Sunday, September 25, 2016

UNITED NATIONS: Genital cutting called "child abuse" - but only of girls

All good, but why specify "female"?

BBC News
July 15, 2016

FGM is child abuse, says UN Population Fund chief

The head of the United Nations Population Fund has, for the first time, described female genital mutilation as "child abuse".

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin told the BBC that the custom was a human rights abuse and needed to end immediately.

More than 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone the procedure, where parts of the female genitals are removed.

The UN estimates a further three million are at risk of being mutilated.

Dr Osotimehin said: "There is absolutely no reason to cut anybody, and it seemed to us that it is part of the gender imbalance that has always existed in these communities which are based on patriarchy. I think it's child abuse."

The organisation had previously referred to the practice as a human rights violation, but has stopped short of calling it child abuse.

FGM is practiced mainly in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

It involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Some countries in Africa are working to change traditional perceptions of FGM.

At the moment about one in five women in Kenya has been cut.

But the UN children's charity, Unicef, says Kenya could eradicate the practice in the next 15 years.
However, deeply entrenched traditions in some communities in this region, and across the world, make this a major challenge.

UGANDA, KENYA: ARVs and education send HIV down, genital cutting gets credit

Deutche Welle
July 15, 2016

Africa's progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS

by Hilke Fischer
The South African city of Durban is the venue for the 2016 World Aids Conference. Sub-Saharan Africa will feature prominently on the agenda, a region where the infection rate has decreased by over 40 percent since 2000.

Which strategies are most effective in the battle against HIV/AIDS? DW looks at how four African countries are responding to the challenge.
Kenya: compulsory HIV/AIDS education
Fewer than six percent of Kenyans live with HIV/AIDS. That's about 1.5 million people. The number of new infections also fell significantly in recent years. In 2005, 28.3 percent of infected mothers transmitted the virus to their children. Five years later, that figure had gone down to 8.5 percent.
Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of all pregnant Kenyan women go for AIDS tests. In 2000, there were only three health facilities where Kenyans could consult medical practitioners and get tested for HIV. In 2010, the number of health facilities offering HIV consultations had increased to more than 4,000.

The main reason for the reduction in the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Kenya is the supply of ARVs. In 2003, only 6,000 people had access to the medication. Ten years later, that figure increased to more than 600,000.

The Kenyan government also regards voluntary male circumcision as a weapon in the fight against AIDS. This reduces the risk of infection among men by about 40 percent, according to studies. Since 2003, HIV/AIDS education has been a compulsory element in school curriculums. About 70 percent of the cost in fighting HIV/AIDS in Kenya is footed by external donors.

[Could it be that the education and the ARVs are entirely responsible for the reduction?]
Uganda: 'Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms'
In Uganda, the AIDS epidemic reached its peak in the 1990s. Approximately 18 percent of the population was infected with the virus. The Ugandan government and international aid agencies launched ambitious and expensive educational programs with the slogan "Abstinence, faithfulness and condoms."

The campaign was a success. In 2000, only five percent of the population was HIV-positive. But, in the meantime, a contrary trend is emerging. The number of new infections in Uganda is rising again for the first time in ten years. The HIV prevalence rate in the country is now about seven percent of the population.

Surprisingly, a major reason for this is the widespread usage of ARVs and the circumcision of men. Many Ugandans believe that the ARV therapy can cure the disease completely and that male circumcision rules out any risk of infection - as a result, more people are abandoning the use of condoms.
[This is NOT surprising - in fact we predicted it, years ago..]

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA: Men are resisting genital cutting

Namibian men aren't buying it...
July 2, 2016

Namibia’s male circumcision initiative to prevent HIV faces headwind

WINDHOEK (Xinhua) -- Circumcised and ready for action?

These four words that are part of a radio advertisement currently gracing the airwaves have aroused mixed feelings among Namibians.

The advertisement is being run by the health ministry as part of a campaign to educate and encourage men to opt for voluntary medical male circumcision.

Namibia aims to circumcise 330, 000 men by 2025 but since the program was officially launched in 2014, just above 30, 000 have taken up the offer.

Most Namibian men, like Windhoek security guards Simeon Hafeni and Gottlieb Kalandu, are refusing to let go of their foreskins.

Hafeni, who is from the northern regions of the country where circumcision is not compulsory under tribal beliefs, says he does not see any reason for him to be cut.

What if I get the cut now, and then tomorrow another disease that needs the foreskin comes by?” he asks.

His workmate, Kalandu quips: “God was not a fool to create men with a foreskin.
[These are not the best reasons to stay intact. The best reasons are that the foreskin is valuable, and that the protection offered, even if true, is insufficient to substitute cutting for the vastly more protective condoms.]
These two could symbolize the difficulty the health ministry’s campaign faces even after rolling out the program as far back as 2009 when the World Health Organization and the United Nations AIDS Organization (UNAIDS) recommended circumcision as one of an HIV preventative measure.

Namibia went on to train more than 260 health care workers to provide deal with circumcision, while 33 district hospitals were made available for the program.

A national strategic plan for 2010/11-2015/16 drawn up and revised in 2013 lists six core program to prevent and control the spread of HIV in the country including circumcision.

The strategic plan states that there is need to reach out to HIV negative adult men and initiate services for adolescents.

Although health ministry spokesperson Ester Paulus said that circumcision is a “low-cost medical intervention”, the strategic plan shows that more than 200 million Namibian dollars (13 million U.S. dollars) was set aside for the first three years.

“Male circumcision is a one-time, low cost medical intervention, which has been recommended by the WHO as part of a comprehensive package of HIV prevention.”

The country also carried out a pilot project in Aug. 2009 in capital Windhoek and at Oshakati, in the north of the country about 700 kilometers from Windhoek.

Realizing that fewer men were volunteering, the health ministry has been on an aggressive campaign. Apart from the advertisements, the health minister, Bernard Haufiku, has also been vocal about the need for men to get the cut.

When the advertisements were launched in May, Haufiku said in high HIV prevalence countries like Namibia, circumcision will at least prevent one in five infections as it reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60 percent. [This is a dangerously false way of applying this already-misleading statistic.]

Hafeni and Kalandu say they have heard the advertisements, which they think are humorous.
“But radio is radio. I don’t believe everything I hear on radio,” Kalandu says.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

COPENHAGEN: Government claims it is a human right to cut (male) babies' genitals

Business Insider
June 16, 2016

Denmark defends circumcision as a human right - even though 75% are against it

by Vilhelm Carlström
Even though a large majority of Danes are against the circumcision of boys, and even though the circumcision of girls is strictly prohibited in Denmark, the government has now officially accepted that it's a human right for parents to circumcise their sons.

The Local reports that a YouGov survey from 2014 showed that 74% of Danes were against the circumcision of boys, while only 10% supported the practise. Despite that, about 1000-2000 boys ar circumcised each year in Denmark, according to the CPH Post.

Since 2014, the matter has been reviewed but without much to show for it.

In 2015, Denmark decided to delete its registry of circumcised individuals, reports the Local. Now, in a report to the United Nations the Danish government officially accepts an Egyptian convention which recognizes circumcision as a human right, writes CPH Post.

The basis is that circumcision of boys is rarely associated with medical complications, when performed under medical supervision [this is equally true of the "circumcision" of girls in Indonesia and Malaysia], and that it's viewed as a religious expression and therefore falls under the freedom of religion right.

Circumcision of boys will therefore remain legal as it complies with Danish law and is carried out by a doctor.

Male circumcision can lead to a more problematic sex life. 
Contrary to claims that circumcision in males is unproblematic, however, a Danish study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in 2011 finds that circumcision leads to frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men. The study also finds that women who are the sexual partners of circumcised men also have significantly higher orgasm difficulties, more problems with painful intrcourse (dyspareunia), and more often feel a sense a incomplete fulfillment of sexual needs.

JERUSALEM: Metzitzah: Two boys contract herpes

The Jerusalem Post
June 3, 2016

Two recent cases [of] herpes in babies following Brit Milah

by Jeremy Sharon
The Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petah Tikva has reported two recent cases in which baby boys have been infected with the herpes virus following their brit mila.

The infections are believed to be the result of ritual circumcisions in which the metzitza ba’peh procedure was used, whereby the mohel, or person performing the circumcision, uses his mouth to suction blood off the penis after the foreskin has been cut off.

This practice is mentioned in the Talmud and codifications of Jewish law, but is now uncommon outside of the haredi community because of the risk of infection, and suction is achieved instead by means of a sterile plastic tube.

According to Schneider, one baby was released last week after having been infected with herpes, while another baby was admitted to the hospital two months ago with the same disease.

“Both children were quickly examined, treated appropriately and released in excellent condition. Both of them will continue to receive oral treatment until the age of six months,” Schneider said.
The hospital reiterated its backing of suction via a tube instead of by mouth “to avoid this difficult infection.”

According to Rabbi Moshe Marciano, director of the circumcision division of the Chief Rabbinate, the infected babies did not have the same mohel.

In one case, the mohel was the father of the infected baby, and is not an authorized mohel, while the second family refused to give the details of the mohel who performed the circumcision.

The Health Ministry confirmed that only one mohel had been identified, but did not indicate that is was the father of the baby.

Marciano said metzitza ba’peh is an approved practice for mohels authorized by the Chief Rabbinate, but added that parents can request that it not be used and the mohel is obliged to conform.

He also said that rabbinate guidelines state if the mohel has any wound or infection in his mouth he must not do metzitza ba’peh.

Metziza ba’peh has caused controversy in recent years, most notably in New York where at least 17 cases of herpes have been reported since 2000, resulting in two deaths.

Earlier story

CAIRO: Girl dies after genital cutting

The Inquistr
June 2, 2016

Female Genital Mutilation Results In Death Of 17-Year-Old Egyptian Girl Maya Mohamed Mousa

by Lindsay McCane
Maya Mohamed Mousa, a 17-year-old Egyptian girl, has died after undergoing an illegal procedure known as female genital mutilation, or female circumcision.

According to Reuters, Mousa and her twin sister arrived at the private El Canal Hospital in Suez to undergo female circumcision on Sunday. Although the procedure was performed under anesthesia, Mousa died after experiencing heavy bleeding. Thankfully, Maya’s sister survived.

Sedkhi Sidhom, an official from Egypt’s health ministry, said the hospital has since been shut down, and Egyptian prosecutors are investigating Mousa’s death.

“Not all cases of female circumcision are reported across Egypt. There are cases of circumcision where the women die and are then buried without a word being mentioned,” Sidhom said.

While there are thousands of deaths due to FGM each year, many go without being acknowledged. However, there are some that make headlines like Mousa’s. Last year, Raslan Fadl, a medical doctor, was convicted of manslaughter in Egypt’s first female genital mutilation trial after a 13-year-old girl died during a botched procedure. Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East and North Africa consultant at rights group Equality Now, said Fadl was sentenced to more than two years in prison, but has yet to serve time behind bars.

“It is incredible that the Egyptian police are not taking a tough line on ending FGM in a country where over 27 million have been affected,” Abu-Dayyeh said in a statement. “The death of the 17-year-old should be yet another shocking wake up call for Egypt.”

WASHINGTON, DC: Bill protects boy-baby-genital-cutting, ritual slaughter as "religious freedom"

Freedom to cut babies, but not from being cut

The Jerusalem Post
May 19, 2016

House passes bill protecting circumcision, ritual slaughter as religious freedoms

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bill unanimously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives would extend religious protections to advocates of circumcision and ritual slaughter as well as atheists, addressing what its sponsors describe as an increase in religious persecution in recent years.

The bill, passed Monday, would broaden the definition of “violations of religious freedom” in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to include the persecution of advocates of male circumcision or ritual animal slaughter. [Does that include any opposition to male genital cutting or ritual slaughter?] Atheists would become a new protected class. 

The measure, which moves to the Senate for consideration, was named for retired Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a longtime champion of human rights who authored the 1998 law.

2D Session

May 17, 2016
Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

To amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to improve the ability of the United States to advance religious freedom globally through enhanced diplomacy, training, counterterrorism, and foreign assistance efforts, and through stronger and more flexible political responses to religious freedom violations and violent extremism worldwide, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SEC. 102. Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
(a) In general.—Section 102(b)(1) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6412(b)(1))
["Each Annual Report {of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom} shall contain the following:"]
is amended—
(3) in subparagraph (B) ["Violations of Religious Freedom"], in the matter preceding clause (i) ["An asseessment and description of the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom in each foreign country, including persecution of one religious group by another religious group, religious persecution by governmental and non-governmental entitites, persecution targeted at individuals or particular denominations or entire religions..."—

(A) by inserting “persecution of lawyers, politicians, or other human rights advocates seeking to defend the rights of members of religious groups or highlight religious freedom violations, prohibitions on ritual
animal slaughter or male infant circumcision,” after “entire religions,”...

“The world is experiencing an unprecedented crisis of international religious freedom, a crisis that continues to create millions of victims; a crisis that undermines liberty, prosperity and peace; a crisis that poses a direct challenge to the U.S. interests in the Middle East, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who authored the bill, said in a statement.

There have been increasing calls in recent years in northern European countries for an end to circumcision and ritual slaughter, spurred in part by anti-Muslim hostility [but mainly by a well-founded concern for human rights], U.S. government and European Jewish officials have said. [And that constitutes "persecution of advocates" how?]
The bill’s tier system for how well or poorly countries protect religious freedom would be similar to the one used in the annual State Department report on human trafficking. That report is influential, and countries seeking the good graces of the United States strive to improve their ranking by cracking down on the practice.

Smith is the chairman of the House subcommittee on human rights, and as a co-chairman of the Helsinki Committee, the congressional panel that monitors human rights overseas, has made the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe a focus.

Smith’s office, announcing the passage of the bill, headlined the statement “Combating Persecution of Christians and Anti-Semitism,” although many of its protections would extend in the current climate to moderate Sunni Muslims and non-Sunni Muslim sects in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the bill’s lead Democratic sponsor, said in the same statement that the bill would “better address the religious freedom and violent extremism problems being experienced in the 21st century.”

The bill integrates the 1998 law’s protections into U.S. national security priorities, mandating that the ambassador at large for religious freedom – currently Rabbi David Saperstein, a veteran Reform movement leader — report directly to the secretary of state. It also adds new requirements for presidential reporting to Congress on religious freedom violations and training for diplomats in identifying violations of religious freedoms.