Support Litigation to Expand Legal Protections for Children’s Bodily Integrity Regardless of Sex
Woman’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and Same-Sex Marriage were all litigated on a state-by-state basis before they became federally recognized rights for all Americans.
Kane Law Firm and GALDEF are actively researching states that would be ideal candidates to expand statutes protecting females from genital cutting to protecting all children from medically unnecessary genital surgeries based on state constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
If you want to expand legal protection of bodily integrity to all children in your state and (i) were circumcised as an infant/child; (ii) are 25 years old or younger (born in 1999 or later); and (iii) have already documented or are willing to document your physical, sexual, emotional or psychological harm related to circumcision with a medical/mental professional, please submit your information below to be considered in our plaintiff search.
Learn more about this historical legal challenge
What is the basis for the constitutional challenge?
Some states enacted laws that prohibit female genital mutilation over 20 years ago. These states also have constitutional guarantees of protection from discrimination or unequal treatment based on sex or gender. If you were circumcised after your state enacted an anti-female-genital-mutilation statute, you may have standing to claim that the statute is unconstitutional and must be modified to comply with your state’s constitutional equal protection guarantees.
The goal of the Kane Law Firm’s litigation efforts is to expand the statutes protecting children from genital mutilation to include all children, regardless of sex.
All males and females are born with a foreskin, which is a normal, healthy, erogenous, and highly functional part of human genitalia. There is overwhelming evidence that amputating the foreskin from infant boys results in incredible pain and trauma to the infant with a myriad of common physical complications, ranging from blood loss, infection and loss of the entire penis, to occasional death, all of which are wholly preventable by simply leaving the healthy genitals of children alone. In recent decades, men who were subjected as children to medically unnecessary circumcision have begun to document and speak out about the long-term adverse physical, sexual, emotional and psychological consequences of a surgery to which they did not (could not) consent. Non-therapeutic removal of a child’s foreskin—or any part of their genitals —violates that individual’s right over his or her body and is easily deferred to a later time to respect each person’s right to make such important decisions about their own body.
This legal project will be extremely costly. Legal expenses alone may total anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000. Please consider donating now to help get things going. Donations are tax deductible if made to GALDEF due to our non-profit status.
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Please visit our Ways to Give page and consider a donation to help jump-start the project.
How can you help if you don’t have money at the moment? You can assist in sharing content related to the lawsuits by contacting local media outlets, journalists, interests groups, civil and human rights group, or podcasters who you believe are or should be supportive of the mission to protect all children from genital mutilation. Urge them to support GALDEF and the Kane Law Firm by either publishing an article on the litigation or interviewing Eric Clopper or Brad Kane.
No. The question of who does and does not deserve protection from non-therapeutic, non- consensual childhood genital cutting should not be conditioned upon culture, race, sex or gender identity. All children have a right to bodily integrity, without qualification.
Worldwide, roughly over 2 billion boys and men and 200 million girls and women have had their genitals cut when they were too young to consent. In the US, with little to no actual data, it can only be estimated that up to 500,000 girls and women are “at risk” for genital cutting for cultural reasons. However, robust statistical data reveals that over 1.25 million boys have their genitals cut each year for cultural reasons.
In the US there are established laws and legal redress for female genital cutting victims. While boys are at far more risk of genital cutting, they lack any legal protections. Without legal protection, the only option for legal redress is to work with adult litigants who have reached the age of majority and are within their statute of limitations to bring their own legal cases for harm inflicted due to lack of equal protection. A constitutionally sound and reasonable strategy for establishing universal rights to bodily integrity and genital autonomy for all children is to focus on those who remain unprotected, namely boys and intersex children.
We are deeply indebted to feminist pioneers who promoted a core feminist concept that one should have the right to choose what’s done with or to one’s own body. This concept was/is behind anti-Female Genital Mutilation legislation and litigation. Unfortunately, for both cultural and political reasons, boys and intersex children have been excluded from such progressive legislation.
Moreover, the U.S. movement against male circumcision was begun in the early 1980s by Rosemary Romberg and Marilyn Milos, R.N., and is currently led by Georganne Chapin, all feminist-minded mothers. FGM survivor Soraya Mire and anti-FGM author Hanny Lightfoot-Klein oppose genital cutting of boys. Feminist pioneers Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem are also on record opposing newborn male circumcision, the latter of whom stated “I stand with many brothers in eliminating that practice too.”
We have now reached a point where such unequal protection can no longer be sustained; ethically, morally or constitutionally. Asserting that those born with a penis have the same legal right to and protection of their bodily integrity as those born with a vulva does not in any way diminish or threaten the rights of girls and women.
When we ask men to be more respectful of women and their bodily autonomy, we believe this message will resonate more strongly in a boy who had his own rights to bodily autonomy respected. Human rights should not be a zero-sum-game. We ally ourselves with feminists who recognize that human rights are indivisible and that we all benefit when everyone’s human rights are protected.
GALDEF invites all equality-minded people to stand with us in this legal effort.
FGM involves a wide range of types from serious to minor. Some countries and U.S. states ban the mildest types of FGM, like nicking, pricking or scraping of the vulva. These types result in no tissue loss, no differences in physical appearance and no functional losses. The typical male circumcision, however, removes from one-third to one-half of the penile skin system, creating a visible difference in appearance, leaving significant scarring and destroying several important genital functions that include protection of the penile glans (head), lubrication, and the sensual gliding mechanism of the densely nerve-laden penile foreskin.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledged in its circumcision policies from 1989 to its latest (and now expired) 2012 policy statement that “The exact incidence of postoperative complications is unknown” and “The true incidence of complications after newborn circumcision is unknown.” These admissions undermine the AAP’s conclusion that “health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks.” Without knowing the extent of complications and harms – immediate, short-term and long-term – it is intentionally fraudulent to promote the idea that circumcision benefits outweigh risks.
Moreover, the U.S. medical community has ignored the plight of circumcision sufferers, despite the fact that growing numbers of men have been documenting long-term adverse consequences from circumcision since the 1990s. Respected medical and academic journals have published reports that include physical, sexual, emotional and psychological harm, as well as negative effects upon self-esteem and overall sexual health. [Visit our ‘Resources for Attorneys’ page and www.CircumcisionHarm.org for a more detailed understanding of these harms] Fortunately, new generations of researchers are starting to investigate these harms, lending further support to calls for equal protection of boys from genital cutting customs.
Creating a separate law to protect only males from genital cutting would be subject to the personal, cultural and political biases of state legislators. It would also be portrayed as an attempt to target religious groups that practice male genital cutting, when in fact it’s about extending equal protection to all children, regardless of sex or religion.
Creating separate legislation for girls, boys and intersex children is wasteful, redundant and an affront to constitutional law. The most comprehensive and effective solution to childhood genital cutting is to expand existing laws to encompass equal protection without regard for sex or gender.
No. Cutting off healthy body parts to improve hygiene or prevent disease, especially from children who can’t consent, is neither medically necessary nor ethical. The excuse of improved hygiene or medical benefit can be (and in some cultures is) used to justify removing the “extra skin” of the female labia, which is a form of FGM. The only solution that respects both medical ethics and human rights is to teach our children proper genital care, along with age-appropriate safer sex instruction and administration of vaccines against sexually transmitted infections like HPV and HIV.
No. Since the mid-1970s the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued numerous policy statements on newborn circumcision. Each time, they recognized that the parental decision to circumcise is primarily based on emotional fears and cultural reasons involving family tradition, social conformity, aesthetics, cultural identity or religion (the same reasons why many parents choose to have their daughters circumcised).
No. Parents are free to make religious martyrs of themselves, but not their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics (1988 and 1997) acknowledged that “Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not permit children to be harmed through religious practices, nor do they allow religion to be a valid legal defense when an individual harms or neglects a child.” Under state and Federal laws, the religious beliefs of parents are not an acceptable excuse for imposing genital cutting on their daughters.
In the past, parents who believed they were acting in the best interests of a developmentally challenged child could authorize that the child be sterilized and many doctors performed these medically unnecessary surgeries. This is no longer legal. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics (1995) acknowledged that “Such providers have legal and ethical duties to their child patients to render competent medical care based on what the patient needs, not what someone else expresses.” They also stated “The pediatrician’s responsibilities to his or her patient exist independent of parental desires or proxy consent.”
Yes. Rights that children possess but are not yet capable of defending are called “rights in trust.” Bodily integrity is one such right. Parents have a responsibility to safeguard those rights from being violated. Due to a child’s vulnerable age, they need added legal protection from those who would violate those rights.
No. Inoculation (vaccination) against communicable diseases is globally accepted and administered without regard to the child’s sex. It introduces minute quantities of substances that stimulate the body’s natural immune system and are proven to prevent disease. It does not involve permanent tissue loss, alter bodily integrity, or impair physical or sexual function. Circumcision, on the other hand, primarily singles out one sex (males), and involves the permanent surgical removal of healthy and uniquely erogenous and protective tissue. Newborn circumcision has never been universally accepted by the global medical community. Most pediatric medical associations around the world discourage infant circumcision as an unethical abuse of medicine that violates children’s rights.
Yes and No.
– Prior to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, abortion was a legally protected right enjoyed by women for over 50 years (since 1973). Newborn circumcision has always been a controversial social custom and medically questionable practice that has never been legally protected.
-With abortion, the fetus does not grow up to endure lifelong physical, sexual, emotional or psychological consequences as do many circumcision sufferers.
– The unborn fetus is not legally recognized as a separate person with human rights until after it is born and outside the womb. Survivors of circumcision are individuals who, from the moment of birth, are endowed with fundamental human and legal rights, even though they are not yet capable of exercising them.
– Many times abortions must be performed to save the life of another or to end the life of a nonviable fetus. Circumcision of a normal healthy newborn is never required to save the child’s life.
– Both abortion and circumcision are fundamentally about choice and exercising the ability to decide what one does with, or what’s done to, one’s body, free from restrictions of their choices placed upon them by others.