Denmark to vote on world-first circumcision ban

In a world-first move, Denmark is set to vote on whether parents should be allowed to circumcise their boys.  

A citizen’s petition

The vote comes about after the Danish Parliament received over 50 000 signatures from it’s constitutes to outlaw non-medical circumcision under the age of 18.

Reaching 50 000 signatures in Denmark means politicians must cast a vote in the case on whether parents should have the right to circumcise their sons (as in most countries, it is already illegal to circumcise girls).

Cloth nappies

The child’s body, not the parents

The vote is not to outlaw circumcision altogether, but rather give the choice back to the child. By placing an age limit on the procedure, the child can then decide to undergo it if he wishes when he’s an adult.  

Lena Nyhus, chair of Intact Denmark told ABC‘s Radio National, “It’s not a petition to ban circumcision. It’s a petition to protect the genital integrity and autonomy of children, regardless of gender. So all we’re asking is for an 18-year age limit.”

Nyhus says the current laws allowing circumcision in Denmark are hypocritical.

“In Scandinavia, we have protected children’s bodily integrity and autonomy for many years. For instance, we don’t allow physical discipline of children and haven’t allowed that for 20 years. So it’s counter-intuitive if parents are allowed to raise children with scalpels when they’re not allowed to smack their children.

“It’s an infringement on the child’s – and the person’s – individual rights, and yes it can be cruel.”

Nyhus says 80 per cent of the Danish public support the ban. 


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A world first  

Denmark is a world leader when it comes to liberal social reforms. It was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage and pornography, and if this ban is passed, it will also become the first country in the world to outlaw non-medical circumcision in children.

The swing against circumcision has been evident across the world in recent years as more and more parents are choosing not to give their boys the snip.

As for Australia

In Australia, this downward trend is particularly evident.

In the 2016/2017 financial year, only four per cent of the 6 309 male babies born that year were circumcised. This is a huge decline from 80 per cent of boys being circumcised in the 1950s.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians now recommends against routine circumcision, pointing out that the potential complication rates of the procedure generally outweigh the benefits.

That said, the College also maintains that it’s reasonable for parents to weigh the pros and cons up themselves and to make their own informed decision for their son.

What about religious rights?

As for Danish parents who cite religious and cultural reasons for continuing to allow boyhood circumcision, human rights and legal affairs spokesperson for the Danish Conservative Party, Naser Khader, believes this is a secondary factor in the vote.

If passed he believes it will, “Put children’s rights ahead of their parents’ religious rights,” he told AAP.

“There is too much emphasis on the parents’ religious and cultural rights.”

Unlikely to pass

Although Danish TV2 broadcaster found that 83 per cent of respondents supported an age limit on circumcising boys, it is unlikely that the proposal will pass in parliament as none of Denmark’s main political parties supports it.

“We’d be all alone and the first country in the world to go in that direction. That’s our objective analysis,” foreign minister Anders Samuelsen told Danish publication Altinget.

Danish defence minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, was also unenthusiastic citing a potential ‘social media explosion’.

“I think the political risk is enormous,” he told reporters. “One may risk that it suddenly begins to explode on social media.”

The Danish parliament is set to cast a vote on the matter in their Autumn. Until then, we and the rest of the world will be waiting.

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