APRIL 2016: April’s Intactivist of the Month is Kira Antinuk, a registered nurse and founder of the Canadian Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership (CHHRP, pronounced “chirp”).
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, Kira first learned the truth about circumcision in 2003, when pregnant with her first child. She began researching and speaking out about the practice and, using her background as a graphic designer, created a line of T-shirts to raise awareness.
In 2006, Kira attended the International Symposium on Circumcision, Genital Integrity, and Human Rights in Seattle. “That’s when it became clear to me,” she says, “that I needed to leave my career as a graphic designer and follow in the footsteps of Marilyn Milos, the courageous nurse who has inspired so many.” Kira returned to university and became a registered nurse.
She won the Paul Wainwright Nursing Ethics prize, and published a paper on circumcision and nursing responsibilities in the journal Nursing Ethics. She also founded CHHRP, based on “an awareness that, as health care professionals, we can and must do more to promote and protect children’s rights to genital integrity.”
The non-therapeutic circumcision of all infants was condemned in a resolution by British Columbia’s registered nurses at their annual convention in 1995. “What was particularly noteworthy about this resolution,” says Kira, was its emphasis on the fact that “nurses play an important role in educating parents about the harm of circumcision, and that nursing associations have a responsibility to raise awareness about this issue.”
In 2012, in collaboration with physician Christopher Guest (pictured with Kira above, and a former IOTM), CHHRP was incorporated. Children’s rights advocates Tim Hammond and Dave Saving are also co-founders and serve on the Board of Directors of the organization, which counsels Canadian health professionals on their responsibilities and obligation to promote genital integrity for all children through positive and professional education and advocacy.
CHHRP also provides new media and print resources, referrals, and support to the greater public. Kira serves as Nursing Director, working to educate Canadian RNs regarding their right (established in the Canadian Nurses Association’s code of ethics in 2008) to take conscientious objector status in the case of male circumcision.
In addition to working for CHHRP and studying for her Master’s degree, Kira is employed as a Registered Nurse Medical Adjudicator for the federal government of Canada. In Fall 2016, she will begin a PhD program at the University of Victoria (British Columbia), where she plans to examine factors that influence nurses’ perceptions about circumcision, and explore how gender bias may impact nursing research on male and intersex child genital cutting.
“It is my hope that nurses in the United States will work to ensure that their right to take conscientious objector status is similarly protected by U.S. nursing bodies.” To that end, Kira has created a brochure for Nurses for the Rights of the Child, which outlines conscientious objection to non-therapeutic child genital cutting for nurses, employers, and educators. About Intact America, Kira says: “I want to acknowledge the education and advocacy work your organization does to protect the human rights of children in the United States and around the world.”
“While Canada’s circumcision rate is lower than that of the United States, challenges to ending the practice are similar in the two countries,” says Georganne Chapin, Intact America’s executive director. “Kira Antinuk is a dynamo in the fight to expose and end infant genital cutting, having brought together a group of powerful allies to carry out the work, and having helped to further both the theory and practice of conscientious objection in nursing. When infant genital cutting finally goes the way of other outmoded and barbaric medical practices, Kira will be among those to whom we will forever be indebted.”