HISTORIC DAY FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHT TO BODILY INTEGRITY
Today, at a meeting in Oslo, Norway, Nordic ombudsmen for children along with Nordic children’s health professionals’ organisations (a.o. pediatricians and pediatric surgeons) agreed on a resolution urging their national governments to work for a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.
I was extremely pleased to be invited to attend this meeting and give a talk on the aspects of pain and complications in relation to ritual circumcision and to take part in the subsequent discussions leading to the final text.
Anne Lindboe (left at Keele University 16th Sept 2013) Norwegian ombudsman for children should be warmly applauded for this great initiative! It is my strong sense that the clear cut message from today’s meeting will be a hard one to escape for the Nordic governments in their future dealing with the issue of non-therapeutic circumcision.
The resolution in Norwegian can be seen here. My (UNOFFICIAL) translation of the resolution into English goes like this (written hastily in the flight back to Copenhagen tonight)
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 grown up persons’ 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
Anne Lindboe, Norwegian ombudsman for children
Fredrik Malmberg, Swedish ombudsman for children
Maria Kaisa Aula, Finnish ombudsman for children
Per Larsen, Chairman of the Danish Children’s Council
Margrét Maria Sigurdardóttir, Icelandic ombudsman for children
Anja Chemnitz Larsen, Greenlandic Children’s spokesperson
as well as by representatives of Nordic associations of pediatricians and pediatric surgeons.
Men Do Complain is deeply Grateful to Morten Frisch for reporting this news and to all those who have taken the side of children by seeking to end the practice of non therapeutic circumcision.