United Nations Criticized for Sex
Discrimination Against Males
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND-The United Nations and its Sub-Commission on the
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights were criticized yesterday
by two human rights organizations for discrimination against males in the
enforcement of human rights. Speaking on behalf of the National Organization
of Circumcision Information Resource Centers and Attorneys for the Rights of
the Child, J. Steven Svoboda, Esq., a Harvard-educated human rights lawyer,
noted that while a panoply of protections for women and girls has been
instituted including aggressive programs to stop female genital mutilation
(FGM), male circumcision has never even been studied by any United Nations
body including the Sub-Commission.
Svoboda demanded that the Sub-Commission explain why Sub-Commissioner Mrs.
Halima Embarek Warzazi, previously its Special Rapporteur on Traditional
Practices Affecting Women and Children, was now barred from considering
traditional practices' effects on male children.
Svoboda commented that everywhere that FGM occurs, male circumcision also
takes place, adding that male circumcision occurs six times for every time
FGM occurs. "Some day," Svoboda told the United Nations, "we
will come to
understand the misguided nature of our attempts to explain why any violation
of female genitals is criminal while a comparable, serious, extremely
painful, and disfiguring alteration of male genitals is permissible. The
best way to do justice to the rights of the child is to do no harm, to let
it enjoy life in every aspect and to protect it and to love it. When
child is of the age of consent, he or she can make up his or her own mind
about his or her own body. "
Svoboda called the United Nations' attention to the fact that the Parliament
of Sweden recently voted decisively, 249 to 10, in favor of new legislation
which regulates male circumcision and in its preliminaries also ordered a
study to determine what effect the new law will have and whether male
circumcision should be considered a human rights violation. Many Swedish
Members of Parliament stated that male circumcision violates children's
Svoboda commented that human rights professor Jacqueline Smith of the
Netherlands Institute of Human Rights has also emphasized the importance of
protecting males as well as females from circumcision. Svoboda also
the Sub-Commission's attention to the fact that Ms. Gay J. McDougall, its
own expert on systematic rape and sexual slavery, stressed that human rights
must protect both males and females from all forms of sexual assault.
Svoboda called the Sub-Commission's attention to the disfigured genitals and
deaths which are regularly caused by male circumcision wherever it is
practiced, in the United States, in the developing world, or elsewhere. He
recounted the story of David Reimer, whose penis was entirely burned off, as
has since been documented on television and in a best-selling book. Reimer
was raised and surgically "reassigned" as a girl but his life and
of everyone in his family were catastrophically altered. Svoboda quoted an
August 1 article in the New York Times reporting that 35 boys have already
died this year in South Africa alone from circumcisions. Ten percent or more
of initiates have been left with no penis or a "disfigured stump."
Svoboda testified that every single national medical association that has
examined the issue has failed to find medical benefits which can justify
routine removal of healthy tissue from a non-consenting infant. Regarding
religion, Svoboda stated that for boys and girls alike, under basic human
rights principles, another's right to practice a religion must end where
that individual's body begins.