need protection as females do,” said Lloyd Schofield, the main sponsor for a
local ballot measure in San Francisco that – if passed by voters in November –
will effectively ban circumcision
of males under the age of 18 in the city. A federal law and a number of state
equivalents ban circumcision of girls, even for religious reasons.
“Intactivists” like Mr Schofield ask, why not boys?
arrived in America mainly as a Victorian British fad – which originally
purported to aim at discouraging masturbation and nocturnal emissions. It
spread during the 20th century, becoming almost universal by the 1960s. It has
declined over recent decades, however, to about half of baby boys in 2008. The
procedure’s medical benefits are disputed – but evidence suggests that male HIV
infection rates can be reduced by circumcision. Intactivists, however, counter
that this does not justify what they label the amputation of a body part from
infants who might never be at risk of HIV infection.
the measure passes, circumcision would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000
or up to one year in prison. There would be no religious exceptions. “Parents
are really guardians, and guardians have to do what's in the best interest of
the child. It's his body. It's his choice,” Mr Schofield said. He argues that
circumcision is a more invasive medical procedure than many new parents or
childless individuals realise.
Jews in San Francisco are outraged at what they regard as an attack on
religious freedom. Rabbi Gil Yosef Leeds, of Berkeley, a “mohel” who performs
ritual circumcisions, says, “For a city that's renowned for being progressive
and open-minded, to even have to consider such an intolerant proposition ... it
sets a dangerous precedent for all cities and states.”
Schofield is glad that many Jews signed his petition. Some have begun carrying
out an alternative ceremony known as “brit shalom” – the “covenant of peace” –
which does not involve cutting. ~ Economist, May 19; Wall Street
Journal, May 19