California’s governor has signed a bill that that will prevent local governments from banning male circumcision.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s office announced Sunday that the Democrat signed AB768, a bill written in response to a ballot measure proposed in San Francisco. Backers of a ban collected more than 7,700 signatures to put a measure on the November ballot in San Francisco to outlaw the circumcision of most male children. It was later blocked by a judge. They had argued that circumcision is an unnecessary surgery that can lead to sexual and health problems later in life. Those against the ban say it is an important religious practice for many Jews and Muslims, and that it can reduce the risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin (prepuce) from the penis.The word “circumcision” comes from Latin circum (meaning “around”) and cædere (meaning “to cut”). Early depictions of circumcision are found in cave paintings and Ancient Egyptian tombs, though some pictures are open to interpretation. Religious male circumcision is considered a commandment from God in Judaism. In Islam, though not discussed in the Qur’an, male circumcision is widely practised and most often considered to be a sunnah. It is also customary in some Christian churches in Africa, including some Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Global estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that 30% of males are circumcised, of whom 68% are Muslim. The prevalence of circumcision varies mostly with religious affiliation, and sometimes culture. Most circumcisions are performed during adolescence for cultural or religious reasons; in some countries they are more commonly performed during infancy. Circumcision is also used therapeutically, as one of the treatment options for balanitis xerotica obliterans, paraphimosis, balanitis, posthitis, balanoposthitis and urinary tract infections.
Circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual populations that are at high risk. Evidence among heterosexual men in sub-Saharan Africa shows a decreased risk of between 38% and 66% over 2 years and in this population it appears cost effective.Evidence of benefit for women is controversial and evidence of benefit in developed countries and among men who have sex with men is yet to be determined.The WHO currently recommends circumcision as part of a comprehensive program for prevention of HIV transmission in areas with high endemic rates of HIV. Ethical concerns remain regarding the implementation of campaigns to promote circumcision. According to the Royal Dutch Medical Association (2010), no professional association of physicians currently recommends routine circumcision.Some bodies have discussed under what circumstances neonatal circumcision is ethical.
Jewish law states that circumcision is a ‘mitzva aseh (“positive commandment” to perform an act) and is obligatory for Jewish-born males and for non-circumcised Jewish male converts. It is only postponed or abrogated in the case of threat to the life or health of the child. It is usually performed by a mohel on the eighth day after birth in a ceremony called a Brit milah (or Bris milah, colloquially simply bris), which means “Covenant of circumcision” in Hebrew. It is considered of such importance that in some Orthodox communities the body of an uncircumcised Jewish male will sometimes be circumcised before burial.Although 19th century Reform leaders described it as “barbaric”, the practice of circumcision “remained a central rite” and the Union for Reform Judaism has, since 1984, trained and certified over 300 practicing mohels under its “Berit Mila Program”.Humanistic Judaism argues that “circumcision is not required for Jewish identity.”
In Islam, circumcision is mentioned in some hadith (it is referred as Khitan), but not in the Qur’an. Some Fiqh scholars state that circumcision is recommended (Sunnah); others that it is obligatory.Some have quoted the hadith to argue that the requirement of circumcision is based on the covenant with Abraham.While endorsing circumcision for males, Islamic scholars note that it is not a requirement for converting to Islam.