Saturday, March 9, 2013

WORLD: NGO Council flags circumcision as human rights violation

Child's Rights International Network
October 21, 2012

International NGO Council raises human rights questions

The International NGO Council on Violence against Children published a report on harmful traditional practices in October 2012. On male circumcision, it says:

Male circumcision

Male circumcision has been largely neglected in mainstream debates on harmful practices because of its strong religious connections, particularly with Judaism and Islam, and its general acceptance in many societies. ...

Until recently, male circumcision has generally been challenged only when carried out by non-medical personal in unhygienic settings without pain relief. But a children’s rights analysis suggests that non-consensual, non-therapeutic circumcision of boys, whatever the circumstances, constitutes a gross violation of their rights, including the right to physical integrity, to freedom of thought and religion and to protection from physical and mental violence. When extreme complications arise, it may violate the right to life. It is reported that male circumcision can result in numerous physical, psychological, and sexual health problems during the surgery, afterwards, and throughout adulthood, including haemorrhage, panic attacks, erectile dysfunction, infection (in severe forms leading to partial or complete loss of the penis), urinary infections, necrosis, permanent injury or loss of the glans, excessive penile skin loss, external deformity, and in some cases even death.

There are now substantial established campaigns against non-therapeutic, non-consensual circumcision of boys and growing support to end it, particularly within the medical community. For example, the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has publicly taken a children’s rights position that: “children must not be subjected to medical proceedings that have no therapeutic or preventative value.” In addition, in 2011 the then Ombudsman for Children in Norway advocated that boys should not be circumcised for non-therapeutic reasons until they are old enough to give their informed consent and that parents should not be able to consent on behalf of their children. Most recently, in 2012 a German court ruled that male circumcision constitutes a violation of physical integrity as a child is “permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision” and that the practice is also in conflict with the child’s [and the future adult's] right to religious freedom.

The WHO review quoted three randomized controlled trials suggesting that circumcision reduces the risk of acquiring HIV infection in males. But this potential health benefit does not over-ride a child’s [and hence a man's] right to give [or withhold] informed consent to the practice. The decision to undertake circumcision for these reasons can be deferred to a time where the risk is relevant and the child is old enough to choose and consent for himself.

- International NGO Council on Violence against Children. (Oct 2012).
"Violating children’s rights: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition"
p 21-22

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