A controversial cut : a comparative analysis of Australia and Denmark on the debate surrounding infant male circumcision

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Balnaves, Hugo
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The global infant male circumcision (IMC) debate can be emotive, sensitive and polarising. With its long presence in human history, IMC has been practiced for a range of different medical, cultural and religious reasons. There is a lack of global medical consensus as to the risks or benefits of IMC. Despite opposition to the practice, IMC is currently not banned in any country. From an international human rights law perspective, IMC is both consistent and inconsistent with certain rights that are protected in some of the major international human rights treaties (ICCPR, ICESCR, CAT and CRC). This thesis aims to investigate the rights that IMC is seemingly inconsistent with: the right to physical integrity, bodily autonomy, the consent of the child, protection from harmful traditions and physical violence, while on the other hand, rights that IMC is seemingly consistent with: freedom of religion or belief, and the cultural and religious rights of parents and children. Some of these aforementioned rights are also used to satisfy the child’s best interests being taken as a primary consideration. This thesis investigates the IMC debates of two countries, Australia and Denmark, and analyses the similarities and differences between them. This thesis ultimately intends to use these similarities and difference to exemplify the difficulties in balancing the conflicting rights. As depicted in the Australian and Danish IMC debates, the uncompromisable religious and cultural importance of the practice to minority communities, the neutral stance taken by medical boards towards the practice, along with the potential for undesirable outcomes from the practice being performed ‘underground’ if banned, are the persuasive factors in the balancing of these rights on IMC and ultimately why no country in the world has banned IMC.
Second semester University: University of Southern Denmark/Danish Institute for Human Rights
infant male circumcision, Australia, Denmark, religion, culture, health, children rights