Bill Proposals Would Provide Equal Protection From Circumcision

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Today marks the second attempt by a San Diego based health and human rights organization to protect boys from the practice of circumcision. Although girls in the U.S. have been legally protected from circumcision and other forms of genital cutting since the Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed by Congress in 1996, protection for boys has lagged.

Today marks the second attempt by a San Diego based health and human rights organization to protect boys from the practice of circumcision. Although girls in the U.S. have been legally protected from circumcision and other forms of genital cutting since the Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed by Congress in 1996, protection for boys has lagged.

Circumcision is a medically unnecessary surgery to remove the foreskin. Research has shown that the male foreskin contains specialized nerve endings designed to enhance sexual pleasure, and that it protects the sensitivity of the soft erogenous tissue of the penis. Despite such evidence, slightly more than half of all American boys are routinely circumcised for cultural and religious reasons.

That may change soon, however, if MGMbill.org's "Male Genital Mutilation Bill" proposal finds a sponsor. The proposed legislation has drawn responses from a number of legislators, including Rep. Susan Davis, D-CA, a sponsor of several health bills. "(MGMbill.org's) level of commitment to changing current policy is admirable," commented Davis. "(They) have obviously given this issue a great deal of thought. I believe the most important work occurs at the grassroots level and (MGMbill.org's) efforts are helping to reshape existing attitudes towards circumcision."

Human rights activists opposed to male circumcision are generally supportive of the proposed bill. "There is a legal double standard in regard to circumcision that needs to be corrected," said David Wilson, Director of Stop Infant Circumcision Society in Cocoa Beach, Florida. "Enactment of the MGM Bill would ensure that all children are equally protected from medically unnecessary genital modifications, regardless of gender." Wilson has actively protested against male circumcision for years and he frequently travels around the country to participate in public demonstrations.

A mother who decided to have her son circumcised based on the advice of her physician backs the bill as well. "A year has passed since my son's circumcision, and still I feel pangs of guilt every time I bathe him," said Sandra Aldrich of Anchorage, Alaska. "I was supposed to protect him from harm, and instead I was encouraged by everyone I know to participate in taking something from him that can never be given back. I wonder how the stress and pain affected his developing brain as he endured a full 15 minutes of what I can only describe as torture. The first thing I said to my mother after we left the doctor's office (in tears) is that I can't believe it's legal to have this done to a child."

The proposed legislation is also gaining support from men who were circumcised as children. Jeremy Boyle of Indianapolis, Indiana, said that although the MGM Bill is too late to protect him, he wants it to become law so that other men don't have to go through what he did. "I was mutilated as an infant because of circumcision," said Boyle. "I know I'll never get to experience being whole, but I want to help ensure that future generations can have what was stolen from me. Male genital mutilation is a crime that should be treated no differently than female genital mutilation."

The MGM Bill proposal was faxed to each House Representative and U.S. Senator today. A state level bill proposal was also faxed to each member of the legislature in California, the home state of MGMbill.org. Like its federal counterpart, current California law protects only one gender from circumcision.

Matthew Hess of MGMbill.org argues that laws protecting only one gender from genital mutilation are unconstitutional. "Both the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution guarantee all citizens equal protection under the law," said Hess. "It is a fact that circumcision damages sexual function in both genders, and yet only one gender is legally protected from it. We don't allow girls to be circumcised anymore. Why are we still letting it be done to boys?"

Media Contact:

Matthew Hess, President

Phone/Fax: (208) 330-8435

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