The following countries have laws or regulations restricting the practice of male circumcision:


A 2001 law states that a doctor or nurse must be present during the circumcision of a minor, and also requires the use of anesthesia.
‘Sweden restricts circumcisions’ BBC News 2001
Swedish Parliament Scrutinizes Male Circumcision as a Violation of Human Rights (ARC press release)

South Africa

A 2005 law protects children from genital cutting in some special cases:

Once the child has reached the age of 16, his consent must be obtained if his foreskin is to be removed.
Prior to age 16, he is still at risk of circumcision against his will, as long as the perpetrators claim to be motivated by either religion or medicine. In theory, childhood circumcision without religious and/or medical purposes is forbidden, but as these two categories are broadly interpreted and not well-defined, this law offers little protection to children in practice.
South Africa Children’s Act 2005


Various media reports have indicated that Australia has banned circumcision in public hospitals since 2007 in an effort to free up public resources. However, this appears to result from policies of state-level health departments rather than any federal law or regulation. In addition, and unsurprisingly, there are multiple exceptions.

For example, the Department of Human Services in Victoria states, “Victorian public hospitals will be providing circumcision of males for medical reasons only”. However, their list of medical reasons includes the pseudoscientific and fraudulent diagnosis of “Congenital Phimosis” (non-retractability of a child’s foreskin – i.e., the normal development of the human penis during early childhood), so in Victoria, at least, there is a loophole allowing the circumcision of perfectly healthy boys in public hospitals.


A 2012 law (passed in response to the historic Cologne court decision, which had ruled that a child has the right to keep his whole penis) declares that only physicians may inflict foreskin amputation on children over 6 months of age, but offers no protection to the most vulnerable children, those younger than 6 months, whose foreskins may be destroyed by “…specially qualified members of religious communities…” as well as by doctors.

The following attempts to regulate male circumcision have thus far been unsuccessful:

San Francisco

A proposed ballot initiative in 2011 would have protected all children from genital mutilation. It gathered sufficient support to appear on the ballot, but was removed by the San Francisco Superior Court, which argued that local municipalities don’t have authority to regulate “medical procedures”. The fact that genital mutilation is an act of violence against children, rather than a medical procedure, was apparently lost on this court.

This initiative tragically backfired, since in response California enacted AB 768, which prohibited all municipalities in the state from protecting children from foreskin amputation:

…(b) No city, county, or city and county ordinance, regulation, or administrative action shall prohibit or restrict the practice of male circumcision, or the exercise of a parent’s authority to have a child circumcised…

While this law is vague, it seems to imply that a male child in California is totally at the mercy of his parents up until his 18th birthday, before which they have absolute authority to destroy his foreskin at any time and for any reason.


In 2014 The Finland Times reported that “A draft law aimed at banning circumcision has received considerable support from the lawmakers in parliament.”
‘MPs support law proposed to ban circumcision’ Finland Times


In 2018 the Icelandic parliament considered a bill which would have extended to all children the protections already in place for girls. The proposed punishment for perpetrators was six years in prison.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Notini and Earp concluded:

While the bill concerns circumcisions not performed for “health reasons,” it does not define the term ‘health.’ This is an oversight, as the term is not self-evident…. Parents and practitioners are left to apply their own discretion about whether a circumcision is requested for ‘health reasons,’ effectively rendering even the most well-intentioned legislation moot.


Efforts to legally ban male circumcision of minors are under way in Denmark, as reported by the New York Times in 2018 and the European Commission in 2020.

For more details, see the presentation by Lena Nyhus at the Intact 2022 symposium in Atlanta.