"Illegal" circumcision of a 9 year old boy.
A 9 year old Xhosa boy brought home a permission form for free government-provided circumcision at his school in Pietermaritzburg. His guardian (his mother's sister) refused to sign it since his mother didn't agree. The boy handed in the form anyway, and was duly circumcised. His aunt cried foul and called in the police saying that the boy had 'lost his manhood' since he couldn't now take part in the traditional Xhosa circumcision rite. (For a look at the horrible butchery this often entails look at our South Africa page.) Meanwhile the boy is probably very happy, having got what he wanted. After all, he handed in the form.
This story made it all the way to New Zealand, where regular contributor DP saw it and sent it in. Read it at New Zealand Herald. South African sources all seem to come from the same agency report, complete with an image of a scalpel, but the report in The Citizen gives a bit more detail.
The US Centre for Disease Control has issued an encyclopaedic new report on circumcision..
This is probably the most comprehensive review ever about circumcision in the USA. While mention is made of research in Africa and elsewhere it is focussed on the benefits, and risks, of circumcision in America. Some interesting snippets:
- an estimated 7% of infant males presenting with fever in outpatient clinics and emergency rooms had UTIs, including 20% of uncircumcised febrile infants and 2% of circumcised febrile infants aged younger than 3 months of age. (In other words, circumcised boys have 10 times less risk of this condition).
- 32% of uncircumcised males compared with 9% of circumcised males will experience a UTI in their lifetime
- Neonatal male circumcision is safer, less expensive, and heals more rapidly than circumcision performed on older boys, adolescent males, and men.
- Complications occur in 0.2% of infants aged ≤1 month, 0.4% of infants aged <1 year, and approximately 9% in children aged 1–9 years. While almost all complications are minor, this is a strong argument for infant circumcision.
There are several documents comprising this report, but the most accessible one is "Information for Providers to Share with Male Patients and Parents Regarding Male Circumcision and the Prevention of HIV Infection, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and other Health Outcomes" which you can read here.
Thanks to Brian Morris and Chris Eley for the link.
US Jewish mothers are turning to mohelets.
Traditional mohels (Jewish ritual circumcisers) often exclude women from the ceremony. This has led to a trend towards using a female circumciser (mohelet) who will let the whole family take part. The feeling seems to be that women also do a gentler, kinder operation. "The baby didn't cry at all", one mother said. (Note for pedants, the Hebrew plural of mohelet is actually mohalot).
Read the article in Haretz.
Thanks to Tom for the link.
First ever academic investigation of circumcision discussion on social media.
A most unusual, but very welcome, paper from Istanbul looks at discusssion about circumcision on social media. Posts were divided into four categories - medical, social, political and religious. Political posts overwhelmingly dominated discussion. The authors' conclusion was that much more medical information needed to be provided on social media platforms.
Thanks to JH for the link.
He was found drinking in a bar with circumcised men.
The Kenya Standard reports that a teenager who had resisted getting circumcised was dragged from a bar in Marimanti town where he was drinking with circumcised men, after several warnings not to. His father authorised a group of men to seize the youth, and they took him to the local hospital, where he was circumcised. (It would appear that the hospital didn't find this strange - but perhaps the lad realized at this point that he had no other option). The family, which had been the target of scorn and derision, broke into great celebrations.
Full details at the Kenya Standard
Thanks to Tom for the link.
Bukusu boys face the knife from 5am today
At least 10,000 boys aged 13 to 18 will be circumcised in an elaborate ceremony over the next few weeks. More than 500 traditional circumcisers have performed the necessary rites and prepared their knives. The actual cut is performed in the early morning when the boys are numbed from immersion in the cold river water. This prevents excessive bleeding. The operation is all over within 30 seconds. In December the newly circumcised boys will be pronounced warriors.
Full details at Kenya Standard
Thanks to Tom for the link.
African AIDS prevention strategy reaches a major milestone
"It is estimated that by 2030 male circumcision will avert at least 500,000 HIV infections in Africa". This target is based on 27 million circumcisions and 15 million is a significant landmark. It is also hard to resist the punning title of the paper "Cutting-Edge Success in Preventing Heterosexual HIV Transmission in Africa: Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Has Reached 15 Million Men." Read the abstract at pubmed or the full paper (pdf) at AIDS Education & Prevention
Thanks to both JH and Brian Morris for the link.
Another source says that the ban is unlikely to pass
The petition to ban infant circumcisions in Denmark seems unlikely to pass Parliament. It did get the required 50,000 votes but as we reported on 28th April the major parties had already agreed to reject the proposal before this target was reached. However the Parliament did vote in May to ban the burqua (also false beards and other face coverings). There are no ski slopes in Denmark but this would be tricky in other countries since many skiers wear face-covering masks for protection from the cold.
Read the latest report on CH Post. The article also makes the totally untrue claim that Germany and Australia have banned infant circumcision. Not so! The German case does have a germ of truth in that a judges's decision in Köln appeared to make it illegal, but this was swiftly reversed by the Bundestag. The Australian claim is just pure fiction, and presumably comes from the decision that it will no longer be free. (Parents now have to pay but there is still a Medicare rebate to cover part of the cost). It never was free in Europe!
Thanks to Brian Morris for the link.
Michael Rosen was a larger-than-life character
Anaesthetists ae usually the quiet, retiring half of the operating theatre team, but Professor Michael Rosen broke the mould. But what gets him into these pages was that he was a pioneer of appropriate analgesia for infant circumcision.
You can read his obituary in The Times. The Times has now relaxed its paywall somewhat and you can read up two articles a week free by registering. Mind you, their registration system is extraordinarily flaky and would not work for me.
Thanks to Tom for the link.
- should they be circumcised?
The benefit of circumcision in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) is well established. It is also well known that infants with abnormalities of the urinary system, such as hydronephrosis, are particularly prone to UTIs. Would circumcision be especially beneficial to these infants?
That was the question investigated by a team of Seattle doctors. The results, recently published in the journal Pediatrics, show that the answer is a definite yes. Infant circumcision was effective in preventing UTIs in all infants, but it was almost four times as effective in infants with hydronephrosis and related conditions. So boys diagnosed with those conditions should definitely be circumcised.
Read the abstract at PubMed . Thanks to JH for the link.
- and ends up in hospital. .
38-year-old Roman A suffered from from phimosis, and could not find a doctor or clinic to circumcise him. He said he was in excruciating pain and could not even bear to go to the toilet. So he disinfected a sharp knife and cut off his foreskin on a chopping board. Unfortunately he couild not then staunch the bleeding and had to go to hospital.
Aspects of this story do not ring entirely true and reading between the lines it seems more likely that he was put on a long waiting list for elective surgery. He says at one point "they delayed the surgery" which fits this explanation. Maybe he felt that he just couldn't wait any longer.
Read the story at the Daily Mail. Thanks to JH for the link.
Famous South African actor gets the snip
KwaZulu-Natal province, in South Africa, started a programme of medical male circumcision in 2010, with the aim of reducing the spread of HIV. Last weekend the programme claimed its millionth foreskin, belonging to the actor and TV star Melusi Yeni. The doctor was Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, who is also Member of the Exective Council (MEC) for Health. (This is equivalent to being Health Minister for the province.) He has a long history of fighting AIDS, initially as an Army doctor well before the national campaign was rolled out. So the surgeon was as famous as his patient.
Read the story at IOL.
Thanks to Professor Brian Morris for the link.
UK is much more reasonable.
In Nigeria, as in most of West Africa, boys, whether Muslim of not, are circumcised in infancy or early childhood. (This is in marked contrast to East Africa - see our Kenya page - where boys are circumcised in their late teens.) But Nigerians living in the EU are finding that this hurts their hip pocket, with fees of €500 the cheapest they can hope for. Even so, it is cheaper than flying back to Nigeria.
Apparently the UK has much more reasonable charges. Read the story at the Vanguard.
Reader Arend comments: "Fees in the Netherlands are much lower. Clinics offer a circumcision by medically trained surgeons for boys up to 16 years for €275." Welcome news.
Penile cancer at age 26
Dale Clark, from Newcastle (UK) was a star player for the Northern Alliance side Forest Hall. He has a six-year-old son and managed to father a daughter after partial amputation of his penis. All therapies failed and he died on Sunday May 6th, a month before his partner Paige King is due to give birth.
It is very rare for penile cancer to affect someone so young, but he neglected the symptoms until they could no longer be ignored. However, a simple operation when he was a baby would have saved his life - circumcised men do not get penile cancer. Read the story at the Daily Mail. Thanks to Professor Brian Morris for the link.
Something a bit different
Recently Sotheby's Australia (who are not part of Sothebys International) auctioned off a large collection of 19th and early 20th century British and European art from a private collector - see it here. One picture caught my eye, and I did go to see it in person. Click the image to see it full size (opens in a new window - close the window to return).
The picture is 'When Love Came into the House of the Respectable Citizen', painted in 1916 by John Byam Shaw. It didn't make its reserve and eventually sold for $10,000 below the low estimate, but even so it was a very high price for a work on paper by a little-known artist. So what do we make of it? Clearly the impact of a confirmed bachelor falling head over heels in in love is represented by Cupid suddenly bursting in through the window and scattering the furniture. Let's look a bit closer. Viewing the image full size it is clear that Cupid is circumcised. This is probably the only image of a circumcised Cupid in the history of art.
OK, here we are in the realms of speculation but this was the middle of WW1 and Byam Shaw was on war duties, not a full-time artist. He drew a lot of patriotic cartoons for the papers and this seems to have been a bit of gentle fun aimed at a friend. So what do we make of Cupid? The model was almost certainly Byam Shaw's son Glen, then aged 11. Glen went on to be a very successful actor and subsequently director. But Cupid's head is not his - it is clearly the head of a girl, presumably the man's paramour. A lovely, whimsical painting and a unique portrayal of Cupid.
Teenager gets the chop at 18
Both Brian Morris and AM have sent in this link. They both think it is funny. Frankly I don't share their opinion, but judge it for yourself. View it here.
Reasons, and satisfaction
This isn't really news - the paper is a year old - but it is very interesting. It looks at why Chinese parents choose circumcision for their sons aged 6-14. "Most decisions for circumcision were made by the father, chiefly for health and hygiene. Their main sources of information on circumcision were Internet and friends". This is in marked contrast to North America where most sources report that the mother is usually the decision maker.
13% of parents reported a degree of dissatisfaction on the basis of long recovery and/or pain. These problems were more common after traditional circumcision (27%) than Shang ring circumcision (6.7%). The authors therefore recommend Shang Ring circumcision for patients in this age group. Read the abstract here. The full paper is in Chinese. Thanks to JH for the link.
Committee decides against it
The Judicial Affairs and Educational Committee will ask the Icelandic Parliament to dismiss the bill, proposed months ago by MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, calling for a male child circumcision ban. The proposed bill has received wide international condemnation (see our news articles on 2nd February, 24th March and 13th April) and has also been condemned by both Catholic and Lutheran bishops of Iceland. It appears that this is the death knell for the proposal.
Major party states it will not support a circumcision ban
A recent Danish law allowed citizen petitions to be debated by parliament if they achieved 50,000 votes in 6 months. As we reported on 1st March, one such petition was to ban infant male circumcision. The petition had reached 44,685 votes as of 24th April which meant it was highly likely to reach Parliament. On 24th April the ruling Liberal Party met to discuss the proposal and, after lively and lengthy discusssion, agreed to oppose it. The opposition Social Democrats and the populist Danish People's Party have both come out in opposition to the ban. The Liberal Alliance and the Conservative party plan to give their MPs a free vote. The Socialist People’s Party (SF) is the only party which is requiring its MPs to vote in favour. The weight of numbers means that the proposal is dead in the water.
Read the story in the The Local - Denmark or the Freethinker, a British atheist publication. The latter includes a lengthy opinion piece by Stephen Moreton and comments by Brian Morris. Thanks to Professor Brian Morris for the links.
Circumcision: regulation, not prohibition
Stephen Moreton has published an article in the online gay journal Pink Humanist criticising the current anti-circumcision movement. This is probably timely since the anti-circumcision movement seems to be quite strong in the gay community. Amusingly, he heads it with a picture of an anti-circ protest of people with "blood-stained" crotches holding up placards. The protesters are three adult women, two little girls, and just one man! It would seem that they found it difficult getting men to protest circumcision! He also calls for regulation on who can perform circumcisions - it seems that in some countries there are no such restrictions. Frankly, this makes sense. Circumcision needs to be safe.
5-storey blue penis in Stockholm
Street artist Carolina Falkholt, now back in her native Sweden, has caused controversy again with a picture of a giant phallus. In December she painted a similar picture, but in natural colours, on an apartment block in the SoHo area of New York. We reported on it on December 30th. The significance of going blue in Stockholm is unclear. But the outcome seems to be the same - the picture is going to be painted over. Funnily enough the painting over the New York version was so perfunctory that one can still make out the image - maybe the Swedes will be more meticulous. But Sweden has been famous for years as the country of sexual liberation and free nudism, so why??
Is the penis circumcised? We discussed this over the New York version and the editor's opinion is that it is just a short foreskin firmly erect. There is no sign of a scar. But only Carolina Falkholt knows for sure.
Read the full report in the Guardian.
Thanks to AM for the link.
US Congressmen weigh in with bi-partisan support
Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, joined forces with the Committee's top Democrat Representative Eliot Engel to issue the following statement:
“While Jewish and Muslim populations in Iceland may be small, your country’s ban could be exploited by those who stoke xenophobia and anti-Semitism in countries with more diverse populations.” The message was sent on April 5th to the embassy of Iceland in Washington, D.C.
Read the report here. Thanks to Professor Brian Morris for the link.
it's how you feel about it.
A recent paper by Canadian Jennifer Bossio and colleague Caroline Pukall explores how men feel about their circumcision status. "Attitude Toward One's Circumcision Status Is More Important than Actual Circumcision Status for Men's Body Image and Sexual Functioning, Archives of Sexual Behavior", April 2018, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 771–781
They found that men circumcised as infants or children were less likely to feel positive about their circumcision status than uncircumcised men or men circumcised as adults. However, this was an Internet survey, advertised on campus and on Facebook, and this is bound to attract those with an axe to grind. It would be good to see similar questions asked in a truly random sample.
Thanks to JH for the story
Nothing to do with circumcision.
The Australian branch of global budget supermarket chain Aldi came up with this rather Freudian advert to promote their 'baby cucumbers'. |
The boy is proudly holding his - er - cucumber. Seemed like a suitable April Fool image.
Powerful US Jewish lobby group steps in.
The Anti-Defamation League, a very powerful US Jewish lobby group, has jumped into the Icelandic circumcision debate - boots and all. CEO of ADL, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, has criticised the bill on the basis of religious freedom and the medical benefits of circumcision. He added, quite correctly:
“Should Iceland ban male circumcision, making it impossible for Jews and Muslims to raise families in your country, we guarantee that Iceland will be celebrated by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremists. They will celebrate the ban as the first legislation in Europe since World War II towards making a country Judenrein, free of Jews.”
It's hard to argue with that. What he also pointed out was that US tourists contribute a lot to Iceland's economy, and that could be in jeopardy if the bill was passed. Read about it on the Icelandic grapevine. Read Greenblatt's letter to the Althing (Icelandic Parliament) here. Thenks to Professor Brian Morris for the information.
Professor David Cooper, who diagnosed Australia's first AIDS case, died on 18th March.
David Cooper first came across the then undiagnosed HIV virus while working in the USA in the 1980s. On his return to Australia he made it his major task to tackle the disease in his home country. His research was world class, but he also made the campaign public. He and his daughters would take part in the Mardi Gras parade (Sydney's major Gay Pride event) dressed as pills to encourage men to seek treatment.
Cooper was a strong advocate for circumcision as a means for limiting the spread of AIDS. You can read some of his publications on the subject at an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, and an article in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.
Danish petition to ban circumcision.
Under a new law in Denmark, petitions accepted for posting on the Folketinget (Citizen Proposal) website have to be debated by Parliament if they gain 50,000 signatures in 6 months. The petition proposes six years jail for anyone who carries out non-medical circumcision on a person under 18 and also penalties for parents who send children out of the country to be circumcised.
In its first month the petition got 20,000 signatures, so whether it will get to 50,000 is debatable. In any case it is hard to see how Parliament could pass it since it violates EU rules on freedom of religion. Read the full story at Arutz Sheva, Israel National News. Thanks to D&T P for the story.
Through an editorial stuff-up this item got accidentally deleted and the reinstated version is not identical to the original. If any readers know of other items that got lost please contact me.
More parents are opting for infant circumcision for their boys.
A short piece in the Saturday 17th February edition of the (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported that infant circumcision was becoming more popular in New South Wales (Australia).
CIRCUMCISION practitioners in NSW say the number of baby boys going under the knife is now “slowly creeping up” amid a raft of new research about the controversial procedure’s health benefits. It means parents who opt for the divisive procedure are experiencing less push-back with data showing the benefits exceed the associated risks by “200 to one”.A fairly minimal article, but it attracted attention and yesterday the story was featured on Channel 10's 'The Project'. This is a show with a panel which discusses the latest news, and has a big audience. Brian Morris, obstretician Lionel Steinberg and urologist David Winkel were interviewed. One panel member, a middle-aged man, declared that he was uncircumcised - surprising for his age group in Australia. The other, older, male member put up his hand as circumcised. (The panel has two men and two women). The chair, Waleed Ali, is Muslim so he really didn't need to declare anything, and didn't. Morris and Steinberg spoke strongly in favour of circumcision, Winkel (whose name caused some amusement) was against. The programme can be viewed online at Channel 10. The circumcision segment starts about 10 minutes in and lasts for 5 minutes. The link will expire in 3 months (19th May).
Associate professor Norman Blumenthal has been performing circumcision on infants for over 30 years. He told The Saturday Telegraph there was “no doubt numbers are increasing”. “Patients are actually wanting circumcision — it’s only the medical advice from some quarters that are frightening them. But certainly the stigma about circumcision is over,” said the Sydney-based obstetrician.
Circumcision developed into a routine procedure for newborn baby boys in Australia by the 1950s before the trend began to decline. A NSW Health spokeswoman said on average, only eight per cent of infant males born in the state are circumcised.
Leading paediatric surgeon Dr Anthony Dilley said people who once sat on the fence were now leaning towards circumcision. “The numbers have over the last 15 years been slowly creeping up,” Dr Dilley said. “A lot of parents are not getting the same degree of strong opinion from people when they hear about circumcision as they used to.” While Medicare data showed 5710 NSW patients aged between newborns and four years old were circumcised in 2017, the total number of boys undergoing the surgery is likely to be far higher.
Large meta-analysis compares glue to sutures.
A study from Monash University, Australia, has compared the use of tissue glue instead of sutures in childhood circumcision (children older than one year). "Overall complication rates were 4.3% (tissue glue) and 5.9% (sutures). Use of tissue glue was associated with reduced post-operative pain; better cosmetic results and reduced cost." Apparently tissue glue is as strong as wound-healing after 7 days, which is quite impressive.
This is a pre-print of an accepted paper awaiting publication in Urology. You can read the abstract at PubMed. The full paper requires payment. From Professor Brian Morris' weekly digest of circumcision papers.
Award-winning film sparks controversy.
South Africa's 'Initiation (circumcision) Schools' are a perpetual source of strife between traditional leaders and the government. Many teenagers die in them, and they are notoriously badly managed. The situation is improving, with only 17 boys dying in 2017 in the Eastern Cape, compared to 31 in 2016 and 46 in 2015, but the government view is that criminal charges would be appropriate in many cases. The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) takes a contrary stance, but does agree about working with health authorities. Read about it in the Huffington Post.
What has really set the cat among the pigeons is an award-winning movie "Inxeba" ("The Wound") which tells the story of a gay city boy (played by Niza Jay Ncoyini). He goes on a journey to manhood while at an initiation school in rural Eastern Cape, but refuses to conform to the Xhosa culture's idea of masculinity. Contralesa have staged protests at some cinemas. Read the story here. Thanks to Tom for the link.
- a mother's quest.
Some ethnic groups in Kenya circumcise in the teen years, others do not. But infant circumcision is being promoted by the government for HIV prevention. When a baby is born in a medical centre the situation will be explained to the new mother, but many babies are born at home, far from medical support. Here is the heartwarming story of one mother's fight to get her baby circumcised. His father, remembering the pain and lengthy recovery time from his teenage circumcision, was opposed.
It was a long search to get the right advice but in the end the boy was circumcised, with absolutely no trauma. Read the story at The Star, Kenya. Thanks to Tom for the link.
Jews are up in arms.
The Jewish community in Iceland is very small (maybe 100 people!) but is outraged by a proposal to ban circumcision of minors. (One reason for the small number is that Iceland refused to take Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany). The proposed legislation is supported by the Progressive Party, the Pirate Party, the Left-Greens and the People's Party. No word as yet from the much more numerous Muslims. What is rather ironic is that Icelandic law has guaranteed freedom of religion since 1874. Furthermore Iceland's First Lady is Jewish and quite active in promoting Jewish culture.
One might also expect that at least some of the medical community would mention the health benefits of the procedure.
Read the story at Arutz Sheva. Thanks to DP for the link.
Interesting historic print for sale.
A bookseller on Abebooks is offering an 18th century print "Circumcision of the Negroes at Senegal", "Engraved for Middleton's Complete System of Geography" in 1788. It doesn't exactly show much detail of the operation. For some reason all the Senegalese are carrying spears, and there is a group of Englishmen in knee-breeches and powdered wigs in the foreground. An interesting talking point for your wall?
See it at Abebooks. The image is zoomable, and the zoomed image can be saved. Thanks to AM for the link.
It seems Chuck Close asked too many intimate questions.
Chuck Close is one on Americas's most famous artists, particularly known for images of faces which on close up are made up from smaller images. For the past 30 years he has been confined to a wheelchair. Several models whom he had invited (and paid) to audition have said that he made inappropriate comments and showed an excessive interest in their genitals. None were physically threatened, not surprisingly.
Carla Rodriguez, an intern at a photo studio where Close sometimes worked, posed nude for him along with another intern.
After they had gotten dressed, in the bathroom, Close showed them another photographic series, this time more closely cropped images of genitals. When they came across a picture of an uncircumcised penis, Close turned to Rodriguez and asked if she had ever “experienced” one, Rodriguez said. “He asked me about my boyfriend and if his dick was circumcised,” she said, adding that Close then told her, “Well, I’m uncircumcised. You should really experience that at some point in your life.” Feeling uncomfortable, she remembered laughing it off.Sexual harassment or just chat, remembering the situation that they were posing for, and looking at, images of genitalia? You judge.
Anyway, for those who collect trivia about celebrity circumcisions, you now know that Chuck Close has a foreskin. Read the full story here.
Thai clinic does a roaring trade.
Lelux Hospital, in Bangkok, is offering a laser treatment to give a whiter penis. The laser apparently kills melanocytes, the cells which make and store melanin, the dark skin pigment. The hospital's publicity states: “the most talked-about treatment right now, to achieve pink, white Pikachu, and end the problems caused by dark penises. It doesn’t hurt or require recovery. Ready to score right after it.” Quite how and why a cute little Pokémon (pictured) should become a euphemism for penis is beyond me. The clinic apparently gets around 100 patients a month.
Not surprisingly Thai health authorities have issued warnings about the procedure, stating that it could cause pain and permanent damage and also that the whitening effect was unlikely to be permanent.
Tom, who sent me the story, wondered whether circumcised men would be interested. Thai boys and men tend to wear their foreskins retracted but one hopes they won't try laser treatment on the glans. Read more about it at the BBC and the Mezies Blog
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