Letter to the Montreal Gazette
2961 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 510-848-4437
14 October 1998
250 St. Antoine St. W.
Montreal, QC H2Y 3R7
BY FACSIMILE TO 514-987-2639
Re: “Circumcision Helps in AIDS Fight” by Mark A. Wainberg
12 October 1998
As a worldwide non-profit organization of attorneys dedicated to halting all forms of childhood genital mutilation, we would like to express our alarm at Mark A. Wainberg’s article, “Circumcision Helps in AIDS Fight,” published in your issue of 12 October 1998.
While we have no doubt Dr. Wainberg is sincere in his desire to help bring a halt to the scourge of AIDS, as we also are, the medical evidence has quite conclusively demonstrated the absence of any AIDS-related benefit deriving from male circumcision. Indeed, the country that performs the most circumcisions, the United States, also has the highest number of AIDS cases per capita in the developed world. Highly reputable historians such as Frederick Hodges have exhaustively documented the fact that throughout the modern history of circumcision, the procedure has been repeatedly, and always incorrectly, touted as a cure-all for whatever the most feared diseases of the current age happen to be. The fact that most of us are quite concerned about AIDS should not lead us to jump to conclusions which are unsound under both medical and human rights principles.
Even in the exceedingly unlikely event that medical benefits related to AIDS (or any other medical benefits) could be proven to derive from circumcision, this would not justify infliction of the practice on non-consenting infants. Prophylactic amputation of healthy tissue grossly violates principles of both human rights and medical ethics. For example, despite the fact that double mastectomies at birth would on average increase the female lifespan by at least nine months, far in excess of any speculative benefit deriving from circumcision, such a procedure would be rightly denounced as a barbarity and a gross human rights violation. This conclusion must apply with at least at much force regarding male circumcision, an exceedingly painful procedure which irreparably removes a portion of the human body that in intact males develops into fifteen square inches of highly innervated and extremely specialized human sexual tissue.
We are familiar with and grateful for the Gazette’s admirable record of publicizing information regarding circumcision, and hope that the record will be set straight regarding the lack of justification for this barbaric practice and gross human rights violation.
J. Steven Svoboda