimus into custody, on the grounds that she failed to appear before the court Tuesday as ordered. Such warrants typically require apprehended individuals to be brought before a judge within 24 hours.

"She doesn't believe she should be incarcerated for protecting her child," Hunker said.

On Friday, Gillen declared the mom in contempt of court for violating an order enforcing a 2012 parenting plan, which makes the dad responsible for arranging the circumcision. The mom and dad did not marry either before or after the boy's birth on Oct. 31, 2010.

After Nebus testified Friday that he can't find his son, the judge ordered the mom to appear in his courtroom with the child by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"I was hoping the mother was going to be here," Nebus' attorney May L. Cain said after learning Hironimus remained at the shelter.

"I was, too, obviously," Gillen replied.

The judge last week called it "reprehensible" for the mother to spirit away the boy.

"I will allow her to avoid incarceration or get out of jail if she signs the consent to the procedure," Gillen said Friday.

The judge found the mom had willfully violated the plan she signed when the boy was 1. The judge also said Hironimus had committed a "direct, contemptuous violation" of court orders by continuing to team with circumcision opposition groups — called "intactivists" — that have "plastered" the child's photos and name "all over the Internet."

After a state appellate court in December held up Gillen's earlier ruling enforcing the parenting plan, the judge instructed Hironimus and Nebus to "protect the child from any exploitation."

Gillen has ordered the media not to release the name or photo of the child, and the Sun Sentinel has filed a motion seeking to vacate the order. A hearing on the matter is scheduled before Gillen on Wednesday.

More than a dozen protestors stood outside the county courthouse in Delray Beach on Tuesday. Some carried signs reading, "His body his rights" and "circumcision is a sex crime."

"It's outrageous that this could actually be happening," said Jennifer Cote of Pembroke Pines, a mother of a 2-month-old son and a 4-year-old girl. "We think this is a choice [Hironimus' son] should make for himself."

Kristen Shockley, of Boynton Beach, one of Hironimus' longtime friends, said it's important to consider the boy is well "past the infancy stage." Shockley said her 9-month old and 4-year-old sons were not circumcised since there was no medical reason for it, nor any cosmetic or religious purpose.

Neither Nebus nor Hironimus is Jewish, but the dad testified last year he thinks circumcision is "just the normal thing to do" and he decided late in 2013 to press for it after noticing his son was urinating on his leg. The father says the boy has a condition called phimosis, which prevents retraction of the foreskin, but the mother has said there is no such diagnosis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of newborn male circumcision are lower risks of urinary tract infections; getting penile cancer; and acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Judge Gillen mentioned these benefits in court last week, and called the procedure "very, very safe."

Still, the most recent federal statistics indicate circumcision has been waning in popularity across the country.

For Jewish families concerned about following the ancient tradition of circumcisions, a group called Doctors Opposing Circumcision advocates an alternative ceremony called a Brit Shalom, "which does not cut the genitals or risk physical or psychological harm to the child."

In an emergency motion filed last week, Hunker wrote the boy "is aware of what is happening and is terrified by the procedure. He is also angry that the procedure is being forced upon him."

The attorney said the boy needs to be examined a by mental health expert so the court can "consider the child's emotions and feelings on the matter."

"This is not a situation where [the child] is a newborn; he is old enough to remember the procedure and what his body looked like before," Hunker wrote. "Removal of part of the most private part of his body could emotionally scar [the child] for the rest of his life."

Nebus has accused the mother of putting fear into the boy.

"My son has mentioned things to me that he's scared to have his penis cut off," he testified.

NEW YORK: Metzitzah: New regulations delayed

Wall Street Journal
March 9, 2015

NYC Delays Decision to Repeal Mandatory Parental Consent for Jewish Ritual

by Michael Howard Saul and Melanie Grayce West
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has delayed plans to repeal a city regulation requiring parental consent before a Jewish circumcision ritual is performed.
The ritual can cause herpes infection in infants.

Last month, administration officials announced a tentative agreement with a group of Jewish leaders in which parental consent would no longer be needed to perform the ritual known as metzitzah b’peh in which the mohel, the person who performs the circumcision, sucks blood from the baby’s wound.
Administration aides initially said the proposal would be presented to the Board of Health this month. Officials said Monday the proposal is now slated to be presented to the board in June and voted on at the panel’s next meeting.

“The administration and the coalition of religious leaders are formalizing specific terms of the agreement around metzitzah b’peh,” the city said in a statement from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released Monday.

The parental consent policy, approved by the board in 2012 when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, drew outcries from some in the Jewish community who lambasted the regulation as an attack on religious freedom. The ritual is practiced mostly by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

A person familiar with the negotiations between the religious community and the city said Monday the delay in presenting the proposal to the board was largely related to the city working out the specifics on how public health investigations will be conducted. There were some other legal issues, as well, the person said.

Another person familiar with the matter said city officials were concerned about rushing the proposal. Officials want the proposal to be as strong as possible, this person said, because the administration is asking board members, many of whom were appointed by Mr. Bloomberg, to reverse themselves.
The delay was not a concern at all to David Niederman, the president of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, and a rabbi involved in the negotiations with the city over the policy.

“The mayor has personally committed to ensure public safety in a very responsible and collaborative way with the community,” Rabbi Niederman said. “These delays, I understand, are procedural stuff with the city. I have no doubt that everyone is on the same page and that this issue is going to be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.”

The Wall Street Journal
February 27, 2015

A Bad Call on Risky Circumcisions

by the Editorial Board

The herpes simplex virus, common and relatively harmless in adults, can be deadly to babies. Such infections in newborns are blessedly rare, but one thing is known to increase the risk significantly: the circumcision ritual called metzitzah b’peh, practiced by many ultra-Orthodox and some Orthodox Jews, in which a circumciser, or mohel, sucks blood from a newly cut penis with his mouth.

The New York City Health Department, American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other authorities have long warned about the dangers of the practice. The Health Department has linked it to more than 12 herpes cases, and two deaths, since 2000, and has tried to get mohels to stop doing it.

That is why it is distressing to see Mayor Bill de Blasio and Orthodox leaders celebrating a deal they made this week to abandon the city’s modest effort to regulate the practice, and instead leave it to the ultra-Orthodox community to help limit the damage metzitzah b’peh does — but voluntarily, and only after babies get sick, not before.

Mr. de Blasio wants to stop requiring parents to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of metzitzah b’peh. Rabbis called that policy, begun under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an unconscionable infringement on religious freedom. They refused to use the forms and sued the city.

And so Mr. de Blasio, who has pleased the potent Orthodox voting bloc by ridiculing the policy as unenforceable while making no visible effort to enforce it, has decided simply to let the mohels do their thing, until a baby gets sick. The plan then is to do a series of DNA tests; if the baby’s mohel has the same herpes strain as the infected baby, he will be forbidden to do circumcisions.

The plan needs Board of Health approval. The board should say no and take a stand for basic hygiene and common sense. Otherwise, this will be a city that requires tattoo artists to take infection-control courses and use sterile tools but tolerates an amateur surgery in which infection is fought with no more than perhaps a swig of Listerine.

The administration says it will ask hospitals and doctors to distribute information about the risks of metzitzah b’peh, which should include accurate descriptions, including photographs, of the lesions and brain injuries suffered by babies whose safety their rabbis — and mayor — have allowed to be jeopardized.

Monday, March 9, 2015

FLORIDA: No appearance of mother of boy threatned with spite-circumcision

Broward Palm Beach New Times (Florida)
March 6, 2015

Mother of Boy in Circumcision Case Has Vanished With Child; Judge Orders Her to Return

by Chris Joseph
(Note: Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen has requested the media to withhold the name of the child and the names of the doctors in this case, due to the nature of this story. New Times has published these names in past stories.)

Heather Hironimus, the mother of a 4-year-old boy caught in the middle of a circumcision case, has been ordered to appear before Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen of the 15th judicial district in Palm Beach County on Tuesday or be found in contempt.

In a hearing held Friday, Gillen heard testimony from the boy's father, Dennis Nebus, over how Hironimus has fled and vanished with their son. Nebus also asked the court to have Hironimus stop allowing anti-circumcision activists to continue using their son's name and likeness on the internet. She had been ordered to do so in the past but has disobeyed that court order.

The case revolves around the separated couple's fight over whether the child can be circumcised. The couple had previously agreed that Nebus would pay for and schedule the child's circumcision. But Hironimus has been arguing that there is no medical reason for her son to be circumcised and that the procedure could harm or even kill the boy. The practice is even more scrutinized now that the boy is no longer a newborn.

However, Nebus testified that three doctors who were supposed to perform the procedure on the boy had removed themselves from doing so after apparently receiving what he called "threatening letters" from activists calling for the father not to have the boy circumcised. Nebus claimed that he too had received death threats.

During his testimony, Nebus detailed an incident where Hironimus burst into a doctor's office where the child was being examined in order to schedule a procedure. Nebus said she "threw a tantrum," and yelled at the medical staff that she had not given consent for the boy to be examined by the doctor. Nebus said that their son, who had witnessed the outburst, was "visibly shaken." He also claimed that the boy had expressed fear over getting a circumcision. Nebus hinted on the stand that this was due to Hironimus using "scare tactics" on the boy, though he didn't make clear what those tactics might've been.

Nebus also testified that the mother had been allowing the anti-circumcision activists to use the child's likeness and name on their websites, as well as on posters and picket signs during protests outside the courthouse as well as at CityPlace.

Gillen said he expected that, although Hironimus was ordered not to allow the boy's name and likeness to be taken from her personal Facebook and used on these websites, she did anyway. "I expected this to happen," Gillen said during his ruling, "that the child's likeness would be used, making him an object of curiosity on the Internet."

More pressing, however, is that Hironimus and the child have gone missing since the last scheduled doctor's visit on February 19. Nebus testified that he visited the home of the mother to take the boy for his prearranged visiting time and found no one home. The car was also gone, and when he tried calling Hironiumus, he said the phone was turned off.

Hironimus was not present during Friday's hearing, and the judge ordered that she and the child report to court on Tuesday by 2 p.m. or face the consequences.

Gillen had ordered a gag order on Hironimus to not speak to the media at a previous hearing. The case has made headlines, has been the cause of much debate on the internet and has even caught the attention of actor Russell Crowe. Anticircumcision activists -- sometimes called "intactivists" -- have been extremely vocal about the case and have befriended Hironimus on Facebook and social media. They've also launched several websites with the boy's name.

Nebus testified that the boy's likeness had been used as early as December, when the mother allowed the groups to take a recent photo of the child with Santa Claus taken at a department store. They were also given access to the mother's Halloween photos of the child.

"It's unfortunate that due to the mother's actions, the child has been placed in this position -- the light of too much scrutiny for a little boy," Gillen said. "I blame the mother for this. She has willfully denied a court order and has provided the father with no information of their son's whereabouts. Leaving the father to wonder where his son is is reprehensible."

Gillen put a pickup order into effect for Hironimus.

"If she does not [appear with the child on Tuesday], I will sign a writ of bodily attachment."
This means if Hironimos and her son do not obey the court's order, she'll be hunted down by authorities. Gillen also said he would have her passport suspended and not allow the boy to have a passport issued.

Moreover, Gillen said that he had heard enough testimony from doctors that circumcision is safe. "I have heard testimony from doctors that there are zero cases of penile cancer in circumcised males, but there have been some cases in uncircumcised males," Gillen said. "I've also heard testimony from doctors that there are less cases of STDs in circumcised males than in uncircumcised males."

Gillen, saying he wanted to "rein in this case," also added that circumcision is "short, under local anesthesia, and, at this stage of the boy's life, very, very safe."

Gillen found Hironimus in contempt of court for allowing the use of the boy's likeness on the internet and said that Hironimus is responsible for Nebus' attorney fees. Gillen reserved ruling on how much that fee is.

Earlier story

BENDIGO, AUSTRALIA: Councillor tweets shocking female -whoops! male - genital cutting pic

How shocking female genital cutting is! - whoops! (Australia)
February 26, 2015

Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman tweets graphic female genital mutilation photos

A VICTORIAN councillor has tweeted graphic female genital mutilation photos to a supporter of a controversial mosque development.

WARNING: Disturbing image below.
Bendigo councillor Elise Chapman has been outspoken against Islam in her campaign to stop a $3 million mosque development approved by Bendigo City Council in June 2014.

A mosque supporter had sent a message to Chapman on Twitter saying she hoped the mosque would get built soon.

“It’s great to see someone who cares about all Bendigo residents and their religions,” the supporter tweeted.

Ms Chapman responded with the image showing five [boy] babies with bloody wounds.

“Oh, we could have this here too? Would you like your fanny sliced off,” she captioned the photo.

“Yes. I’m opposed to female genital mutilation, child brides, inequality, women beating, all part of Quran, read it.”

The graphic tweet that has caused so much reaction
The graphic tweet that has generated so much reaction Source: Twitter  [Elise Chapman has since had her Twitter account suspended.]
Ms Chapman was one of two councillors who voted against approving the mosque, which would include two prayer rooms, a shop and community sports centre.

The project has been the subject of vocal protests and a social media campaign from opponents, including 350 who submitted formal objections to the council.

About 40 letters of support were also received.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings into the development are ongoing.

[Apart from Ms Chapman's Islamophobia, only one problem with this story: the picture shows boy babies who have just been genitally cut ("circumcised"). Here is the original from here (NSFW).
boys after Islamic circumcision
Will learning this change Ms Chapman's view of male genital cutting? Or female? Since the firestorm this generated may have ended her career, does it matter?]

LONDON: Doctor of many botches struck off

Daily Mail (UK)
February 26 2015

'Callous' NHS child doctor struck off for running sideline mobile circumcision service for cash which left baby boys screaming in agony 

  • Dr Mohammed Siddiqui was NHS paediatrician at Southampton Hospital
  • He ran an unregistered mobile circumcision service for cash as a sideline
  • Siddiqui botched procedures, leaving babies in agony and needing surgery
  • He failed to respect hygiene and had a 'reckless regard' for their safety
  • Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service found 69 allegations proved
  • Tribunal ruled Siddiqui should be struck off the medical register
  • But there are fears he could continue to run mobile service because male circumcision is not illegal in the UK, and common in Muslim communities
by Claire Carter

A 'callous and contemptuous' paediatrician who ran an unregistered mobile circumcision service has been struck off after he carried out a string of bungled and unhygienic procedures - including one while a baby boy was screaming in agony because the anaesthetic had worn off.

Dr Mohammed Siddiqui, 49, of Southampton, carried out four botched circumcisions on youngsters at their homes in Southampton, Bath, Birmingham and Reading for parents who wanted to have their children circumcised for religious reasons.

But the NHS doctor failed to wear gloves or carry proper resuscitation equipment, leaving one baby suffering seizures and another in agony when he woke up during the circumcision and Siddiqui decided to carry on anyway.

He has now been struck off the medical register.

Siddiqui's 'mobile clinic' was not registered with the Care Quality Commission and the doctor failed to secure proper insurance for each procedure. He worked at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust at the time he was running the clinic for cash, as a sideline, between June 2012 and November 2013.

He was suspended but carried on carrying out the procedures using a loophole in the law. He has since resigned from the NHS.

Following a three-week hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, 69 separate allegations against Dr Siddiqui were found proved and he was branded a risk to patients, having acted with a 'reckless disregard' for their safety.

Siddiqui performed the procedures on four separate boys.

The families said the medic did not wash his hands prior to the procedures treatment, did not wear surgical gloves, failed to carry out proper examinations and did not have proper resuscitation equipment including oxygen and airway equipment.

He even carried surgical materials in plastic carrier bags and used baby wipes during the procedures.
An investigation began after a complaint by Kelly Braiha and her husband Ghali, from Littlehampton in West Sussex, which claimed their 23-month-old son Najem was left traumatised and suffered an infection because Siddiqui did not take hygienic precautions.

When one boy suffered an adverse reaction to a local anaesthetic, Siddiqui did not realise it was a seizure and failed to act immediately to ensure an ambulance was called.

Instead, when the boy's eyes started rolling back in his head and he began frothing at the mouth, Siddiqui thought the boy was cold and asked the baby's father to wrap him in a blanket and turn the central heating up. The baby was later taken to hospital where suffered two further seizures.

When the parent of a second boy rang the medic to say his son was still in pain, Siddiqui failed to respond and in an email accused him of 'telling lies'.

A third boy - whose parents are themselves both doctors - woke up during the procedure and began screaming in agony but Siddiqui saw 'no point in waiting any longer'.

The hearing was told he kept saying: 'I didn't need to stop because the child was already crying.'

An operation on a further youngster was such a poor standard he had to carry out another circumcision on the same child the following day.

The boy suffered injuries from the operation because too much skin was removed, Siddiqui failed to refer him to a hospital and then ignored his parents when they expressed concerns over his condition, the tribunal had heard.

Circumcision is only available through the NHS if there are compelling medical reasons but healthcare workers still have to be registered with the Care Quality Commission if they want to perform home circumcisions for religious reasons.

However it is feared Siddiqui - despite being struck off - could try to continue to operate his dangerous private mobile clinic because male circumcision is not illegal in Britain. The practice is popular among the Muslim community.

Panel Chairman John Donnelly said Dr Siddiqui had been 'evasive and contradictory' during his evidence and said the medic had treated the GMC with 'contempt.'

He added: 'His misconduct was both a particularly serious departure and reckless disregard of good medical practise and patient safety. Some of his behaviour as previously identified, involved breaches of very basic mandatory medical principles.'

Mr Donnelly said Siddiqui had put one baby's life at risk by failing to deal with the situation properly when a baby suffered a seizure and had caused considerable pain by continuing with the circumcision when one baby woke up crying.

The chairman added: 'He seemed completely indifferent to the fact he had caused pain to this baby and actually said that when babies were already crying he established the effectiveness of the local anaesthetic by beginning the procedure and seeing the reaction.

Siddiqui also failed to obtain adequate histories of each boy he was performed the procedure, it was said, as well as failing to make sure his equipment was aseptic.

Mr Donnelly added 'Mr Siddiqui said he is an experienced, hospital-based paediatric surgeon, yet he made a number of failures in basic hygiene in preparing babies for the circumcision and in preparing himself to perform them. Taken together they amounted to serious failures that must have increased the risk of infection to the very young children upon whom he was operating.

'Given his experience he must have known that the level of hygiene he was applying fell far below the standard expected of a medical practitioner carrying out a surgical procedure in the home and was wrong.'

The Panel said it was also concerned that Siddiqui's attitude showed a significant lack of concern for the wellbeing of the babies and their parents.

It found the only option was for 'erasure', or striking off, from the register.

Mr Donnelly said: “The Panel has concluded that Mr Siddiqui’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.

It is satisfied that erasure is necessary in order to protect the public, to uphold professional standards and to maintain confidence in the profession.

The panel also found he often showed an arrogance and was reluctant to take advice from senior doctors

NEW YORK: Metzitzah: No consent forms, mohelim tested after infection

Jewish Press
February 24, 2015

Mayor de Blasio Annuls Metzitzah B’peh Consent Form Regulation

by Jacob Kornbluh
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to annul the regulation enforced by the Bloomberg administration on the practice of Metzitzah B’peh, JP has learned.

The city has agreed to no longer require that a mohel obtain a signed consent form before he is allowed to perform the ritual. The City will support a Board of Health consideration to repeal the health code provision regarding written consent, the mayor’s office announced Tuesday evening.

“While the de Blasio Administration continues to believe that MBP carries with it health risks, given the sacred nature of this ritual to the community, the Administration is pursuing a policy centered around education of health risks by the health care community and respect for traditional practices by the religious community,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. “Increasing trust and communication between the City and this community is critical to achieve the Administration’s ultimate goal of ensuring the health and safety of every child, and this new policy seeks to establish a relationship based on engagement and mutual respect.”

During the race for mayor, de Blasio criticized former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attitude and enforcement of the new consent regulation on Metzitzah B’peh. He promised Jewish leaders that he will seek to find a solution the moment he will enter office. After entering office, the mayor engaged in discussions with community leaders and health officials to reach a compromise that will satisfy the Orthodox Jewish community over the Bris Milah dispute with City Hall.

At a get-out-the vote rally in Williamsburg two days before the Democratic primaries for mayor, Satmar (Ahronim) community leaders declared that de Blasio pledged to eliminate the consent forms required for Metzitzah B’peh. As first reported by JP, one community leader told the crowd assembled that de Blasio was “the first one in politics to come to our defense on the issue of Metzitzah B’peh. And he’s the only candidate that recommitted himself now to guarantee that we as Orthodox Jews can practice [it] without compromise.”

After Mr. de Blasio has finished his speech, Rabbi Moshe Indiq approached the microphone and said he’d been asked “to announce to our community” that Mr. de Blasio was “the only mayor candidate that promised … it will be eliminated!”

According to the new deal reached with a coalition of Rabbinical leaders from across New York City, the administration will ask hospitals, obstetricians and pediatricians who serve the community to distribute information about the health risks associated with and MBP. Health care providers will also provide parents with contact information for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) for parents who seek additional information.

Additionally, the community will direct mohelim to continue to respect the wishes of any family that has chosen to not have MBP performed on their son.

In return, the rabbinical coalition has pledged, for the first time, to cooperate with the DOHMH in identifying the mohel in question and asking the individual to undergo testing in cases where an infant has HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus 1) associated with MBP.

In cases where the mohel tests positive for HSV-1, DOHMH will conduct DNA testing to attempt to definitively establish the source of the baby’s infection as part of a comprehensive investigation of any other possible sources. If the mohel is found to have infected the infant with herpes, he will be banned for life from performing MBP by DOHMH, with support from and cooperation of the community.

The community has also agreed to engage in campaign to have every mohel who performs a circumcision or MBP take steps to lessen the risk of transmission of herpes.

FLORIDA: Protests as 4-year-old's cutting nears

Palm Beach News (Florida)
February 23, 2015

Protesters at Doctor's Office Hope to Stop 4-Year-Old From Being Circumcised

by Dierdra Funcheon
A 4-year-old boy named Chase has been at the center of a long court battle between his parents over whether he should be circumcised. The courts have now ruled that the circumcision be allowed to proceed, and the boy is reportedly due to be circumcised tomorrow at South Florida Pediatric Surgeons in Plantation.

Protesters, who believe that childhood circumcision is wrong because it's an invasive cosmetic surgery performed before a boy is old enough to consent, will be holding signs outside the doctor's office from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. today.

Organizer Jen Cote VanWie said they hoped to persuade Dr. Subhash Puranik not to perform the procedure. She said this tactic worked a few months ago, when a doctor in Boynton Beach had been scheduled to circumcise Chase but backed out after a protest at his office.

"We hope to convince this doctor to change his mind," she said. Even though the court had ruled that the boy's father be allowed to schedule the circumcision, the court "can't force [Puranik] into doing the surgery."

The saga began in 2010, when Dennis Nebus of Boca Raton and Heather Hironimus of Boynton Beach had a child together. They did not remain a couple but entered into a parenting agreement more than a year later. The agreement clearly stated that the father would be responsible for scheduling and paying for the boy's circumcision.

But after the mother learned more about what the procedure entailed, she objected because, court papers said, it was "not medically necessary and she did not want to have the parties' son undergo requisite general anesthesia for fear of death."

Both a local judge and then an appeals court eventually sided with Nebus. A judge ordered that Hironimus stop speaking to the media, but anticircumcision activists -- sometimes called "intactivists" -- largely took up the cause on her behalf, organizing protests and launching a website,, and a group, Chase's Guardians.

Jen Cote Van Wie said she became interested in the intactivist movement when she became pregnant and researched circumcision. She became an activist "when I found out that babies are dying from this."

Jonathan Friedman of Chicago designed the Saving Chase website and also does work for Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. He says he became involved in the intactivist movement because he had problems with his own circumcision.

He said that last year, Chase had a circumcision scheduled with a Boynton Beach doctor but that at the last minute, after a protest, the doctor backed out.

Friedman says that "a lot of doctor policies require consent from all guardians" and that the Boynton doctor had even asked the court if he would be legally protected from lawsuits by the mother if he performed the procedure; the judge would not guarantee it. The doctor, he says, "called me two hours into the protest and said, 'I am on your side. Unless [the father] hands me a signed and notarized consent form from the mother [I won't circumcise Chase].'"

Friedman said his group disputes the supposed health benefits of circumcision.


MALAYSIA: Female cutting on the rise

The Express Tribune (Pakistan)
February 20, 2015

Female circumcision on the rise in Malaysia

Syahiera Atika, a 19-year-old Malaysian girl  has happily embraced western-style capitalism but in contrast strictly follows the local interpretation of Islam as she informed the Vice of her circumcision.
Female circumcision involves the surgical removal of all or part of a woman’s clitoris. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classed this procedure as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

WHO also defines it as an operation that “involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

Syahiera however, rejects the notion that it is inhumane and says that ”I’m circumcised because it is required by Islam.” She refers to it as ‘wajib’, which means any religious duty commanded by Allah.

“I don’t think the way we do it here is harmful,” she said, adding that “it protects young girls from pre-marital sex as it is supposed to lower their sex drive. But I am not sure it always works.” [Of course it does not affect their drive, only their sensations.]

According to a 2012 study conducted by Dr Maznah Dahlui, over 93 per cent of Muslim women surveyed had been circumcised. This made Syahiera among the majority of Muslim women in Malaysia.

Dr Dahlui also noted that the procedure was increasingly performed by trained medical professionals in private clinics, instead of by traditional circumcision practitioners.

Shocking to Western sensibilities, Dr Maznah insisted that Malaysia’s version of the procedure in less invasive than in other parts of the world.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Mighilia of the Global Ikhwan private clinic located in Rawang, north of Kuala Lumpur, admitted that she performs a more drastic version with a needle or scissors. “I just take a needle and slit off the top of the clitoris, but it is very little,” she said. “Just one millimetre.”

WHO has declared FGM to provide no medical benefits whatsoever. It simply reflects the deep-rooted inequality between the sexes. For this reason, the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 unanimously passed a resolution calling it a “human rights violation” and urged states to ban the practice.

Some Malaysian medical practitioners also defend the practice by passing judgment onto other countries. “We are very much against what is going on in other countries like Sudan,”says Dr Ariza Mohamed, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist at KPJ Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

“That is very different from what we practice in Malaysia,” she said adding “and there is a big difference between circumcision and female genital mutilation.”

All Malaysians however, do not support the practice. Syarifatul Adibah, who is the Senior Programme Officer at Sisters in Islam, a local women’s rights group, insists that female circumcision isn’t once mentioned in the Quran.

Instead she points to its popularity as a stemming from an increasingly conservative interpretation of Islam. “Previously it was a cultural practice but now because of Islamisation, people just relate everything to Islam. And when you link something to religion, people here follow it blindly, they don’t enquire,” she explained.

The practice is not banned in Malaysia, although public hospitals are prevented from performing the surgery. More concerning however is that in 2009 the Fatwa Committee of Malaysia’s National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs ruled that female circumcision was obligatory for all Muslim women, unless it was harmful.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: House considers defunding cutting from Medicaid

New Hampshire Public Radio
February 18, 2015

House Committee Hears Circumcision Bill

Today a house committee considered a bill that would prohibit Medicaid from funding circumcisions of newborn baby boys.

Bedford Republican Keith Murphy sponsored this bill. He firmly believes circumcision is dangerous – potentially, very dangerous.

"One hundred and seventeen children a year, on average, die from circumcision complications. In fact it’s one of the leading causes of neonatal male deaths," says Murphy.

Medical experts are highly skeptical of that number, which comes from a report by an anti-circumcision advocate. For the only year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked this data in 2010, there were no [reported] deaths from circumcisions.

Still, Murphy says New Hampshire should join the 18 states that have cut Medicaid payments for what he calls an elective procedure – including California, Florida and Maine. Circumcisions cost New Hampshire's Medicaid program about $212,000 every year.

But anti-circumcision activists didn’t talk much about the financial bottom line.

Ronald Goldman, Director of the Boston-based Circumcision Resource Center, painted a dark picture of circumcision’s impact on the male psyche.

"Anger, a sense of loss, sadness, and sexual anxieties....A recent study found a connection between circumcision and the risk of autism," said Goldman.

The bill’s opponents disputed these claims. A rabbi also warned it would discriminate against low-income Jews. [Since when did the taxpayer have to fund religious rituals?
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, meanwhile, countered circumcision carries public health benefits, including lowered risk of urinary tract infections and some sexually transmitted diseases.

Jay Smith, a retired family physician, spoke on behalf of the New Hampshire Public Health Association.

"Basically, I think we just feel that it’s bad public policy to remove a procedure from Medicaid that is still approved for other insurance," said Smith. [And doubtless other insurance justifies funding it because it's covered by Medicaid.]

If passed, it’s worth noting this bill could impact a lot of people. The latest data from 2010 found Medicaid paid for nearly 30 percent of the babies born in New Hampshire.

[There were 12,352 live births in NH in 2012, some 6,000 of them boys, some 2000 of those covered by Medicaid. The circumcision rate was 75% in 2009, so some 1500 of them would be genitally cut - IF Medicaid pays for it .]

Earlier story

ROME: Progress in foreskin regeneration research

VICE: Motherboard
February 17, 2015

How One Company Aims to Help Circumcised Men Grow Their Foreskin Back
by Arikia Millikan

If someone has grown up male in the United States, odds are that he doesn’t have a foreskin. Most Americans likely haven’t given this much thought, and if they have, it’s probably along the lines of “good, it’s better this way.”

But a growing number of men known as "intactivists" are expressing outrage about being circumcised—which they call an “unnecessary amputation”—before they were old enough to understand the implications of the procedure and consider providing consent.

As adults, short of undergoing a complex surgery that transplants scrotal tissue onto the penile shaft, or practicing a body mod technique called ‘tugging’ that can sometimes stretch the remaining foreskin tissue back over the head of the penis, these men have been left to wonder: “What would sex be like with a foreskin?”

Now, a company called Fore​gen purports to soon be able to help these men answer that question by using regenerative medicine to regrow their foreskins—much like a salamander can regrow a severed appendage.

“The premise behind Foregen is that if we are regenerating entire body parts from more complex body parts, why not apply this to the only body part that hundreds of millions of boys are missing,” says Foregen spokesperson Eric Clopper.

Of the 660 million circumcised men worldwide, 115 million of them are American, making the United States the country with the most circumcised men, even outnumbering African and Middle Eastern countries, according to st​ats from the World Health Organization. In fact, the United States is the only developed country where male infant circumcision is the norm, rather than something done out of religious ceremony.

Today, national circumcision rates hover between 50–60 percent, but in the 1980s as many as 83 percent of infants were circumcised in the Midwest; in some places it was so common that physicians wouldn’t even bother cons​ulting new mothers on whether or not they want their infant sons circumcised, they’d just go ahead and do it.

Though circumcision has been steadily dec​reasing in the US, dropping about 10 percent over the past 35 years and hitting a regional low of 30 percent on the present day West Coast, rates are much higher than in European countries. There, only about 10 percent of boys are circumcised, and rates are as low as 1.6 percent in Denmark.

But what exactly are circumcised guys missing? Depending on who you ask, the answer ranges from “penile cancer” to “the best sex you and your partner have never had.” It’s hard to weigh the factors around this issue, as the science is wrought with bias and even deliberate interference, and sexual enjoyment is largely subjective. But after conducting extensive research on the topic, I’ve found the intactivists make a more compelling case.

Since the 1800s, proponents of circumcision in the US have pointed to health as the main reason parents should have their infants circumcised. Back then, circumcision was medically touted as a method of reducing a boy’s urge to masturbate, which was believed by the Puritans of New England to be the cause of illnesses. There’s a pretty clear medical consensus these days that this isn’t the case, but the tradition lingered and foreskin became associated with a new host of ailments.

In December of 2014, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a draft endorsing infant​ male circumcision. This mirrors a 2012 statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics which links circumcision with the decreased transmission of HIV, STDs that can cause cancer, and urinary tract infections. However, both statements were called out ​by the international medical community by and large as lacking on a scie​ntific and eth​ical basis.

When it comes to medical recommendations about circumcision, there is an undeniable cultural bias that is persistently reflected in the scientific literature. Most medical societies in developed nations—except for the American ones—agree that in environments where hygienic conditions allow men to wash themselves regularly, any health benefits circumcision might offer cease to outweigh the risks. “The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context,” states the critique of the AAP’s stance on circumcision led by Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch.

The European scientists did find that circumcision can result in reduced UTIs, but only by about 1 percent. They cite the AAP’s own estimates of the risk of complications from circumcision to conclude that “1 case of UTI may be prevented at the cost of two cases of hemorrhage, infection, or, in rare instances, more severe outcomes or even death.” A UTI is no picnic, but I’m sure it beats a penile hemorrhage.

    Logic is often no match for religious zealots, or those on the other end of the spectrum: "circumfetishists."

This isn’t a new stance either—scientists h​ave been arguing against circumcision on the basis of health benefits since the 1970s. But logic is often no match for religious zealots who think masturbation is a sin, as well as those the other end of the spectrum—circumfetishists. Most egregiously, one Australian man named Br​ian Morris has been plaguing circumcision-related research for the past decade, lying about his scientific credentials and publications, submitting criticisms of circumcision research in which he disproportionately cites him​self, and “issuing ​misstatements faster than they can be checked and refuted.” I can’t speak to his motivation for doing this, but one circumcision watchdog site observed him linking to circum​cision erotica.

Aside from the scientific debate, there is a parallel ethical debate which revolves around the issue of consent. Even if medical science could irrefutably prove health benefits from circumcision, many intactivists contend that performing a preventative surgery on a child is unethical; the decision to circumcise should only be made for children in medical emergencies, or voluntarily by adults such as is the case with cosmetic surgery and other body modifications. This view rubs up against religious views that circumcision is necessary to protect children from their sexual impulses, which could distract them from God.

“I think that children should be protected from having their genitals modified because they don’t understand what’s at stake,” says Brian Earp, an ethics researcher at the University of Oxford. “In general we should consider legal adults competent to modify their own bodies.” He raised the point that removing the breast buds of infant girls could prevent breast cancer, but nobody would seriously recommend doing that in a medical setting.

Earp says he became interested in the ethics of circumcision after the city of San Franciscio considered ban​ning infant circumcision in 2011, and more so in 2012 when a local court in Germany ruled that​ child circumcision was illegal, even with parental consent, after a botched circumcision involving a four-year old Muslim boy. “While the court held that religious circumcisions in fact are to be deemed illegal because they violate the child's right to physical integrity and self-determination, it differentiated such acts from instances when a circumcision is medically necessary,” the ruling reads. Similar legal measures have been considered in Finland, Denmark, and Sweden.

Religious dictates aside, the main ethical consideration parents use to have their baby boys circumcised in the US is the pop cultural belief that in doing so they are somehow protecting their kids from future locker room harassment. But studies show this isn’t actually a problem—if guys are going to have their penises made fun of for any reason, it will probably be ​the size, not whether or not they’re circumcised.

But locker rooms are one thing—what about the room where it really matters: the bedroom?

Think about what a foreskin does, biologically: In a non-erect penis, the foreskin covers the shaft completely, hanging over the tip and making it effectively an internal organ. When its gets hard, the foreskin secretes lubrication that allows the skin to slide back and forth against the shaft. When it gets really hard, the top part of the foreskin flips inside out, exposing a really sensitive part called the frenulum and the head of the penis, which is almost always otherwise covered. Some liken the function of a foreskin to that of a lip or an eyelid, as it protects the mucosal membrane beneath.

Circumcision removes about 15 square inches of skin containing about 20,000 nerves (as an adult), makes the penis an external organ with the head constantly exposed, disables the frenulum, the lubricating function, and its gliding mobility, and even dulls the color of the penis—and that’s if the procedure goes well.

“Overwhelmingly, men who have foreskins like them and want to retain them, whereas men who have never had a foreskin assume it’s useless,” Earp says.

Largely absent from the scientific and medical literature is research on the sexual benefits of foreskin for men; there’s almost a complete void when it comes to how male circumcision impacts sex from a female partner’s perspective. A 2015 paper by Jacobs and Arora claims that foreskin has basically no effec​t on sexuality, but it cites likely biased sources connected with Brian Morris, and, as Earp points out in a critique​ published in the American Journal of Bioethics, the research they cite relies mainly on a pair of clinical trials that were carried out—not on infants—but on adult men who were voluntarily circumcised.

But even absent a basis for comparison or any compelling research, intactivists contend that the loss is dire.

“The effects of adult circumcision, whatever they are, cannot be simply mapped on to neonates,” Earp says.

Likewise, the big question for the folks over at Foregen is if they can map the function of adult foreskin back onto someone who was circumcised as a neonate.

Clopper, whose friends call him “foreskin guy,” has been a vocal intactivist ever since his college rugby team went to Scotland. “We’d get really drunk and naked and do really stupid things. Not gay things, just weird things,” Clopper says, which was when he noticed that his Irish counterparts weren’t circumcised, prompting a debate over which penile format was better.“I said, ‘I think being circumcised is better so I’ll do my own research.’ Now that I know that having the entire penis is better, it seems insane that I felt otherwise,” Clopper says. Ever since his initial foray into circumcision research, he’s connected with several other men who also feel they have been robbed of one of nature’s coolest biological functions, and are pissed about it. “It’s really a brainwashing,” he says. “Once they realize what they lose—and the internet’s a huge help—that’s where the outrage comes from.”

The biomedical technologies that would enable a procedure like this to be conducted safely are still theoretical at best, but Fo​regen founder Vincenzo Aiello of Rome, Italy, says he plans to have a procedure patented and cleared for clinical trials within five years.

“The peripheral nervous system can regenerate. The only obstacle to getting this to work is getting the new nerve endings to connect to the severed ones,” Clopper says. “We are able to graft entire limbs to amputees right now. We’re doing the same thing using the same exact technology but on a smaller scale with a bigger market.”

    "Now that I know that having the entire penis is better, it seems insane that I felt otherwise."

The process Clopper described would involve taking a donor foreskin and decellularizing it, or 3-D printing a new cellular skeleton, then “reseeding the decellularized matrix” with stem cells matched to the recipient. “They’ll pick up on the cellular signals and grow into the full tissue,” Clopper says. They completed their first animal experiment in December of 2013 at the University of Bologna’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Italy. “Foreskin has proved exceptionally fruitful as a regenerative agent, making the likelihood of real foreskin regeneration in vivo, on a living male, all the better,” the websi​te claims.

Though the science may be theoretically possible, it’s definitely not there yet. Perhaps the greatest challenge, even beyond the theoretical stem cell science, is the piece that involves grafting or regenerating peripheral nerves; nobody can do that yet, and the first people to figure it out probably won’t use it for foreskin.

When I asked Aiello about the exact details of the procedure, he said he couldn’t tell me because he wanted to protect his future patent, but I got the feeling that he still had some conceptual track to lay. After all, Aiello is a mosaic artist, not a scientist. That said, plenty of startup founders know nothing about the technology that powers their products when they go into VC meetings. Currently, he is working on a sculpture project that he described as an anatomical depiction of the adult foreskin, which he expects to be highly controversial.

The Forege​n team admits that “the main obstacle in achieving foreskin regeneration is aligning the overwhelming demand for a cure for circumcision with the correct scientific personnel.” Aiello told me the biomedical researchers who have agreed to work with Foregen so far have done so on the condition that he doesn’t name them. “I think they are a little bit scared for many reasons. They don’t want to be remembered in history for regenerating the foreskin. It’s basically a taboo.”

Aiello estimates that Foregen, a nonprofit registered in the US and Italy, has raised about $100,000 to date from private donors, mainly Americans, and intends to crowdfund the rest. But this is a negligible amount compared to what will be needed to set up a clinic if and when the procedure makes it through clinical trials. “We’d like to do everything in four years, but we don’t know if this will be possible because the bureaucracy makes the entire process very slow,” he says.

Regardless of whether or not Foregen meets their quotas, the main variable that will impact the prevalence of infant circumcision in the United States and beyond in coming years is the culture. If present trends are any indication, that culture is shifting in favor of foreskins. What’s needed now to confirm that this is indeed the most beneficial path—health-wise, ethically, and sexually—is unbiased research collected to this end that could formally influence the recommendations of respected medical bodies and perhaps even local law.

When I asked Earp how to achieve this, he shrugged. “It would be great if there was some dispassionate researcher somewhere who was just curious about the effects of circumcision.”

Correction: This post was updated to clarify how often Brian Morris's research criticism cites his own work, changing "mostly" to "disproportionately."  The post was also updated to clarify that the city of San Francisco considered, not proposed, a 2011 proposal for a circumcision ban.

[Variations of this story were published widely with headings like "Men Will Soon Be Able To Regrow Their Foreskin". This is hopelessly optimistic and discounts the importance of leaving babies' foreskins on them. Already some objectors to infant cutting are being told "Who cares? If he doesn't like it, he can just restore it when he grows up."]

MALTA: Parliament considering intersex protection

The Times of Malta
February 16, 2015

Healthy hermaphrodite’ is both man and woman

Castrated at seven – but now welcoming Malta’s stance on ‘intersex’

by Claudia Calleja
When Tony Briffa was seven years old doctors in Australia made a choice that was never theirs to make – castration.

Tony was born with healthy testes, as well as a vagina, and doctors decided it made more sense for Tony to live life as a woman – called Antoinette.

But Tony – who was born intersex – never felt comfortable being a woman, or a man for that matter.
“Nature – many would say God – made me a healthy hermaphrodite... I tried my best to be a woman but I couldn’t keep up the lie forever. Something was going to give.

“At 30 I rejected what the doctors had done to me and started living life as a man. I was open about my past, about the way I was born, and what doctors had done to me. Now, at the age of 44, I am comfortable explaining I am both a man and a woman,” Tony tells Times of Malta.

It is because of this personal bitter experience that Tony, born to Maltese immigrants in Australia, is glad that the Maltese government is doing something about this through the Gender Identity Bill, currently being debated in Parliament.

The draft Bill proposes prohibiting doctors from carrying out surgery on intersex children unless it is a medical emergency.

It also allows parents to wait until an intersex child turns 14 to officially register the gender as male or female.

Tony agrees that the law should not allow doctors to change the physical sex of a child, unless it is medically essential. “Sadly, castrations and physical sex changes are exactly what happen to children all over the world – it happened to me. As a Maltese person I am very proud Malta is the first country to stand up and put a stop to it,” says Tony who was born with Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

“I was born with the same chromosomal pattern and testes like typical boys but because my body doesn’t fully respond to testosterone I was also born with a vagina.

“Doctors decided I should be raised as a girl because my genitals appeared more female than male, but incredibly they also chose to castrate me even though there was no medical need to remove my healthy testes and they didn’t know what I would want when I was older,” Tony adds.

Tony spent many years on female hormone treatment but never identified with the imposed gender.
"Doctors decided I should be raised as a girl because my genitals appeared more female than male, but incredibly they also chose to castrate me even though there was no medical need.

“I struggled being the girl and woman doctors wanted me to be. How could I deny the real me and keep up the charade? How would I have relationships? I was lonely, confused and profoundly sad.
“Although I threw myself into my career, community work and music, my personal life suffered enormously. It affected my relationship with my parents and siblings and I avoided intimate relationships.

“I often considered ending my life,” Tony recalls.

At the age of 30 Tony renounced this imposition and lived as a man for some time. But this too felt wrong.

Tony then understood that happiness lay in being true to nature – and embracing both genders.

Armed with this new confidence Tony became the first openly intersex mayor in the Western World – serving as deputy mayor of the City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria, between 2009 and 2011, and mayor between 2011 and 2012.

Tony believes the Gender Identity Bill is important because it will stop doctors from imposing genders.

It will also ensure people could have their gender recognised without having to lie and be ashamed.
Tony has had a female and a male birth certificate and now has a blank one. Legal issues presented by Tony’s non-specific birth certificate meant marriage was not possible in Australia where the law only allows a union between a man and a woman. In September 2013, Tony married Manja Sommeling in New Zealand.

Documents, Tony believes, should not refer to a person’s gender “because it’s irrelevant”. But, if gender markers are to stay, then there should be ‘M’ or ‘F’ for those who feel male or female.

There should, however, also be additional categories such as ‘M and F’ for adult intersex people that want their sex to be recognised for what nature made them, and ‘X’ for people who feel outside of the male and female categories.

“Personally, I would not want ‘X’ on my documentation,” Tony says.

QUEENSLAND: Doctor took dog, circumcised barehanded

The Courier-Mail (Queensland)
February 8, 2015

Doctor took his dog to surgery with him and did not wear gloves while circumcising patients

by Kay Dibben

A GOLD Coast surgeon was barred from performing circumcisions after he undertook the procedures without wearing gloves and had his dog at his practice during consultations.

Dr Rodney Michael Tracey went to a tribunal to apply for a stay on the conditions placed on his medical registration in February last year, but was unsuccessful.

One of the conditions imposed by the Medical Board of Australia was that he complete an approved education course in infection control.

He was not allowed to perform circumcisions until approved by the board, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal said in a recently-published decision.

The conditions were put in place because a board committee believed Dr Tracey’s practise of medicine was below the accepted standard of a medical practitioner.

The action was taken as a result of notifications to the Health Quality and Complaints Commission about Dr Tracey’s performance of circumcisions.

The board said there were factual matters that could not legitimately be disputed by Dr Tracey, including that he did not wear gloves while performing Plastibell circumcision procedures.

The board told the tribunal Dr Tracey’s dog was present at his practice during the course of consultations.

Dr Tracey claimed there was limited evidence to support the board’s decisions which were manifestly inappropriate and said the decisions were vague and imprecise.

The tribunal said there was no evidence of any adverse impact on Dr Tracey by imposition of the conditions.

Dr Tracey did not provide evidence as to the extent the circumcision ban affected his practice.

He pointed to the large number of Plastibell circumcision device fittings he had performed, from the original complaint in 2012 until the board decision in 2014, without complications or adverse outcomes.

The board said it had expert evidence that did not support Dr Tracey’s practises and which suggested his conduct was below acceptable standards.

The tribunal refused the application for a stay of the board’s decision.

FLORIDA: Uncle says "the devil made me" circumcise nephew

Ocala Star Banner (Florida)
February 7, 2015

Uncle accused of trying to circumcise toddler says 'the Devil' made him do it

Austin L. Miller
OCALA — For the last seven or eight years, Larry Leroy Floyd said he has heard the same voice in his head, a voice he calls “the Devil.”

Floyd said the voice has been controlling his actions ...

On the afternoon of Jan. 31, Floyd said the voice told him to injure his nephew.

“I grabbed skin and I cut and when I was finished, I flushed the foreskin (of his nephew's penis) down the toilet. It was the worst thing it has ever told me to do,” Floyd said describing how he attempted to circumcise his 21-month-old nephew.

Charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, Floyd was arrested by Ocala police ...

The boy's father told officers he saw his son bleeding from his penis and asked Floyd what had happened. He said Floyd told him that he had tried circumcise the boy ...

In his interview with the Star-Banner, Floyd said he “was possessed at the time” he tried circumcising his nephew. He said when he “came to his senses,” he realized what he had done...

Clara Hurt, Floyd's mother, said ... the child's mother just wants to know why.

She said the little boy had some broken vessels, and doctors had to perform surgery to stabilize him.
...[Floyd's] hearing for his latest charge is slated for next month.

AUCKLAND, NZ: 10 boys in hospital after backyard botches

New Zealand Herald (Auckland)
Januay 31,2015

Inquiries into botched home operations

by Martin Johnston

Two investigations are under way after botched home circumcisions that resulted in 10 boys being taken to hospital - one of whom required surgical treatment.

The Ministry of Health and police are investigating after Middlemore Hospital attended to 10 boys, of whom eight were admitted to the Starship children's hospital this month.

The ministry understands that the individual of interest is now outside New Zealand, said its chief legal adviser, Phil Knipe.

The boys, all around the age of puberty, are thought to have had circumcisions performed by the same man, understood to be a visitor from Tonga who is not registered as a medical practitioner in New Zealand.

"We had eight patients who were admitted because of complications from botched circumcisions," said Starship spokesman Gilbert Wong. "They were done in a medically inappropriate manner. They had infections afterwards."

He said the Auckland District Health Board was considering undertaking some "community outreach" among Pacific Island residents of Auckland to encourage families to seek proper medical care if they wanted their boys circumcised.

Otara GP Dr Harley Aish said a doctor at his clinic had performed circumcisions, mainly for local Pasifika communities, for many years.

Dr Aish's colleague did the procedure under local anaesthetic and the cost was $350 to $450.

Mangere MP Su'a William Sio said male circumcision between the ages of 8 and 14 was a cultural norm for Samoans and Tongans, but he urged Pacific communities to ensure the operations were done only by people with the proper training and qualifications.


Q: Who can legally perform a circumcision?
A: New Zealand-registered health practitioners who have a current practising certificate. This includes GPs although some surgeons consider GPs under-qualified unless they have had special training.

Q: What is male circumcision?
A: Surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis.

Q: How common is it?
A: Very common until the 1970s but now fewer than 10 per cent of male babies in NZ are circumcised. [Much fewer, more like 5%]

Q: How much does it cost?
A: Free at public hospitals, which will generally only do procedure if there is a medical reason. Cost: around $400 at a GP, using local anaesthetic, or $2,000 in hospital under general anaesthetic, which is recommended if older than six months.

PENNSYLVANIA: Parents sue doc and hospital for botch

The Times-tribune (Pennsylvania)
January 30, 2015

Couple claims Moses Taylor doc botched son's circumcision
by Jon O'Connell
A Spring Brook Twp. couple have sued a Scranton doctor and Moses Taylor Hospital for what they say was a botched circumcision for their son.

The couple’s attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., on Thursday filed the civil suit in Lackawanna County Court claiming Maria T. Bigus, D.O., disfigured and caused permanent damage to the boy’s penis while performing a routine circumcision procedure in August 2013.

The Times-Tribune is withholding the names of the parents and their son because of the child’s age. Commonwealth Health, Moses Taylor Hospital’s parent company, does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Renita Fennick said.

The lawsuit says Dr. Bigus performed the circumcision on Aug. 7, one day after the boy was born, but failed to take extra precautions to account for hypospadias, an abnormalitiy in his penis that occurs when the [opening to the]  urethra is in the wrong position. 

The suit accuses Dr. Bigus and the hospital of failing to assess the infant’s condition before and during the procedure. A physical exam report dated Aug. 8 — the day after the procedure — noted the abnormality, but by that point, the damage had been done.

After leaving the hospital, the boy’s parents noticed a split urine stream, a symptom of a blockage in his penis, which will require complicated surgery to correct.

The parents have been told their son’s condition could require future surgeries, and the injuries from the circumcision are of a “continuing and permanent nature,” the suit says.
The suit seeks restitution for all damages that are allowed by law.