Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TASMANIA: Non-religious circumcision should be illegal

Tasmania Law Reform Institute
August 20, 2012

Tasmania: Non-religious infant circumcision should be illegal

The Tasmania Law Reform Institute today released Final Report No 17 on the legal framework in Tasmania which governs the practice of non-therapeutic male circumcision. The report, Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision, provides background on the divisive issue of male circumcision, examines the current law in Tasmania and other international jurisdictions and offers recommendations for reform of the law.

The TLRI produced an issues paper entitled Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision in 2009 seeking public views on the merits of the current legal framework. The paper generated much interest, and submissions were received not only from Tasmania and other Australian states but from international respondents as well.

Analysis of the legal position reveals that the law is uncertain as to whether non-therapeutic infant male circumcision is lawful.  In the interests of certainty the Institute recommends that the law be clarified. The report  makes a series of recommendations. These include:
  • a general prohibition on the circumcision of incapable minors with an exception for well-established religious or ethnicity motivated circumcisions.
  • enactment of legislation clarifying the legality of circumcisions performed at the request of an adult or a capable minor and governing situations where parents disagree about the desirability of performing a circumcision.
  • greater dissemination of accurate information on the known and potential effects and significance of circumcision.
  • the imposition of criminal sanctions for a circumciser who fails to meet minimum standards of care: and
  • setting of a uniform limitations period in which individuals can bring an action against their circumciser and extending the limitations period for individuals harmed by circumcisions as a minor.
The report is available on the Institute’s webpage:

The Australian
August 21, 2012

Circumcision ban closer in Tasmania

By David Beniuk
THE circumcision of boys could be banned in Tasmania following a report on the legality of the controversial procedure.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute has recommended the practice be deemed an offence unless it is performed for "well-established" religious or cultural reasons.

The institute says law reform is needed to clarify its legality and make unscrupulous practitioners face criminal sanctions.

"Analysis of the legal position reveals that the law is uncertain as to whether non-therapeutic infant male circumcision is lawful," the institute's director Professor Kate Warner said.

"In the interests of certainty the institute recommends that the law be clarified."

The 101-page report, titled Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision, recommends a new offence: "generally prohibiting the circumcision of incapable minors".

An exception should be granted for traditions such as the Jewish and Muslim faiths, it says.

"The law ought to accommodate established religious and ethnic circumcising traditions," the report says.

[But who is to decide which traditions are established. Is Scientology established? The Unification Church (Moonies)? The Mormons? Pastafarians? Jedi?]
"It should also support measures to encourage individuals associated with these traditions to move away from loosely entrenched and particularly contentious practices."

Among the other recommendations is the need for a court order for a circumcision to take place if a child's parents disagree on it.

Pain and trauma affecting mental health can be associated with the practice, while the benefit of fighting some infections is not significant in developed countries, the report says.

Australia already has laws outlawing female genital mutilation but the circumcision of boys has largely been considered a decision for parents.

The report says more than 19,000 Medicare claims were lodged in 2010 for circumcisions performed on boys aged under six months throughout Australia.

The rate has dropped from around 90 per cent in the 1950s to around 12 per cent in recent years, and is only around 1.5 per cent in Tasmania.

Only Queensland public hospitals still perform the procedure, the report said.

International debate over the practice flared in June when a German court ruled that it represented the illegal harming of a child.

The Royal Australian College of Physicians said at the time the practice was medically unnecessary and a choice for parents.

The state government will consider its response to the report, a spokesman said.

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