Circumcision and Human Rights
Male circumcision is not directly addressed
It is directly addressed in
in any declarations of human rights - yet.
However, it is implicitly addressed variously in:
Of the Absolute Rights of Individuals
BOOK 1, CHAPTER 1
...the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals.
I. The right of personal security consists in a person's legal and uninterrupted enjoyment of his life, his limbs, his body, his health, and his reputation. ...
2. A man's limbs, (by which for the present we only understand those members which may be useful to him in fight, and the loss of which only amounts to mayhem by the common law) are also the gift of the wise creator; to enable man to protect himself from external injuries in a state of nature. To these therefore he has a natural inherent right; and they cannot be wantonly destroyed or disabled without a manifest breach of civil liberty. ...
3. Besides those limbs and members that may be necessary to man, in order to defend himself or annoy his enemy, the rest of his person or body is also entitled by the same natural right to security from the corporal insults of menaces, assaults, beating, and wounding; though such insults amount not to destruction of life or member....
Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769)
by Sir William Blackstone
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“It is not called the 'Partial Declaration of Human Rights'. It is not the 'Sometimes Declaration of Human Rights'. It is the Universal Declaration, guaranteeing all human beings their basic human rights – without exception.”
Ban Ki-moon, U.N. Secretary General, December 2010
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. [And not just as an extension of their parents.]
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of the Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
10 December 1948
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 1, part 1:
All peoples have the right to self-determination.
Article 1, part 2:
Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex,.. birth or other status.
(similar to article 5, above)
Article 9, part 1:
(similar to article 3, above)
Article 24, part 1:
Every child shall have, without discrimination as to race, colour, sex, ... the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society, and the State.
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.
16 December 1966
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 2, part 1:
(repeats Article 2 of UNUDHR)
Article 8, part 1:
States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity [...and not be surgically altered to look like his father].
Article 13, part 1:
The child shall have the right to freedom of expression... [infant circumcision circumvents the child's freedom to decide for himself what parts of his body to keep, and his freedom of sexual expression by permanently and unnecessarily diminishing his sexual sensations].
Article 24, part 3:
States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
20 November, 1989
This Convention has been ratified by every country in the world except Somalia and the United States of America.
United States Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
[If the foreskin is not property, what is it? (It certainly is property when it is sold.) And if it is not the property of the person it is attached to, whose is it?
Laws forbidding all female genital cutting, no matter how minor, sterile and pain-free, but allowing any (and all) male genital cutting, deny to males the equal protection of the laws.]
The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act
PITTSBURGH (August 5, 2002) -- At a ceremony in Pittsburgh attended by N[ational ]R[ight to ]L[ife ]C[ommittee] officials and other pro-life advocates, President Bush signed into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a bill strongly backed by NRLC.
The law guarantees that every infant born alive enjoys full legal rights under federal law, regardless of his or her stage of development or whether the live birth occurred during an abortion.
"This important legislation ensures that every infant born alive -- including an infant who survives an abortion procedure -- is considered a person under federal law," the President said before signing the bill. ...
South African Children's Bill (2005) outlaws circumcision - a little
Best interests of child standard
7. (1) Whenever a provision of this Act requires the best interests of the child standard
to be applied, the following factors must be taken into consideration where relevant,
...(l) the need to protect the child from any physical or psychological harm that may
be caused by-
(i) subjecting the child to maltreatment, abuse, neglect, exploitation or
degradation or exposing the child to violence or exploitation or other
harmful behaviour; ...
Social, cultural and religious practices
(1) Every child has the right not to be subjected to social, cultural and religious
practices which are detrimental to his or her well-being. ...
(3) Genital mutilation or the circumcision of female children is prohibited. ...
(8) Circumcision of male children under the age of 16 is prohibited, except when-
(a) circumcision is performed for religious purposes in accordance with the
practices of the religion concerned and in the manner prescribed; or
(b) circumcision is performed for medical reasons on the recommendation of a
(9) Circumcision of male children older than 16 may only be performed-
(a) if the child has given consent to the circumcision in the prescribed manner;
(b) after proper counselling of the child; and
(c) in the manner prescribed.
(10) Taking into consideration the child's age, maturity and stage of development,
every male child has the right to refuse circumcision.
|Short and to the point.
||You could drive a truck through this. "Religion" is not defined in the Interpretation. A religion can be what anyone says it is. The sorry history of circumcision is littered with "medical reasons" - most notably the pseudo-diagnosis, "redundant foreskin or phimosis" where "redundant" means "more than somebody likes".|
|But what is striking about this law is that it draws any distinction at all between male and female. No reason is given for treating the sexes unequally.|
Judge refers to "a right to bodily integrity"
The Associated Press
January 6, 2004
California court rules some inmates can refuse medication
SAN FRANCISCO - California's highest court has ruled that the state
cannot force some mentally ill prisoners to take anti-psychotic drugs,
a decision that could let hundreds of inmates refuse treatment in
The California Supreme Court's ruling said a judge - not the state - can authorize the use of drugs only after determining that the inmate
is incompetent to refuse treatment and is an immediate danger to
himself or others.
The ruling concerns California inmates who have done their time for
criminal convictions but have been found to be mentally unfit for
release to the community. Those inmates are housed at state mental
institutions until they are deemed fit for return to the community.
Justice Carlos Moreno, writing for the 6-1 majority, said the 1985 law
authorizing the retention of mentally disordered inmates past their
release dates allows the state to administer anti-psychotics against a
patient's wishes only when there is a medical emergency or when safety
and lives are at risk.
While the court acknowledged the drugs can work wonders for the
mentally ill, the medicine also can produce intolerable side effects,
including muscle spasms, blurred vision, dry mouth, sexual
dysfunction, body rigidity and tremors, among others.
"The basic constitutional and common law right to privacy and bodily
integrity is therefore especially implicated by the forced
administration of medications with such potential adverse
consequences," Moreno wrote.
In dissent, Justice Janice Rogers Brown wrote the ruling goes against
the legislative purpose of the 1985 law, which was designed to
rehabilitate the mentally ill and safeguard the public. ...
Media release from the Human Rights Commissioner, Tasmania
DECEMBER 6, 2007
MALE CIRCUMCISION & HUMAN RIGHTS
This week is Human Rights Week and Monday the 10th December is Human Rights Day. The Tasmanian Commissioner for Children, Mr Paul Mason, today called on the community to address directly the delicate human rights subject of male circumcision on babies and boys too young to give their own consent.
Other than for medica! reasons the Commissioner argues that to inflict permanent, irreversible, painfui and disfiguring surgery on the most private part of a boy's body when he is too srnai! to resist or understand is a pure and simple breach of his most basic human rights.
"Everyone is entitled to bodily integrity, to protection of their own body from injury by another without their consent," he said. "Everybody is entitled to choose their own religion and that can only be done when they are old enough to explore their spirituality. Everybody is entitled to equal protection before the law without discrimination on the basis of gender, culture or race. One person's human rights cannot be used to deny another person's human rights."
Parents do not have absolute rights to do whatever they like with their chfldren. The High Court of Australia has said in 1992 and since that parental
authority is at a/I times subject to the best interests of the child and society
reserves the right to say what that welfare requires.
We love our children, but the law requires us to educate, clothe and feed them and prohibits us from abusing, neglecting and injuring them. Recent changes to the law in Tasmania prohibit us from smoking tobacco in cars with our own children and this restriction on "parental rights" is widely accepted Parents are not allowed to cut off any other part of their children's bodies.
Mr Mason says he cannot understand why abuse and wounding children rs illegal but people are reluctant to protect babies and boys from circumcision
"Leave babies and young boys alone. If a boy grows up wanting to change his appearance for whatever reason, knowing all the risks of the surgery and the possible consequences such as desensitisation, then he has the rest of his life to do it when he is old enough. I would be the first to support him in that. It is a question of choice.'
For further Information, contact the Commissioner for Children's office on 6233 4520.
Policy of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (UK)
Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP.
National Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children
42 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3NH
Telephone: 020 7825 2500
Fax: 020 7825 2525
Thank you for your letter regarding the NSPCC's positions in relation to infant/child circumcision in the UK and martial disputes.
Please find our position statement to on infant/child circumcision below:
The NSPCC recognises that there are sometimes compelling medical reasons for circumcising male children, although in very many cases conservative therapeutic practices are effective, carry fewer risks and are less intrusive.
When the decision has been made to circumcise an infant, we recommend that the procedure should be performed under anaesthetic in hygienic conditions, by a paediatric surgeon, a urologist or other experienced and specially trained doctor. All surgical operations carry a slight risk, associated both with the procedure and with the use of anaesthetic, which should be clearly explained to the parents.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child established the following rights and obligations in relation to children:
- Children should be protected from 'all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse' (Article 19.2)
- States that 'Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.'(Article 24.3)
The NSPCC recognises that the circumcision of male children has deep religious and cultural significance for many people and communities all over the world. It is, however, a practice capable of causing injury and suffering to infants and children unable to consent to such a procedure. We therefore urge parents and practising communities to take all necessary steps to reduce children's suffering and to consider whether circumcision is desirable or necessary. We would suggest that it may be preferable for young adult males to make an informed choice to be circumcised for cultural, religious or other reasons, rather than be operated on as a non-consenting infant.
I hope this has clarified our positions of these issues and thank you for your continued support.
Publications and Information Officer
|Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.
Chairman: Sir Christopher Kelly.
Director & Chief Executive: Mary Marsh.
Founded in 1S84. Incorporated by Royal Charter. Registered Charity No. 216401.
Code 0358. Environmentally Friendly.
0808 800 5000
The Society's hard-nosed motto takes on a certain ironic tinge in the light of "we would suggest" and "it may be preferable". Are they so hesitant when the children involved are girls?
The limits of religious observance
REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
98 U.S. 145
OCTOBER, 1878, Term
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.
... Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?
So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? T[o] permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.
Why there is no religious exemption from the law against polygamy (even with the informed consent of the wives). How much stronger should be a prohibition on religious practices that permanently alter the body of a non-consenting person?
And if a child can refuse a life-saving treatment...?
Nursting Standard, Vol 23, no 20
January 21, 2009
Rights of the child
Competence to accept or refuse treatment is not the same as the 'right to die', says Marc Cornock
Thirteen-year-old leukaemia patient Hannah Jones was given the 'right to die' last year. That, at least, is what happened according to some newspaper reports.
Hannah had refused a heart transplant, a decision that could resulr in her premature death. The primary care trust (PCT) treating her had applied for a courr order to enforce the operation. The PCT withdrew the application after a child protection officer interviewed Hannah and found thnr she had the necessary competence to withhold concent.
The Hannah Jones case last November was not abour the 'right to die'. It was about competence and the legal right to consent to treatment or withhold consent.
It is a long-established legal principle that any competent person over the age of 18 has the right to consent to treatment or to withhold their consent, even if it will result in their death.
Children aged 16 were permitted to give consent in 1969. In1985, with rhe Gillick case, that right was extended to children under rhe age of 16 provided they had the necessary competence.
Competence is the ability to understand the nature of the proposed procedure and its possible consequences. Hannah was deemed to be aware of the need for a heart transplant, as well as the consequence of her refusal.
If a child is able to consent then from a legal and ethical perspective, it can be argued he or she should have the right to withhold consent. It was this right that Hannah was exercising - her right to withhold concent for a procedure she did nor believe was in her best interest.
The competence of an individual should be determined by the clinician who is to undertake the proposed treatrnent. If that is a nurse it is a nurse who establishes whether rhe child is competent. Where children refuse treatment, their parent may provide consent on their behalf.
If the PCT had pressed ahead wirh its case, it would have been up to the court to decide if Hannah's parents were acting in her best interests by supporting her refusal of treatment.
The Hannah Jones case is a reminder that a cornpetent patient even one under 16, has the right to reject the advice of healthcare professionals and do what they believe to be in their own best interests.
Marc Cornock is a lecturer in law at the Opcn University Centre for law
Child's Rights International Network
October 21, 2012
International NGO Council raises human rights questions
The International NGO Council on Violence against Children published a report on
harmful traditional practices in October 2012.
It considers harmful practices this way:
The overwhelming focus of attention in the UN
system has been on harmful traditional practices
affecting women and girls, with a strong gender
inequality and discrimination perspective. The
practices that have received the most attention
to date in terms of debate, data collection and
challenge through legal and other measures, have
been FGM and child marriage.
Some have favoured dropping the word
"traditional" because it may offend communities
who value their traditions. Highlighting harmful
traditions does not in any sense deny the existence
of positive, non-harmful traditions but it cannot be
denied that many extraordinarily harmful practices
affecting children have become hallowed by
tradition, which is what makes them so particularly
difficult to challenge and eliminate. That, surely, is
why the UN system over 50 years and the drafters
of the CRC and other instruments have chosen to
single out harmful traditional practices for special
and urgent attention. Any hesitancy in challenging
these practices as human rights violations will delay
still further their elimination.
Another quoted reason for dropping "traditional" in
this context is that there are contemporary harmful
practices, both new and emerging, which cannot
accurately be described as "traditional" but are
nonetheless condoned within a culture or community.
Rather than dropping "traditional," we believe it is
more productive to extend the concept of "harmful
traditional practices" to "harmful practices based on
tradition, culture, religion or superstition" (assuming
social is subsumed in cultural). This rewording includes
the possibility of new practices unsanctified by
tradition but does not lose focus on the task, which is
to find the most effective way to eliminate practices
that are accepted as conventional and right by many
individuals in the child's life.
We emphasise that our reason for seeking urgent
and intensified advocacy to prohibit and eliminate
the harmful practices based on tradition, culture,
religion or superstition that are identified in this
report is the persisting and very strong approval
of them, often linked to their legality, or assumed
legality in direct conflict with their identification
as human rights violations. And overall, children's
low status in societies and unique developmental
vulnerability justifies special attention on the
harmful practices that affect them.
What characterises the harmful practices listed in
this report is that they remain approved and common
in particular communities, states, regions and in some
cases globally because of one or more of the following:
- Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs
from generation to generation;
- Culture: the ideas, customs and social behaviour
of a particular people or society;
- Religion: practices required or encouraged in
religious texts or teaching, or believed to be so.
- Superstition: widely held but irrational beliefs,
not based on reason or knowledge.
The list includes a number of practices perpetrated
through false beliefs about child development and
the cause and treatment of ill-health. These may
stem from religious edict or belief, or from tradition
or superstition or in some cases be promoted by
- International NGO Council on Violence against Children. (Oct 2012).
children's rights: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or
Male circumcision has been largely neglected in
mainstream debates on harmful practices because
of its strong religious connections, particularly with
Judaism and Islam, and its general acceptance in
many societies. In some areas, it is also a cultural
practice, for example in parts of South Africa and
in Zambia among some ethnic groups, where it is
associated with rituals initiating boys to adulthood.36
A global review of neonatal and child male circumcision
by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS,
published in 2010, describes it as one of the oldest
and most common surgical procedures and estimates
that one in three adult males are circumcised, with
almost universal coverage in some areas.37 A high
proportion of circumcisions are carried out on neonates
and very young children with no capacity to consent
for themselves. It is almost universal in much of the
Middle East, North and West Africa and Central
Asia and is common in other countries, including
Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Indonesia, Pakistan,
the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and the
United States. It is also prevalent among certain ethnic
groups in central, eastern and southern Africa. According
to this review, in some settings such as North Africa,
Pakistan, Indonesia, Israel and rural Turkey, the majority
of providers are not medically trained. In contrast,
circumcision is provided almost exclusively by medically
trained personnel in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States,
as well as in Egypt, the Republic of Korea and the United
States. Circumcision tends to be practised shortly after
birth in parts of West Africa, Israel, the Gulf States and
the United States. In contrast, in North Africa, the Middle
East and parts of Asia males are circumcised as young
boys, and in some regions of east and southern Africa,
as adolescents or young adults.
Until recently, male circumcision has generally been
challenged only when carried out by non-medical
personal in unhygienic settings without pain relief. But a
children's rights analysis suggests 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 is reported that
male circumcision can result in numerous physical,
psychological, and sexual health problems during the
surgery, afterwards, and throughout adulthood, including
haemorrhage, panic attacks, erectile dysfunction,
infection (in severe forms leading to partial or complete
loss of the penis), urinary infections, necrosis, permanent
injury or loss of the glans, excessive penile skin loss,
external deformity, and in some cases even death.38
There are now substantial established campaigns
against non-therapeutic, non-consensual circumcision
of boys and growing support to end it, particularly
within the medical community. For example, the Royal
Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has publicly taken
a children's rights position that: "children must not
be subjected to medical proceedings that have no
therapeutic or preventative value."39 In addition, in
2011 the then Ombudsman for Children in Norway
advocated that boys should not be circumcised for
non-therapeutic reasons until they are old enough to
give their informed consent and that parents should
not be able to consent on behalf of their children.40
Most recently, in 2012 a German court ruled that male
circumcision constitutes a violation of physical integrity
as a child is "permanently and irreparably changed by
the circumcision" and that the practice is also in conflict
with the child's right to religious freedom.41
The WHO review quoted three randomized controlled
trials suggesting that circumcision reduces the risk
of acquiring HIV infection in males. But this potential
health benefit does not over-ride a 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.42
- International NGO Council on Violence against Children. (Oct 2012).
children's rights: Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or
The council appears to be very authoritative. From the Child Rights Information
The International NGO Council on Violence Against Children was formed in 2007 to
support strong and effective follow-up to the UN Study on Violence against Children.
Its central role today is to work closely with the SRSG to ensure civil society
participation in the follow up activities.
The Council is composed of 18 members:
- Nine Members representing international NGOs, and
- Nine Members selected at regional level representing national and regional NGOs.
Jo Becker, Human Rights Watch (Co-Chair)
Peter Newell, Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children (Co-Chair)
Arelys Bellorini, World Vision International
Ileana Bello, Defence for Children International
Theo Noten, ECPAT International
Fernanda Santana, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
Fiyola Hoosen-Steele, Plan International
Sara Johansson, Save the Children
Veronica Yates, Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
North America: Katherine Covell, Children's Rights Centre, Cape Breton University,
Sydney, Nova Scotia Canada
South Asia: A.K.M. Masud Ali, INCIDIN Bangladesh
West and Central Africa: Mr MALLY Kwadjo Essediaba, WAO Afrique (Action to stop
child exploitation), Lomé, Togo.
Latin America: Milena Grillo, Fundacion PANIAMOR, Costa Rica
The Caribbean: Silvia Mazzarelli, VIS/MDB, Dominican Republic
East and Southern Africa: Judith Mulenga, Zambia Civic Education Association, Zambia
East Asia & Pacific: Irene V. Fonacier-Fellizar, Center for the Promotion, Advocacy
and Protection of the Rights of the Child Foundation, Inc., The Philippines
Middle East and North Africa: Thaira Shalan, Arab Council for Childhood and
Development (ACCD), Egypt
Europe and Central Asia: Thomas Mueller, Child Helpline International, The Netherlands
36 Le Roux, L. (2006). Harmful Traditional Practices, (Male Circumcision
and Virginity Testing of Girls) and the Legal Rights of
Children. Masters' Thesis, Unpublished. Retrieved from http://
circumcision-502420.html; CDC. (2012). "Neonatal
Herpes Simplex Virus Infection Following Jewish Ritual Circumcisions
that Included Direct Orogenital Suction - New York
City, 2000-2011." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,
6(22), 405-409. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/
37 WHO and UNAIDS. (2010). Neonatal and child male circumcision:
a global review. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hiv/
38 Nyaundi, P.M. (2005). "Circumcision and the rights of the
Kenyan boy-child." African Human Rights Law Journal, 5,
171-181. Retrieved from http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/
39 The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG). (2010).
Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors. Retrieved
40 The Ombudsman For Children In Norway. (2011). Consultative
Response on Ritual Male Circumcision.
41 "German circumcision ban: Is it a parent's right to choose?"
BBC News, 12 July 2012, Retrieved from http://www.bbc.
42 The Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG). (2010).
Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors. Retrieved
AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAW JOURNAL (pp171-181)
Volume 5 No 1 2005
Circumcision and the rights of the
by Patricia Mande Nyaundi
Programme Manager, Child Legal Aid Centre; Advocate of the High Court of
The adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child strengthened
the protection of the rights of children. Although Kenya has ratified both
instruments and enacted the Children's Act, all instruments prohibiting
practices that are prejudicial to the rights of children, circumcision of the
boy-child for purely cultural reasons still takes place in the country, some-
times with severe consequences, such as deaths. This article demonstrates
that the circumcision of non-consenting boys under the age of 18 violates
their basic human rights, particularly the right not to be discriminated
against, the right to health, the right to privacy and bodily integrity, and
the right not to be subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. The article
concludes that the human rights implications stemming from male circum-
cision necessitate positive action against this practice by the government.
The provisions of the Children's Act are very clear. A careful reading of
its provisions47 would appear to prohibit circumcision of boys as a rite
of passage into adulthood. It pronounces that a child only becomes an
adult on the attainment of the age of 18.48 By doing so, it renders
incompetent any cultural practices that seek to confer adulthood at an
earlier age. Further, the Act provides as follows:49
No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other
cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect
the child's life, health, social welfare, dignity or psychological development.
Clearly as has been suggested above, male circumcision, when per-
formed on under-age boys who are unable to give their consent, is in
breach of this provision. The government of Kenya is acting illegally in
facilitating circumcisions through, for example, public health facilities,
and in failing to prevent these violations, whether carried out by public
or private actors. So as to fulfil its obligations under human rights
treaties that it has ratified and the Act, the Kenyan government must
take positive action against male circumcision.
46 Sec 14 (n 18 above). Sec 20: `Notwithstanding penalties contained in any other law,
where any person wilfully or as a consequence of culpable negligence infringes any of
the rights of a child as specified in sections 5 to 19 such person shall be liable upon
summary conviction to a term of imprisonment not exceeding twelve months, or to a
fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings or to both such imprisonment and fine.'
47 As above.
48 Sec 2.
49 Sec 14 (my emphasis).