The Coastal Post - October 1999

UN Recognizes Forest Knolls Organization;
Tiny Village A World Center

By Jim Scanlon

Marilyn Milos who founded and has operated the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resources Center (NOCIRC) from a spare room in her Forest Knolls home was notified by Hanifa Mezoui Chief of Non-Governmental Organizations for the United Nations in New York, that her organization had been granted "roster status."

Milos started the organization after being forced from her position as a nurse at Marin General Hospital in 1984 for her opposition to routine, painful circumcision of infant boys.

NOCIRC now may designate representatives to UN headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna and will be notified of official meetings at which NOCIRC will have consultative status.

Since 1984 when Milos, a single mother without a job, founded NOCIRC together with her friend and nurse Sheila Curran, the organization has grown spectacularly in size and influence to the extent that international symposia are now held bi-annually: The first was in Anaheim, then San Francisco, the University of Maryland, the University of Lausanne and last year it was held at Oxford University. Next year it will take place at the University of Sydney Australia.

An unusual aspect of NOCIRC is that there is no formal membership: all members are activists.

Although, pleased that there are now over 100 centers in 14 countries, and with the growth of awareness of the myths about circumcision and changing attitudes to the dangers involved in inflicting sexual mutilation on the non consenting infants of ill informed parents, she is still frustrated that the United States is the country in which circumcision is most widely practiced routinely for non religious, non-medical purposes: 60% in the US. In Canada, the numbers are 30%, Australia 10%, New Zealand 2% and in England about 1%.

"Only in English speaking countries has routine circumcision of infant boys infiltrated the medical practice," Milos says. "It was originally done to hinder masturbation, the theory being that 'spilling the seed' wasted energy and made the boy susceptible to disease."

She observes, "Now it is done out of habit. Doctors still haven't a clue. There have been many studies attempting to scientifically justify the practice, but rarely is there any mention of the serious complications caused by unnecessarily operating on the tiny organ of an infant boy. There are many physical complications, including death. There is no medical or other benefit that justifies circumcision."

Milos points out, "We readily accept hypothetical pre-natal and infant trauma affecting humans, but we do not consider the real observed trauma of circumcision on newly born boys, and its aftermath. It is simply blocked out of consciousness."

In 1996, hospitals in the US earned an estimated $162,540,000 from the practice and doctors reaped over $136,000,000. This is similar to African countries, where sexual mutilation of boys and girls provides significant income for whole castes, usually blacksmiths. In the US, trade in human infant foreskins has become a commodity used by biotechnological corporations. Totally vulnerable infant boys are now a source of raw material, taken without their consent and exploited for commercial profit estimated at $663,000,000. Harvested foreskins are used in a wide range of applications by the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Milos recently received the hard bound volume of the proceedings of the Oxford Symposium, over which she presided, with the long title, "Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal, Ethical Implications in Pediatric Practice" (Plenum Press $155).

"The editing was very difficult for a number of reasons, but now it is done and I am proud of this impressive academic volume of 547 pages" she says smiling. "I know it will be highly influential".

"But reading that material over and over again, especially reports on the gruesome experiments done on infant boys, injecting their tiny bodies with drugs, or using sugar coated pacifiers to see if it lessened their screaming while their tiny sexual organs were flayed and cut was too much for me, I couldn't stop crying, she says. "I don't think an ethics committee would approve of such experiments t on laboratory rats!"

Milos recalls, "It brought back the horror of my experience in 1979 at Marin General when I first saw that tiny baby's hands and feet bound with straps and stretched out on a body shaped plastic tray, like a torture board. The baby screamed and screamed while his foreskin was being peeled from his tiny penis:. Remember, this is the most sensitive part of the entire male body! It is not a good way to start life.

"The physician glanced back at me, and seeing me in shock and horror said, 'You know, there is no medical reason for this.' and went back to his gruesome work."

That was when Milos began to give information to mothers and fathers of baby boys that she wishes had been given to her when her sons were born. The authorities at the hospital didn't like it. Eventually she left and NOCIRC was born.

In the US there is now justifiably indignation over female sexual mutilation, a traditional practice in Africa and the Near East, The practice varies from cutting off a part of the clitoris, to it's complete removal with the small and large labia and sewing the opening up until opened up for marriage.

"There is a Federal law prohibiting mutilating female organs, and that is good," she says, "But it shouldn't be restricted to just girls. It should include boys. It should be gender neutral, and apply to mutilating both sexes. It is easier to see mutilation in foreign cultures than in one's own"

"We are always short of money, and it is very hard at times" she says, " but we are in it to bring about change. It's happening, and that makes it worthwhile"

(Information requests and tax deductible contributions can be sent to PO Box 2512 San Anselmo CA94979-2512.)

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