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Legal Victory in France as Surgeon Fined for Circumcision

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
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3
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News

June 24, 2016

A French man has won a conviction against the surgeon who circumcised him as an adult. The court acknowledged sexual harm and ethical harm following the lack of information on alternatives to circumcision.

In early 2016, the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) in Paris ruled on a dispute between a patient and his surgeon, a member of the French Association of Urology. In 2007, then aged 26, the patient was circumcised by his surgeon for an indication of a phimosis. Not only did the surgeon not inform him about the risks and consequences associated with this action, but he failed to propose less invasive alternative therapies.

Deeply affected by the injury, especially by a loss of sensation following the removal of his foreskin, the victim of this procedure decided to sue the surgeon in court and won the case.

After an investigation which revealed that the recommendation to circumcise was made "arbitrarily", and further that the operation had not been carried out properly, the Paris Court fined the surgeon almost 32,000 euros in compensation:

- € 5000 for moral damage resulting from the lack of information given;

- € 3000 for physical and mental suffering;

- € 250 for temporary functional deficit and € 3,560 for permanent functional deficit;

- € 20,000 for sexual harm because, inter alia, "a partial loss of the ability to access pleasure."

Essentially, what can we learn from this judgment?

- Justice does not tolerate circumcision as the only therapeutic solution proposed by the medical profession in cases of phimosis;

- Justice means that foreskin removal can cause a loss of sexual pleasure; and

- Justice recognizes that circumcision, practiced even in a medical setting, can cause considerable and currently irreparable damage.

This is a landmark judgment: the time has come for circumcision victims not to hesitate to prosecute those responsible for their mutilation.

There's been a policy of covering-up, and medical insurance, public or private, will have to take a 180 degree turn: in France, circumcision simply has no place in health care practices, except in extremely rare exceptions. How many circumcisions are performed each year on infants or children under the guise of "phimosis" in order to receive a refund by the social security? * This fraud is all the more immoral considering it generates great suffering, as illustrated by the testimony of victims, among others.

This judgment confirms the position of the organization Droit du Corps; namely, that we need to have a public debate surrounding consent to circumcision.

* * *

* In Belgium in 2014, 25,698 circumcisions were performed at a cost of 2.6 million euros (from among 11 million inhabitants).

House passes bill protecting circumcision, ritual slaughter as religious freedoms

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
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3
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News

May 18, 2016

 

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. 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.

“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, U.S. government and European Jewish officials have said.

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.

Danish Doctors’ Group Wants to End Circumcision for Boys

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11
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3
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December 8, 2016

A major doctors association in Denmark has recommended ending circumcisions for boys, saying the procedure should be “an informed personal choice” that young men make for themselves when they reach adulthood.

But the Danish Medical Association stopped short of calling for a legal ban, saying it would be difficult to predict the consequences.

“This area is ethically, culturally and religiously complex, and we worry whether a legal ban might result in unauthorized circumcisions,” said Lisa Moller, the president of the association’s ethics committee, which released the new policy statement last week. “Therefore, we have decided not to take a position on whether male circumcision should be banned by law.”

The largely symbolic recommendation, which Ms. Moller said was “intended as a statement of medical ethics,” says that because circumcision alters a child’s body permanently and involves “pain and discomfort,” it is ethically unacceptable to perform one unless the person can provide informed consent.

Ms. Moller said in an email on Thursday that more than 300 of the association’s members had signed an open letter urging the group “to be more visibly critical towards the practice of ritual circumcision.”

In drafting the policy, she said, the committee consulted experts on ethics and law from the University of Copenhagen, as well as “a substantial white paper on ritual male circumcision authored by the Jewish community in Denmark.” A “bilateral meeting” with representatives of the Jewish community was scheduled, she said, but ultimately canceled. The Local, an English-language news site in Denmark, citing the Danish Health and Medicines Authority, in 2014 said that approximately 1,000 to 2,000 circumcisions are performed annually, mostly among the country’s Muslim and Jewish populations.

In Denmark, physicians perform circumcisions, although a “competent assistant,” may do so with a doctor present, Ms. Moller said.

In recent years, Danes in public surveys have opposed circumcisions as standard practice. One poll in 2014 found that nearly three-fourths of the population favored banning the practice.

According to a 2007 World Health Organization report, approximately 30 percent of men globally have been circumcised.The rates in the United States have fluctuated through the years as advice from medical associations has changed. Statistics from the past decade suggest a sharp decline.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012 said the benefits of circumcising boys outweighed the risks. That decision replaced an earlier, neutral position on the procedure, but it also stopped short of recommending circumcision routinely for all baby boys.

In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed with the academy, citing a decreased risk of some sexually transmitted infections.

Critics of the procedure, however, say that it is rarely medically necessary, that surgical complications can permanently harm boys, and that it can lead to decreased sensitivity.

French Court Recognizes Third Gender Option In Landmark Victory For Intersex Rights

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11
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3
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October 15, 2016

A high court in France has officially recognized a third gender option in a case that’s being described in the country as a crucial victory for intersex rights. The intersex individual, who was born with both male and female genitalia, has won the right to register as gender neutral.

The landmark case was brought before the court in the city of Tours, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department in France, by a 64-year-old person who has requested to remain anonymous. The person was assigned male at birth despite having ambiguous genitalia and realized during puberty that they didn't feel right with the classification.

"For 64 years I've lived with both sexes,” the plaintiff told the French media outlet 20 Minutes. “Today, I finally have the feeling of being recognized for what I am.”

Now, the plaintiff can change their gender status from “male” to “neutral.” The ruling has established legal precedent for people born with ambiguous genitalia. It does not cover transgender or genderqueer French citizens who do not identify as male or female. About two in every 100 babies are born with bodies that differ from standard male or female, according to research by Brown University.

In the ruling, the presiding judge wrote that the sex assigned at birth "appears as a pure fiction,” according to documents that 20 Minutes obtained. "It was imposed upon him for his entire existence without him ever being able to express his deepest feelings.”

The ruling has been labeled as a small but important win for the intersex community and other nonbinary groups like the transgender community.

But state prosecutors have filed to appeal the ruling, seeking to establish that the court's decision did not equate to de facto national recognition of a third gender. According to 20 Minutes, the deputy attorney of Tours said, "We're not in the role of the legislator to create the law where it does not exist yet or to change the points that already exist."

However, he said he did sympathize with the person who has won the gender-neutral designation.

“[Gender assignment surgery] is not being done in the child's best interests, but in the interest of the parents and the society that has provided two boxes to check, a male and a female,” said Mila Petkova, the lawyer who brought the case to court in Tours, said.  The decision comes just days before Intersex Awareness Day, Oct. 26.

At least 10 other countries recognize nonbinary gender or sex options in some official capacity: Germany, Bangladesh,India, Pakistan, Nepal, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Denmark and Malta.

Video: Groundbreaking Brit Shalom Talk at Temple Sinai in Oakland CA

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
ARC Newsletter Issue: 
3
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News

June 26, 2016

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin's remarks may be the first of their kind, publicly acknowledging the importance of making Jewish families feel welcome in congregational life when they have made a different choice about circumcision. The rabbi's remarks precede a talk given by Lisa Braver Moss at her synagogue, Temple Sinai, in Oakland California.

Following a brief presentation about her own experience as a young Jewish mother when her sons were born, Lisa reads excerpts from the book Celebrating Brit Shalom (co-authored with Rebecca Wald). Lisa then leads a Q&A session followed by a unique performance of Songs for Celebrating Brit Shalom, the music written to accompany the ceremonies in the book. Choir members and others from the Temple Sinai musical community join Lisa, her husband Mark, and their son Reuben, who wrote the music, in this debut performance.

Important New UK Decision Upholds Children’s Rights

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
ARC Newsletter Issue: 
3

We are pleased to announce that an important new legal decision has been handed down in the UK upholding children's rights. While the judgment is not perfect, the judge's primary reasoning protects the child's best interests and his right to personal autonomy.

 This landmark event can be attributed in large part to the tireless efforts of our close colleague and friend James Chegwidden, who co-represented the plaintiff mother in this case. The case involved a threatened circumcision of two boys that was sought by the father to be performed by a medical professional, but for purely religious reasons. The court refused to permit the procedure to be performed, finding that circumcision carries real risks. The court also found that nothing in Islam requires male circumcision before an age when the boys could make the decision for themselves (15-16 years old) and that to the contrary, intact boys can fully participate in their father's Muslim community and culture and would not suffer exclusion. The case can be accessed at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2016/849.html.