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Children's Right to Genital Integrity

The average rate of circumcision was close to 90% during the 1970s, but today it is about 55 percent in the US. An improvement, yes, but that still leaves 3,500 infants being subjected to a traumatic and entirely unnecessary surgical procedure in that country every day, one every twenty-five seconds.

Only by denying the existence of excruciating pain, perinatal encoding of the brain with violence, interruption of maternal-infant bonding, betrayal of infant trust, the risks and effects of permanently altering normal genitalia, the right of human beings to sexually intact and functional bodies, and the right of individual religious freedoms can human beings continue this practice. —Marilyn Milos, RN and Donna Macris

By being present to the innocence, vulnerability, and beauty of our newborns, we can draw the strength to refuse to perpetuate this denial.

Marilyn Milos continues to challenge my thinking, my language, so lovingly. Most recently, on a board meeting conference call for the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children, a member was sharing her excitement at a recent birth she had been present at: “…. and he weighs 8 pounds and is uncircumcised.”

Marilyn's voice booms across the miles from her home in Marin County, California, to my living room in East Gippsland, Australia: “Oh, my dear, don’t say he is uncircumcised. He is intact! Natural! Normal! Whole! We women are not called ‘unclitoridectomized.’ He is not uncircumcised!”

Yes, rather than being an anti-circumcision movement, NOCIRC is a genital integrity organization. Language is so important in shaping our reality and experience. Some words, for example "mutilation," are more inflammatory than others, still, the word accurately describes what is done.

“Oh,” Marilyn continues, “and that's another good point. Initially, we said ‘female circumcision,’ then we said ‘female genital mutilation,’ but now, with sensitivity for the victim/survivor, we say ‘female genital cutting.’” She uses the same language for males. Still, since the language is new and changing, interchanging the words until we get to where we're going helps to get our message across. “When we change the language, we'll change society.”

It was about 30 years ago when Marilyn first heard the screams of a baby being circumcised and recognized that he was being tortured and sexually abused. Today, she says she had no idea that all these years later, she would still be trying to reason with people about something so unreasonable. Given how deeply the word circumcision is imbued with, not only associations of pain and pleasure, sensuality and sexuality, but religious, political, social, and economic overtones, it’s not so surprising.

Fondly, and otherwise, referred to as “The Penis Lady,” “Florence Foreskin,” and the “Mother Theresa of the Foreskin Crowd,” Marilyn is joined by a growing number of parents and professionals as she continues to advocate ceaselessly and selflessly for the genital integrity of our children.

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