Summary: Circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics, particularly because the operation is irreversible, painful and may cause serious complications.
[30 September 2013] - At a meeting today in Oslo, the children's ombudspersons from the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland), and the children's spokesperson from Greenland, in addition to representatives of associations of Nordic paediatricians and pediatric surgeons, have agreed to work with their respective national governments to achieve a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.
LET BOYS DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES WHETHER OR NOT THEY WANT TO BE CIRCUMCISED
Circumcision without a medical indication on a person unable to provide informed consent conflicts with basic principles of medical ethics, particularly because the operation is irreversible, painful and may cause serious complications. There are no health-related reasons to circumcise young boys in the Nordic countries. Arguments that may argue in favour of circumcision in adult men are of little relevance to children in the Nordic area. Boys can make up their own minds about the operation when they get old enough to provide informed consent.
As ombudsmen for children and experts in children's health we consider circumcision of underage boys without a medical indication to be in conflict with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 12, about children's right to express their views about their own matters, and article 24, pt. 3, which says that children must be protected against traditional rituals that may be harmful to their health.
In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council has urged all states to end operations that compromise the integrity and dignity of children and are prejudicial to the health of both girls and boys. We consider it central that parental rights in this matter do not have precedence over children's right to bodily integrity. What is in children's best interest must always come first, even if this may limit an adult's right to carry out their religious or traditional rituals.
The Nordic ombudsmen for children and experts in children's health therefore want to work towards a situation, where a circumcision can only be performed, if a boy, who has reached the age and level of maturity required to understand necessary medical information, consents to the operation. We wish a respectful dialogue among all parties involved about how to best ensure boys' self determination with respect to circumcision. We also urge our governments to inform about children's rights and health-related risks and consequences of the operation. We ask the Nordic governments to take the necessary steps towards ensuring that boys get the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be circumcised.
Oslo, 30th of September 2013
-- Signed by
Anne Lindboe, Norwegian ombudswoman for children
Fredrik Malmberg, Swedish ombudsman for children
Maria Kaisa Aula, Finnish ombudswoman for children
Per Larsen, Chairman of the Danish Children's Council
Margrét Maria Sigurdardóttir, Icelandic ombudswoman for children
Anja Chemnitz Larsen, Greenlandic Children's spokesperson
as well as by representatives of Nordic associations of pediatricians and pediatric surgeons.
- REPORT: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition
- GERMANY: Court rules circumcision poses psychological harm for boy (26 September 2013)
- SWEDEN: Children's ombudsperson calls for ban on male circumcision (29 September 2013)
- SOUTH AFRICA: Over 20 boys die following circumcision ritual (15 May 2013)
- GERMANY: Court bans ritual circumcision of boys (27 June 2012)
- NETHERLANDS: Tensions continue over circumcision debate (3 November 2011)
- NORWAY: Ombudsman proposes setting minimun age for male circumcision (2 September 2011)
- UNITED STATES: Ban on child circumcision up for vote in San Francisco (20 May 2011)
- DENMARK: Plan to ban all circumcision (20 November 2008)
- International Human Rights Law and the Circumcision of Children (18 December 2007)
- NOCIRC: The UN ignores the suffering of male children by not including forced circumcision in their World Report on Violence against Children (17 October 2006)
- CRIN newsletter: 'Measuring Maturity - Understanding Children's 'Evolving Capacities'(October 2009)
- 'Male Circumcision and the Rights of the Child', Jacqueline Smith, Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, University of Utrecht (1998)
- More resources on Harmful Traditional Practices
- Project INTACT of Sexpo Foundation in Finland
- Genital Autonomy
- Helsinki Declaration on the Right to Genital Autonomy