Steven Svoboda presented a talk, “Genital Autonomy, the United Nations, and the Law” presented at the International Conference on Men’s Issues in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 2019. He overviewed the movement to protect genital autonomy in all its multifarious forms, discussing his team’s recent United Nations work and the recent and very different court decisions relating to the laws against female genital cutting in the US and in the UK. He compared the decision last year in which a Michigan judge refused to enforce the federal law against female genital cutting with a decision in the early 2000’s in a class action case in Queens, New York in which Steven was a lawyer. He argued that some aspects of gender equity from the male side are not well understood nor well protected and that these issues relate to issues of genital autonomy in interesting and potentially very important and even transformative ways.
The audience was very attentive and the questions following Steven’s talk were perceptive and in some cases even provocative.
Steven also appeared later that same day on a panel of activists appearing in the “Red Pill” movie, following a screening of the movie. Also appearing were filmmaker Cassie Jaye (present by Skype) and six other folks featured in the movie: Fred Hayward (the officiant at Steven’s 2018 wedding!), Tim Goldich, Tom Golden, Alison Tieman, Karen Straughan, Paul Elam, and two officers along with Steven in the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), NCFM President Harry Crouch and NCFM Vice-President Marc Angelucci.
For information on the conference, please visit http://icmi2019.icmi.info/.
Below is the abstract of Steven’s presentation, as well as several photos from the conference.
J. STEVEN SVOBODA
Last November, a federal judge ruled that a 1996 federal law prohibiting female genital cutting (FGC) was unconstitutional, The judge’s name seemed familiar to me; I realized with a start that the same Bernard Friedman prevented a federal court from protecting males from cutting and then 16 years later blocked them from protecting girls! The cases do differ: males get no protection, while Judge Friedman held that we don’t need a special anti-FGC law to prosecute cutters or their accomplices, though 27 States do have such laws.
Advocates of children’s rights need to band together and make clear that the central ethical issue here is the violation of a young person’s bodily integrity without consent, and the exposure of that person’s healthy ‘private parts’ to surgical risk without an urgent medical need.
Four European cases have held some forms of MGC to be worse than some forms of FGC and found liability. Why were these cases decided in Europe and not the US?
In 2001, my non-profit organization, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, assembled a team that traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to present written and oral “interventions” or petition to the Sub-Commission. In meetings with us, the Special Rapporteur on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and the Girl Child effectively refused to do her job regarding this issue. We discovered and unearthed in our intervention a surprising procedural misdeed by the CRC that excised male children from the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.
I led preparation and submission by a small non-governmental organization of eight members to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on New Year’s Eve 2018-2019 of a “third party intervention” that the UNCRC invited us to submit regarding a Finnish parental circumcision case.
We concluded that removing healthy tissue from non-consenting minors conflicts with widely accepted ethical norms as well as with human rights. We recommended that the Committee find that applicable human rights documents support a guilty finding against the defendants.
Barriers to change include the profitability of MGC an appalling lack of knowledge among doctors regarding the functions of the foreskin, physician claims to feel pressured by boys’ parents to perform the surgery, and resource overload. I feel so blessed that protection of all children is becoming a reality. As long as childhood genital cutting is perceived as a gender issue, we will remain divided. Once it becomes a human issue we will stand united. The personal is political for us too.