Circumcision blamed for assaults

News  Herald Sun (Melbourne, Victoria). Thursday, 15 August 2002.

A TRADITIONAL Aborigine who attacked his wife and father-in-law thought his circumcision had affected his mind, a Darwin court has been told.

Peter Fernando's wife and her father had taunted him about his circumcised penis before he bashed them both on May 22, defence lawyer Sharon Lacy told Darwin Magistrates Court.

Fernando, 28, was jailed for 10 months after pleading guilty this week to the assaults.

The three lived on Bathurst Island, north of Darwin, where the Tiwi people no longer circumcise their young men, the court was told.

Relatives had taken Fernando as a child to his mother's traditional country at Port Keats, west of Darwin, where his foreskin was removed in an initiation ceremony.

The issue of the circumcision for Mr Fernando was a very significant one, Ms Lacy said.

In his mind, that act of circumcision is what brought bad spirit to him that made his mind not function in a normal state.

As well as the penis taunts from his wife, Fernando had also endured his father-in-law's ridicule over his lack of an Aboriginal tribal name.

Ms Lacy told magistrate Greg Cavanagh that on the day of the attack, Fernando had been further humiliated by finding his wife outside their house smoking cannabis with her brother.

This was, on my instructions, forbidden, Ms Lacy said.

Not the cannabis smoking, but to be engaged with her brother, who was a married person, in a one-on-one situation.

He was furious about this. He saw this as great disrespect to him, but also something that might bring great trouble.

Mr Cavanagh imposed a four-month non-parole period, accepting that Fernando had lost dignity before the attack.

On his release, Fernando intended to return to Port Keats for a ceremony to remove the bad spirit, the court heard.


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