Why would a woman commit herself to working within the Men’s Human Rights Movement?
The answer is that I am a gender equality activist; committed to a struggle for equal rights, treatment, opportunities, choices and respect for all. That’s what the Men’s Human Rights Movement is all about.
Despite the universally held presumption that women get a raw deal and that men benefit from the oppression of women, the rights of men and boys are assaulted on many levels everywhere in the West. The well-being of men is self-evidently not a priority. In my home country, the U.K., men are discriminated against in education and workplaces (often explicitly through quotas favouring women or by missing out on support only available to women), in the criminal justice system (in which men are treated far more harshly than women) and, as fathers, where they are likely to be systematically erased from their children’s lives if they’re unlucky enough to find themselves in a family court.
As the Director of Communications at Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them) – or J4MB – I am part of the only political party in the Anglosphere that campaigns for the human rights of men and boys. We are invested in achieving equality and justice for men and boys across a wide range of issues. For the past three years, however, our primary campaigning issue has been the non-therapeutic circumcision (male genital mutilation/MGM) of boys in the U.K.
MGM is the only surgery that is performed on children without a diagnosis in the Western world. Many insist that non-medically necessary circumcision of male minors is not equivalent to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This is physiologically true of some forms of FGM but in fact there are a number of forms of both that are more or less similar – and, actually, the most common form of MGM is more severe than the most common forms of FGM. However, the degree of physiological harm is an irrelevance because MGM and FGM are morally identical. Unnecessary procedures on the genitals of boys or girls (or intersex children) are affronts to their bodily autonomy. A person’s body is their sole property. That idea is widely accepted when it comes to girls and women yet the empathy gap has proven too big a bridge to cross in advancing the truth that it’s also the case for boys and men.
MGM is a violent, dangerous and traumatic violation. Marilyn Milos (widely regarded as the ‘founding mother’ of the U.S. movement against MGM) was a nursing student in the late 1970’s. Watching a procedure was a turning point in her life, in an interview she describes the event as follows:
“We students filed into the hospital nursery to find a baby boy strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top. He was struggling against his restraints—tugging, whimpering, and crying helplessly.
When the doctor began the operation, the baby let out a piercing scream. He screamed when his foreskin was pinched and crushed as the doctor attached a clamp to his tiny penis. The infant’s shriek intensified when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the head of the penis, tearing them apart [the foreskin is attached to the glans with connective tissue in newborns, which is designed to dissolve during the first few years of life].
Then the baby started shaking his head back and forth. It was the only part of his body he could move. He started shaking his head when the doctor used another clamp to (lengthwise) crush the foreskin, which he then cut. This made the foreskin opening large enough to insert a circumcision instrument designed to prevent the head of the penis from being severed during the surgery.
During the last stage of the operation, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument. Then, finally, he amputated it. By that time, the baby was limp, exhausted, spent.”
Common early complications include: pain, bleeding, swelling or inadequate skin removal, which are treatable. Amputation of the glans can occur and deaths from excess bleeding happen even in the U.K. In 2012, Tim Hammond conducted the Global Survey of Circumcision Harm in which 1000 circumcised men shared their experiences. In 2016, Hammond presented his findings to the International Conference on Men’s Issues.
The survey found that participants reported suffering from a myriad of harms, including the following:
10% had partial/total loss of the penile body.
56% had little to no shaft skin mobility on erection.
45% had hair along the the mid to upper shaft causing friction during sex.
67% reported an insensitive glans.
75% reported a dry/keratinised glans (requiring lubricants before sex)
31% reported erectile dysfunction (with circumcised men being 4.½ times more likely to take pharmaceuticals for this condition)
6% reported penile bleeding during sex
8% reported that the scar is painful
27% reported that the scar is numb
Emotionally, the men surveyed reported feeling:
Betrayed by lack of protection from harm by my mother- 55%
Betrayed by lack of protection from harm by my father- 50%
That my human rights were violated- 73%
62% of the participants reported that their condition impedes their sexual relationships.
MGM is an indefensible practice, absolutely on a par with FGM. The supporters of each practice sound remarkably alike and the root motivation for both practices lies with the damaging of sexual function in the victim for supposedly moral purposes, as the young American Jewish academic Eric Clopper eloquently explained in his ‘Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story’ presentation to Harvard University in May 2018. He was later fired for having published this piece on YouTube.
MGM has to die – for individual autonomy, human well-being and equality. And the feminist movement needs to re-examine their position on the matter. A German court effectively banned the practice in 2012, but the ruling was overturned. A law was later passed making it legal. Feminists were among those active in opposing ‘The Cologne ruling’, perpetuating myths about hygiene and, in the case of Alice Schwarzer, calling opposition to circumcision “an unrealistic political correctness” and “unnecesary”. Katrin Altpeter chimed in with the assertion that there is “no way to compare [MGM with FGM]” in her criticism. Mayim Balik, who circumcised her sons, rails against FGM. Ashley Judd, a United Nations Population Fund Goodwill Ambassador has said that what she wants “for girls is to create a safe space in which we can move with freedom, without constraint, with bodily integrity, with sexual autonomy… That’s what we’re doing when we end these harmful practices [including FGM]” while promoting MGM via her Twitter account. Feminists claim that they want for men to more readily express their feelings. Many are expressing their feelings on MGM – and they are angry. Can feminists hear them? Do they care?
No parliamentary override exists in the U.K. to permit the non-therapeutic genital mutilation of male minors, and the practice is obviously an ‘assault occasioning bodily harm’, which is illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act (1861). The Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) sentencing guidelines with respect to actual bodily harm, identify eight aggravating factors indicating higher culpability which are relevant to MGM:
1- A significant degree of premeditation
2 – Use of weapon or weapon equivalent
3 – Deliberately causes more harm than is necessary for commission of offence
4 – Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim
5 – Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim’s age, sex, gender identity (or presumed gender identity)
6 – Ongoing effect upon the victim
7 – Presence of others including relatives
8 – Abuse of power and/or position of trust.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified in the U.K. in 1991) contains the following relevant passages:
Article 24.3: “States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.”
Article 2.2: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.”
The convention also enshrines the rights to freedom of expression and religion.
MGM is, therefore, justifiably illegal in the U.K. It is an outrage that we, at J4MB, remain part of only a small number of groups and individuals taking a stand against the fact that the CPS is failing to uphold the law and protect children.
I am a woman in the Men’s Human Rights Movement because this community is a progressive vanguard. We are compassionate, we are moral and we are right – about the issue of MGM and many other things. We are also defamed, we are misrepresented — and we are not gonna stop until men and boys have the equal rights, treatment, opportunities, choices and respect that they deserve.
More information on MGM can be found on a playlist on Mike Buchanan’s (J4MB party leader) YouTube channel.