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Marilyn Milos and Norm Cohen - NOCIRC

April 3, Morning Session

Next on the agenda was Marilyn Milos and Norm Cohen who spoke on “Victory to the Children: Ending Circumcision in the Next Century.” Ms. Milos is co-founder and director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC). She is a contributor to the “Encyclopedia of Childbearing: Critical Perspectives” (Oryx Press, 1993) and many other learned and professional periodicals. She is also the recipient of the Maureen Ricke Award from the California Nurses’ Association “for her dedication and unwavering commitment to righting a wrong,” and “for her work on behalf of children to raise public consciousness about America’s most unnecessary surgery.”

Ms. Milos challenged many of the myths surrounding the case for circumcision. She described the procedure as “the torture and mutilation of a new born baby who is incapable of resisting...” She also compared circumcision to female genital mutilation.

Norm Cohen spoke next. He has been Director of NOCIRC of Michigan since its founding in 1994. He appeared in the 1996 award-winning documentary on circumcision, “Whose Body, Whose Rights?” In addition to running one of the most active NOCIRC chapters, he also operates his own computer-consulting business.

He challenged more of the myths surrounding circumcision.

  • It was not invented by the Jews, but originated with the Egyptians several thousand years ago.

  • Circumcision as a practice arose in the desire to control sexuality.

  • Despite its religious roots, in its transmission to western culture it was “medicalized.” “It is rooted in religion,” said Cohen.

  • Circumcision is symbolic of other things which is “done to” children “for their own good.” Originally, it was a patriarchal command from the male elders of a tribe “inflicting their will on helpless boys.”

  • “In order control the mind, one must first control sexuality. Once a boy suffers this barbaric act, it is passed on to subsequent generations.” The religious origins become hidden in this popular mythology of what the human body should look like.

  • “Parents are simply trustees, they don’t own the bodies of their children.”

Cohen noted the with circumcision and other practices rooted in religion, children are victimized by parental beliefs and habits. It is passed on subsequent generations. “Children are raised in dysfunctional religious homes, and they grow up to pass these same problems on to their children.”

Cohen suggested that stern, authoritarian practices of child-rearing often lead to generations that hold strong religious beliefs. He also referred to an “unholy alliance” involving religious leaders, doctors who had personal beliefs about the wholesomeness of circumcision, and parents who often uncritically accepted the procedure as medically necessary and socially obligatory. He cited flawed studies about the benefits of circumcision, and compared it to the claims that regular church attendance or other religious practices are beneficial to human health.

Mr. Cohen concluded his remarks by denying the charge that the anti-circumcision movement was anti-semitic, a criticism made by radio psychology guru Laura Schlesinger and others. He noted that circumcision is found in Christian, Moslem and Jewish religious communities.” This conflict between the ancient and the modern is no different from the confrontation between Gallileo and the Catholic Church...” He predicted that the practice of circumcision would end in the next 100 years.

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