Relevant articles

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The Child Rights International Network and the International NGO Council on Violence Against Children has recently published (10/12) a report entitled “Violating Children’s Rights: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion, or superstition”, referring to one of the provisions in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child relevant to the practice of circumcision of male children. The Council was set up in 2006 as an advisory council to the UN to assure that the recommendations from the UN Study on Violence against Children were effectively implemented.

This documents makes a powerful case for the rights of male children to be free from non-consensual genital cutting, in the context of the general rights of children to be free from violence. This is a very important document for nurses to be aware of and to reference when writing to policy-makers or otherwise addressing the ethical problems of circumcision of male children.

The document has a section on Male Circumcision (pp. 21-22) that states, in part: “Until recently, male circumcision has generally been challenged only when carried out by non-medical personal [sic] in unhygienic settings without pain relief. But a children’s rights analysis suggest that non-consensual, non-therapeutic circumcision of boys, whatever the circumstances, constitutes a gross violation of their rights, including the right to physical integrity, to freedom of thought and religion, and to protection from physical and mental violence. When extreme complications arise, it may violate the right to life.”

It goes on to mention “growing support to end it [non-therapeutic, non-consensual circumcision of boys]”, referencing the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) (2010), the Norwegian Children’s Ombudsman (2011), and the Cologne, Germany ruling (2012).

It briefly touches on the three Africa RCTs on HIV and circumcision, but states (drawing from the KNMG statement): “This potential health benefit does not over-ride the child’s right to give informed consent to the practice. The decision to undertake circumcision for these reasons can be deferred to a time where the risk is relevant and the child is old enough to choose and consent for himself.”

CRIN – Child Rights Information Network – Resources –

The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) is a network of child rights organizations that work to improve the lives of children. Effective information exchange is facilitated through CRIN’s website, email and newsletter service and regional information.




  • Ethical Decision Making in the Clinical Setting: Nurses’ Rights and Responsibilities (PDF)
    The Association for Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has a position statement supporting the rights of nurses not to have to participate in procedures to which they have an ethical objection, which should be useful to nurse-conscientious-objectors to circumcision. The statement lists, as examples, abortion and sterilization and “any other procedure,” which would cover circumcision. It recommends that every institution have a written policy protecting these rights and making reasonable accommodations for nurses with such ethical objections. It also says: ‘The refusal should not jeopardize a nurse’s employment, nor should nurses be subjected to harassment due to such a refusal.”