Friday, July 29, 2011

Judge orders circumcision ban off SF ballot

Now why is it that men--particularly misogynistic men who feel as if the empowerment of women is causing undue discrimination for them, will always come up with a way to inappropriately equate their cause with that of human/civil rights? To say that male circumcision reduces the man's pleasure in the same way female circumcision is ridiculous. How ANY MAN can equate the dangers of female circumcision with the dangers of male circumcision is insane.

(AP) — A judge on Thursday struck a measure from the city's November ballot that called for a ban on most circumcisions of male children, saying the proposed law violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom and a California law that makes regulating medical procedures a function of the state, not cities.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi confirmed a tentative decision she issued a day earlier and came after she heard arguments from proponents of the ban, which would have made San Francisco the first U.S. city to hold a public vote on whether to outlaw the circumcision of minors.

Michael Kinane, an attorney for the proponents, told Giorgi that circumcision was not usually performed as a medical procedure. He also said the ballot measure included an exception in cases where circumcision was needed for health reasons.

"If you bring in your son and say my custom, my religion requires circumcision of this little boy, the state hasn't said anything on the issue, so there is not a matter of pre-emption," Kinane argued.

Giorgi, while acknowledging that "there is legitimate debate on the benefits and harms of circumcision," was not swayed and ordered San Francisco's elections director to remove the measure from the ballot.

"I don't think there is any debate ... that this mater relates to issues of statewide concern," the judge said.

The ban's sponsor, anti-circumcision activist Lloyd Schofield, said afterward that he was considering an appeal.

"We will not stop until all men are protected from this damaging and harmful surgery," Schofield said.

The citizens' initiative, which qualified for the ballot in May, would have made the practice a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or up to one year in jail. The measure did not offer exemptions for religious rituals such as the Jewish bris or Muslim khitan.

The city attorney's office had joined several Jewish organizations and Muslim parents in challenging the ban in court.

"It is up to parents to make the choice whether or not to have their baby boys circumcised," said Abby Michelson Porth, associate director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. "We did not want to have Mr. Schofield legislating our religious traditions."

Backers had argued the ban was necessary to prevent circumcisions from being forced on children. Kinane pointed out Thursday that the federal government bans female circumcision.

"The U.S. government has said when you are looking at little girls we don't care if it's a matter of custom or ritual, you can't circumcise them unless there's a matter of medical necessity," he said.

Critics contended the initiative posed a threat to families' privacy and to constitutionally protected religious freedoms. They cited comic books and trading cards distributed by the measure's proponents that carried images of a blonde, blue-eyed superhero and four evil Jewish characters.

Outside the courthouse, anti-circumcision activists carried signs with slogans like "I did not consent to male genital mutilation" and a leaflet claiming that circumcision diminishes men's sexual pleasure.

San Francisco parent Jenny Benjamin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn the ban, said seeing people compare circumcision to child abuse made "my stomach churn."

"I don't know about you, but some of the decisions my parents made for me I wasn't thrilled about, but I didn't take it to voters," Benjamin said. "It seems a little extreme. It seems a lot extreme."


Tony said...

If I summarize why society is against FGC/FGM in all its forms, it's because it's non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. The amount of harm matters, but the (proper) outrage at the AAP floating the idea of permitting nicking the genitals of female minors demonstrated that we oppose any harm, not just severe and/or permanent harm. The girl has a right to be free from harm she might not want. (She might decide for surgery, since it's a fact that some women choose cosmetic genital surgery.) If you can summarize it better, I'm interested in reading it. Otherwise, this is a human rights issue, regardless of gender. It applies to male minors, as well, since circumcision in this context is non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. If equal rights are to mean anything, the degree of harm is relevant, but it is not the sole factor. The proper approach would be different levels of punishment, not different levels of prohibition/protection. It's the difference between murder and battery, not the difference between murder and a handshake.

Male genitals are precious to their owner, yes, but no more so than female genitals are precious to their owner. The preciousness of female genitals is an implication of anti-FGM laws, right? I'm not making the argument that keeping one's foreskin means "puppies and rainbows for everyone!", just that the imposition of non-therapeutic genital cutting on a healthy child (female or male) is wrong. This is about self-ownership and equal rights, not "yeah, but TEH PEN*S!!!1!11!".

Equating the dangers is stating that there is a danger (and a guaranteed harm) from genital cutting, not that the outcome is the same or as common. The typical forms of female genital cutting are considerably more dangerous and harmful than the typical form of male circumcision. I don't question that. But the laws against FGM in the United States do not exempt cutting that is as harmful or less so than a typical male circumcision. You wouldn't accept the analogous surgery (i.e. removing the clitoral hood) on females as acceptable or harmless. That matters because it demonstrates the human rights principle involved. All genital cutting on female minors for non-therapeutic reasons is illegal. (As it should be.) Yet, all non-therapeutic genital cutting involves harm and affects the capacity for sexual pleasure to some extent, regardless of gender. That makes the comparison relevant, even though what is imposed on females is usually much worse than what is imposed on males. The comparison involves the legal/ethical/human rights issues, not the typical physical outcomes or motives as a one-to-one comparison.

P.S. Just to state it in clear terms to avoid confusion: All non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting female is mutilation. All FGM is evil.

Anonymous said...

Circumcising children, regardless of comparisons to any other practice, is patriarchal violence and sexist conditioning. It is intended to be harmful and is intended to enforce the stereotypically masculine heterosexual male role.

Feminists and FGM survivors have been saying so for decades, and the movement against circumcision is run by mothers and feminists who tie it to coercion and abuse of birthing women (as is well demonstrated statistically).

Globally, the vast majority of cutting is done in unsanitary ritual conditions and is closely tied to religious and cultural superstitions about masculinity. It is sexual assault, it is mutilation, and it is intended to harm both men and women. FGM makes better victims. MGM makes better rapists.

What feminists and FGM survivors have said about circumcision:

UN International NGO Council's report to the SRSG for Violence Against Children, calling child circumcision a gross violation of children's rights: