The 18th Annual Genital Integrity Awareness Rally
This past Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, I attended the 18th Annual Genital Integrity Awareness Rally in Washington DC. April 2nd was actually the culmination of a half-week of activities which began on the previous Wednesday, the 30th of March. The reason this date was chosen is because the 30th of March is the anniversary of the passage of the law in 1997 which bans female genital mutilation. While this law is to be applauded for protecting girls from brutal mutilation, it also needs to be criticized for its sexist double standard. After all, don’t boys deserve the same protection under the law? Raising awareness in general about the harmful and totally unnecessary effects of male genital mutilation was the purpose of the rally.
The main part of the rally—a march from the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building to the White House—was scheduled to begin at 4PM. Prior to that, participants stood on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building with signs, talking to any passers-by who approached. I joined the participants on the West Lawn at around 2PM. I had been concerned about the weather, as it had rained a little earlier in the day. And while the weather was pleasant right as I arrived, it soon became windy and even began to briefly hail. However, as soon as we had put the signs away, the weather improved again and would remain pleasant for the rest of the rally. We soon took the signs back out.
The signs themselves contained a number of powerful messages. Some graphically showed the horrendous pain that is being inflicted on helpless, innocent newborns. Others made logical arguments, such as “It’s his penis, his choice. Let your son decide”. Another one depicted a young couple kissing, while explaining in writing that the foreskin plays a huge function in sexual pleasure for both men and women. I had to, however, point out to Mr. David Wilson, the organizer, a mistake on the sign that showed a map of the world depicting the prevalence of circumcision around the world. The map colored in the Republic of Georgia and Armenia as countries were Islamic circumcision is commonly practiced. As a naturalized citizen of the Republic of Georgia, I explained that both countries are mostly Christian and that the Christian men in these two countries are mostly intact. Nonetheless, the map was a powerful reminder that in a large majority of the world’s countries, most men remain intact.
In addition to signs we also passed out information. One thing we passed out was an index card, as that is the amount of skin that a circumcised adult man is missing. Another piece of information we passed out pointed out that not only does Christianity not require circumcision, it actually condemns it, and we showed numerous relevant Bible passages to make that point.
The participants themselves came from different backgrounds. Some of the men were happy to be intact, while others regretted having been cut. One young woman mentioned that her husband is currently undergoing foreskin restoration. Another woman mentioned that she was amazed how much better the sex was the first time she had it with an intact man. However, what amazed me the most was the number of young families with their small children.
We received a number of different reactions from the passers-by. Naturally, some were negative. One man merely shook his head. Another asked us why we were wasting our time with this and suggested other political causes which we should instead be protesting. The majority of passers-by, however, were curious. Some asked if they could take pictures with us. Others asked us for information. One young man mentioned that he wished he hadn’t been cut and we gave him information on foreskin restoration. I feel we reached a lot people with our message.
The march to the White House began at 4:30 PM. Prior to that point, there were a maximum of about a dozen or so people at any one given time on the West Lawn, with some people coming and going. By the time the march began, there were about 100 people. With police escort, we slowly made our way to the White House. As was the case earlier, we received different reactions from those who observed us. A few people showed disgust, including one nasty woman who told us, “be a man, snip, snip”. Such sexist bigoted comments remind us all just way this march is so necessary. However, one couple said to us “we didn’t butcher our son”. We cheered in response. Upon reaching the North Side of the White House, we stood for a while again. I left shortly after that.
I must say that the mood throughout this whole process was quite upbeat. It makes me feel good to speak up on behalf of those who don’t have a voice and on behalf of gender equality and the basic human right of having one’s body the way God made it: unharmed.
Attorneys for the
Rights of the Child
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J. Steven Svoboda
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