A San Francisco man is spear-heading an effort to outlaw male circumcision in the city. Lloyd Schofield claims to have already collected more than half of the required signatures for a petition to put the issue up for a popular vote on the city's November ballot, but the effort has drawn widespread criticism from Jewish groups who practice circumcision as an important religious ritual.
Schofield and his supporters argue that circumcision of infants and minors should be punished as a criminal offense with fines and jail-time. "This is a human rights issue," he said. "What you're doing is you're taking an infant and removing the most sensitive part of their body."
The petition is seen by many as a clear violation of religious freedom. Circumcision is an important ritual in the Jewish tradition that symbolizes their covenant with God.
"This is one of the most fundamental practices to our tradition of over 3,000 years," said Abby Porth of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Many Muslims also practice circumcision and representatives of Jewish community groups indicated that they would build an interfaith coalition to oppose the bill. The director of the Anti-Defamation League, Daniel Sandman, said the measure was unlikely to become law due to its inherent religious discrimination.
Health professionals are split, with no clear conclusions on the harms or benefits of the procedure. Supporters of the procedure frequently argue that it helps to prevent the transmission of diseases like HIV. Opponents counter that circumcision is a painful procedure causing decreased sexual sensation.
For the measure to make the November election, Schofield must collect 7,168 signatures by the late April deadline.
Read the full report from AFP here.