This will be the fifth anniversary of the "Cologne Ruling". In 2012, for the first time, a court explicitly granted boys the right to genital self-determination by evaluating a medically unnecessary foreskin removal ("circumcision") of a boy as an offense. This decision has since become a worldwide symbol for the self-determination of children regardless of gender, ancestry or religion.
This year's main focus is:
Through the efforts of organizations like USAID, UNICEF and The World Bank, countless boys have been and are still at risk of becoming victims of forced circumcision under the alleged aim of protection against HIV infection. On the 7th of May, those affected will finally be heard.
The "World Day of Genital Autonomy" calls for:
Time and again, the media report a shockingly large number of seriously injured African boys, possibly 65,000 a year, and several hundred deaths from ritual circumcisions. Circumcision programs, financed with millions of US dollars for alleged HIV prophylaxis, unleash a cruel dynamic: since the established quotas are often not reached in adults, minors are increasingly targeted to reach the goal. Mothers are manipulated before the birth of their child using one-sided information. It has been repeatedly reported how boys are systematically "kidnapped" directly from school without the knowledge of their parents, attracted with soft drinks, sweets and false promises, and then circumcised before being sent home. The medical staff receive rewards. In the VMMC research project www.vmmcproject.org from Kenya and Uganda, the victims now are now getting a voice for the first time.
Female genital mutilation is a prevalent procedure: it is practised in 29 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as in South-, South-East- and Central Asia. But even in Europe, the USA and Canada, women and girls still have their genitals mutilated. This is commonly done between the ages of 4 and 12 years. Worldwide, approximately 140 million women and girls are affected. 700.000 of them live in Europe; 35.000 in Germany alone. Female genital mutilation is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) into four categories, from light to extreme. According to the WHO, female genital mutilation refers to all practices in which the outer genitalia are partly or completely removed, as well as to all other injuries to the female genitalia that are not medically indicated. Depending on the motives and category of cutting, the intervention leads to health, psychological, social and economic consequences for the affected parties. Female genital mutilation is internationally considered a human rights violation; gender specific violence; child abuse; and bodily assault, and is explicitly illegal in most countries. However, 3 million women and girls in Africa, 180.000 in Europe and 9.300 in Germany remain at risk every year.
A controversial social debate is being held around the world on the topic of non-therapeutic amputation of foreskins from minors. Especially in Denmark and also in Israel, negatively affected men have been highlighted in the media and talk about lifelong mental and physical consequences.
The inter-cultural dialogue concerning this often anxiety-laden and taboo subject spurs new and ongoing initiatives, and is increasingly appreciated and embraced in medical science. Some hospitals already have stopped performing foreskin removals without a medical indication. Instead, parents are offered deeper education about the sexual-sensory function of the foreskin. A snug foreskin does not constitute a medical condition in children and adolescents, if a boy has no painful obstruction, which is a rare condition. Normally the opening becomes wider during puberty. In instances of an actual medical condition, most cases can be treated non-invasively.
In the United States, an average of about 60 % of all newborn boys are still submitted to forced circumcision in infancy, frequently without sufficient anesthesia.
One or two out of every 1000 children are born with "atypical" sexual characteristics. Time and again this leads to early genital operations to “assign” a gender, and to hormonal treatments before capacity to consent. The affected persons often report feeling altered and resentful that their input was never sought about their own sex.
All German paediatric associations currently recommend delaying those measures to an age where the person affected is able to give informed consent. On the international level, also, the technical discussion is moving in this direction. However, physical integrity and self-determination must still be integrated into practice in many places.
For 20 years, people affected have been publicly protesting these surgeries, which they describe in terms of fundamental human rights violations, as being traumatising and as destructive to sexual sensation. These are allegations that are also backed by human rights committees like the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).
On May 7th, 2012, the Regional Court of Cologne ruled that a non-therapeutic "circumcision" of a boy who is unable to give consent qualifies as an assault. This was logically consistent because, in Germany, children had rights to an unharmed body and a non-violent upbringing – why should these rights exclude genitalia, and exclusively male ones at that?
What is a so-called "circumcision" on boys?
This trivializing term stands for the amputation of the foreskin of the penis, which involves the loss of approximately 50% of the entire penile skin - including the parts most sensitive for sexual stimulation - and irreversibly alters the natural physiology of the penis and its appearance.
A human rights violation becomes a legal part of upbringing
The German Bundestag decided on 12.12.2012, in a rushed proceeding in response to the Cologne ruling, that parents can assent for any reason to a "circumcision" of their boys. This is a complete contradiction to the full legal protection of children and is discordant with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in multiple ways.
Our info-page can be found HERE. It contains onward links to specific literature from Germany, Turkey, the USA and other countries; case histories of affected people; films; educational books and brochures; and videos from speeches by international scientists.
We welcome Jewish and Islamic life in Germany and consider it an enriching element of society. We strongly object to any attempts to misconstrue our efforts on behalf of the rights of all children to genital self-determination, or to misuse these efforts as a basis to profess or carry out hatred toward religious and cultural minorities. We urge all participants to clearly distance themselves from generalizations and animosity and to be absolutely clear that this is solely about the well-being, bodily integrity, and right to self-determination of children.
Skyline © JiSign - Fotolia.com