The principle of bodily integrity sums up the right of each human being, including children, to autonomy and self-determination over their own body. It considers an unconsented physical intrusion as a human rights violation.
While the principle has traditionally been raised in connection with practices such as torture, inhumane treatment and forced disappearance, bodily integrity has the potential to apply to wide range of human rights violations, which also affect children’s civil rights.
Practices which violate a child's bodily integrity include all forms of physical violence, ranging from corporal punishment to forced medical treatment, sometimes against a child's express wishes. Non-therapeutic and unconsented surgeries are also violations of bodily integrity, and include practices such as 'corrective' genital surgery performed on intersex children, gender reassignment surgery, female genital mutilation, routine circumcision of male infants and boys, and the sterilisation of people with learning disabilities.
Children are especially vulnerable to such practices, as these are usually performed on people at a very young age when they are unable to speak up for and defend themselves, or give - or refuse - consent.
Below is an evolving list of resources dedicated to debating this issue:
- Submission to the OHCHR Study on children’s right to health for the 2013 Human Rights Council Annual Day on the Rights of the Child.
- Call for recognition of children's freedom of religion across the UN (see section on 'Harmful practices justified in the name of religion').
- Minimum age discussions on children's righ to consent to non-therapeutic interventions and the right to consent, or refuse consent, to medical treatment or surgery without parental consent.
- Children's rights and euthanasia.
- Issue page on intersex rights.