Genders Unite to Promote Genital Autonomy

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International organizations gather at the Genital Integrity 2008 symposium on September 4th, Keele University, England, to launch a new campaign promoting the right of all men and women to say no to unnecessary genital surgery.

NORM-UK, the organisation concerned with the male foreskin, and FORWARD, the organisation concerned with female genital mutilation (FGM), will unite at the Genital Integrity 2008 symposium on September 4th to launch a new campaign promoting the right of all men and women to say no to unnecessary genital surgery.

In the face of a large scale World Health Organisation (WHO) promotion of male circumcision as a means to reduce risk of HIV infection in Africa, the new campaign seeks to redress the balance by making the public aware of the strongly conflicting evidence around the effects of circumcision, and the mixed evidence about its value in HIV prevention, and by promoting the fundamental concept of informed choice in medical treatment.

"Subjecting young children to a painful, damaging and humiliating circumcision in an attempt to prevent HIV infection from sexual contact is not only profoundly unethical, it is an insane waste of money. These boys will not be sexually active for many years, by which time properly proven and more reliable prevention strategies may be available", said John Warren, chairman of NORM-UK, "Boys must be left to make their own decision when they are old enough to understand the full implications"

"When the issue of female genital mutilation was still sensitive and highly politicised, FORWARD played a leading role in putting the issue on the international agenda, breaking down the walls of silence", said Naana Otoo-Oyortey MBE, Executive Director of FORWARD, "It is time to recognise that the right to genital autonomy belongs to all children, regardless of race, culture or gender"

"Unnecessary genital surgery on babies is said to be cheaper and easier than on adults. All abuse of babies is easier. They are powerless and history will judge us by how we protect the powerless", said Paul Mason, children's commissioner for Tasmania, Australia; a keynote speaker at The Genital Integrity 2008 Symposium in Keele, "Do we say to children that they have no say in this because statistically when they grow up and practice unsafe sex they might be better off? I say let the children decide for themselves - all in good time."


  • NORM-UK and FORWARD are holding a press conference and photo opportunity in central London on September 3rd. The individuals quoted and many others will be available for interview. Please contact us for more details.
  • A full press pack including a data CD with relevant images, medical data, case studies and speaker biographies will be provided at the press conference.


  • Dr John Warren was a consultant physician at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, for 31 years until 2006. He is now retired from medical practice but continues an active role as Chairman of NORM-UK. In 2003 John won the Oyster award for health, sponsored by Camelot and the Sun, for his work with NORM-UK.
  • Naana Otoo-Oyortey became Executive Director of FORWARD in 2007. Prior to this role she spent more than ten years with the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Her special interest areas are gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and early marriage, gender and HIV and working with men as partners for gender equity. Naana has an MPhil from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, and was awarded an MBE for her services to Human Rights issues for Women in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
  • Paul Mason was appointed Commissioner for Children for the Australian State of Tasmania 1½ years ago. The Commissioner is a State appointment independent of the Government of the day, responsible for advising Government about all matters concerning the health, welfare, development, education of children and their protection from all forms of abuse and neglect.. His other primary role is raising public awareness about these matters.
  • The new campaign will include a “Genital Autonomy” symbol and the slogan “it's a personal choice”.
  • Details of relevant research and case studies will be available at the Press Conference or by contacting


  • Jointly organised by NORM-UK, the US National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) and the Keele University school of law.
  • Runs from 4th-6th September 2008 at Keele University in Staffordshire, England.
  • The Tenth International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity and Human Rights organised by NOCIRC; previous symposia have been held since 1989 in the USA, Italy, Switzerland, UK and Australia
  • The symposium will cover a range of non-therapeutic genital interventions from labial stretching to male circumcision and female genital cutting and infibulation. It will examine the physical and psychological health impact of these practices, and ask whether policy makers, NGOs, and intergovernmental agencies are taking the appropriate steps to protect children from traditional non-therapeutic genital surgery.
  • The symposium features speakers from around the world, including the US, Australia, France, Italy and Egypt. Included are experts in healthcare law, ethics, urology, midwifery, anthropology, paediatrics, HIV demographics, psychology, skin restoration and child rights.
  • Press passes for the symposium are available - please contact Laura MacDonald (details above). Accommodation at Keele is also available.


  • NORM-UK was founded in 1995 and gained charity status in 1998. Patrons are actor Alan Cumming and art critic Brian Sewell.
  • NORM-UK's aim is to advance the education of the public in all matters relating to circumcision and other forms of surgical alteration of the genitals, including alternative treatments and offering information and advice on such matters.
  • NORM-UK is presently funded entirely by personal donations, is run by one full time member of staff and an army of determined volunteers.
  • The website at provides a wealth of information and has been verified as compliant with the Health on the Net (HON) code of medical ethics since 2003.
  • Since 1995 NORM-UK has received over 5000 letters and emails from men unhappy about their circumcision.
  • NORM-UK is a member of the Men's Health Forum (MHF), the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children (ATLC), and the International Coalition for Genital Integrity (ICGI).
  • NORM-UK has no formal connection or affiliation with the US-based National Organisation of Restoring Men (NORM) and this acronym is no longer used by NORM-UK.
  • Donations to NORM-UK can be made on their website at


  • The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD) is an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that works to advance and protect the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of African girls and women.
  • FORWARD was established in 1983 in the UK, in response to the emerging problems caused by female genital mutilation being seen by health professionals. Since this time FORWARD has been working to eliminate the practice and provide support to women affected by FGM.
  • FORWARD envisages a world in which all African girls and women are accorded their inalienable rights to dignity, equality and freedom from gender based discrimination and violence - a world in which they are able to attain and enjoy the highest level of physical, mental and social well-being, irrespective of their age, culture, religion or socio-economic status.
  • FORWARD is committed to eliminating gender-based violence against African girls and women, particularly female genital mutilation and child and forced marriage. We effect change through developing capacity, and by building evidence to influence policy and challenge practices that undermine their health, human dignity and sexual rights.
  • Donations to FORWARD can be made on their website at


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Laura MacDonald
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