Attorneys for the Rights of the Child
2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 Fax/phone 510-595-5550
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2001 CONTACT: J. Steven Svoboda, Esq., 1-510-595-5550
Attention: Health Editor
United Nations Criticized for Sex Discrimination Against Males
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The United Nations and its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights were sharply criticized yesterday by two human rights organizations for discrimination against males in the enforcement of human rights. Speaking on behalf of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers and Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, J. Steven Svoboda, Esq., a Harvard-educated human rights lawyer, noted that while a panoply of protections for women and girls has been instituted including aggressive programs to stop female genital mutilation (FGM), male circumcision has never even been studied by any United Nations body including the Sub-Commission.
Svoboda demanded that the Sub-Commission explain why Sub-Commissioner Mrs. Halima Embarek Warzazi, previously its Special Rapporteur on Traditional Practices Affecting Women and Children, was now barred from considering traditional practices’ effects on male children.
Svoboda commented that everywhere that FGM occurs, male circumcision also takes place, adding that male circumcision occurs six times for every time FGM occurs. “Some day,” Svoboda told the United Nations, “we will come to understand the misguided nature of our attempts to explain why any violation of female genitals is criminal while a comparable, serious, extremely painful, and disfiguring alteration of male genitals is permissible. The best way to do justice to the rights of the child is to do no harm, to let it enjoy life in every aspect and to protect it and to love it. When the child is of the age of consent, he or she can make up his or her own mind about his or her own body. “
Svoboda called the United Nations’ attention to the fact that the Parliament of Sweden recently voted decisively, 249 to 10, in favor of new legislation which regulates male circumcision and in its preliminaries also ordered a study to determine what effect the new law will have and whether male circumcision should be considered a human rights violation. Many Swedish Members of Parliament stated that male circumcision violates children’s rights.
Svoboda reminded the Sub-Commission that Ms. Gay J. McDougall, its own expert on systematic rape and sexual slavery, stressed that human rights must protect both males and females from all forms of sexual assault. Svoboda added that human rights professor Jacqueline Smith of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights has emphasized the importance of protecting males as well as females from circumcision.
Svoboda called the Sub-Commission’s attention to the disfigured genitals and deaths which are regularly caused by male circumcision wherever it is practiced, in the United States, in the developing world, or elsewhere. He recounted the story of David Reimer, whose penis was entirely burned off, as has since been documented on television and in a best-selling book. Reimer was raised and surgically “reassigned” as a girl but his life and the lives of everyone in his family were catastrophically altered. Svoboda quoted an August 1 article in the New York Times reporting that 35 boys have already died this year in South Africa alone from circumcisions. Ten percent or more of initiates have been left with no penis or a “disfigured stump.”
Svoboda testified that every single national medical association that has examined the issue has failed to find medical benefits which can justify routine removal of healthy tissue from a non-consenting infant. Regarding religion, Svoboda stated that for boys and girls alike, under basic human rights principles, another’s right to practice a religion must end where that individual’s body begins.