Wednesday, September 26, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: Humanists put circumcision on Human Rights Agenda

September 17, 2012

Humanists put circumcision ethics on UN agenda

The International Humanist and Ethical Union has presented papers to the United Nations Human Righs Council naming non-therapeutic circumcision as a human rights issue that requires the council's attention.

At the session of September 17, IHEU representative Josephine Mackintosh told the Council:
The recent German [Cologne district] court ruling outlawing non-therapeutic infant male circumcision correctly places the welfare, and the "fundamental rights and freedoms" of vulnerable children above the unrestrained expression of adult beliefs.

The court correctly determined that: non-therapeutic cutting of a child's body is an assault; that children are unable to give informed consent; that surrogate parental consent is not valid for an operation with no clinical indication and with the potential to cause serious harm; and that children have a right to be protected from bodily harm.

Such determinations cannot legitimately be overridden by adults convinced that children might be harmed by denying them this forced, irreversible surgery to their most intimate body parts. When the children become adult they can freely decide whether or not to undergo the procedure.

We understand, and have some sympathy with the sensitivities of certain religious groups which may feel threatened or even attacked by the judgment, particularly in the light of recent history. But it would be wrong to describe this judgment as religious persecution, or anti-Semitic; some Jewish voices are calling for an end to the practice and there is even an association called Jews Against Circumcision. Powerful groups must not be permitted to impose their views on the vulnerable on ideological or theological grounds in contravention of international law.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association and seven other Dutch scientific associations concluded in 2010 that the procedure can be harmful and that it violates the boy's human rights to autonomy and physical integrity.

The German judgment is therefore both laudable and overdue. Reflecting as it does States' obligations under the ICCPR, it should be followed by all member states.

Statement to the General Assembly

1 comment:

  1. Other than the circumstitions website, has this been in the media? I only saw a note about Cologne on the IHEU website.

    It's great that this debate is going to the UN.