Joint statement from the Nordic Ombudsmen for Children and pediatric experts

Let the boys decide on ritual circumcision

Circumcision, without medical indication, of a person who is unable to provide consent violates fundamental medical-ethical principles, not least because the procedure is irreversible, painful and may cause serious complications. There are no health-related grounds to circumcise young boys in the Nordic countries. Those factors that can make circumcision advantageous for adult men are of little relevance to young boys in the Nordic countries. On this matter, boys will get the chance to make up their own minds when they reach the age of maturity required in order to consent for ritual circumcision.

As Ombudsmen for Children and pediatric experts we are of the opinion that circumcision without medical indications in conflict with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which addresses the child’s right to express his/her own views in all matters affecting him/her, and Article 24, point 3, which states that children must be protected against traditional practices that may be prejudicial to their health. In 2013, The UN Human Rights Council also encouraged all countries to ban harmful practices that compromise the integrity and dignity of the child and are prejudicial to the health of boys and girls. We see it as fundamental that parents rights in this context do not prevail over children´s right to bodily integrity. The best interests of the child must always be a primary consideration, even if this can reduce the rights of adults to perform religious or traditional practices.

The Nordic Ombudsmen for Children in conjunction with pediatric experts therefore wish to work towards a situation where circumcision may only be carried out if a boy, who has reached the age and maturity required in order to understand the necessary medical information, chooses to consent to the procedure. We would like to see a respectful dialogue between all the affected parties about how we can best ensure that boys will be able to exert their influence with regard to the issue of circumcision. We also encourage our governments to inform about the rights of the child and the health-related consequences of the procedure. We request  our national governments to take necessary measures to ensure that boys are given the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be circumcised.

Oslo, September 30th 2013

Anne Lindboe, Ombudsman for Children, Norway
Fredrik Malmberg, Ombudsman for Children, Sweden
Maria Kaisa Aula, Ombudsman for Children, Finland
For Per Larsen, Chairman, National Council for Children, Denmark
Margrét María Sigurðardóttir, Ombudsman for Children, Iceland
Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, Children´s Spokesperson, Greenland
Hans Skari, Leader, Norwegian Association of Surgeons
Trond Markestad, professor, Medical Ethical Council of Norway
Jan Petter Odden, Leader, Norwegian Pediatric Society
Kirsti Egge Haugstad, Professional Interest Group of Public Healt Nurses NNO
Lise Janne Wang, National Group of Nurses, Norway
Olle Söder, Professor pediatrics, Karolinska Hospital, Leader of Swedish Pediatric Association
Gunnar Gøthberg, docent, Swedish Association of Children’s Surgeons
Ingrid Svensson, Icelandic Association of District Nurses, Iceland
Ingólfur Einarsson, President of The Icelandic Pediatric Society, Iceland
Þráinn Rósmundsson, Chief Doctor, Division for Children´s Surgery, Landspitalinn University Hospital, Iceland
Ragnar Bjarnason, Professor, Chief Doctor, Pediatrics Division, Landspitalinn University Hospital, Iceland


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