Genital Autonomy organized the two-day conference titled, “Promoting Children’s Rights in Europe: Recent Developments” and held at the University of Keele in England on September 16 and 17, 2013. This was one of the most pleasurable and productive meetings in which I have ever had the good fortune to participate.

My presentation–which I will be writing up for publication in the coming months–analyzed the 2012 Cologne court case holding that male circumcision violates human rights and the law and the German legislation attempting to overturn that court case. The title of my talk was “Welcome to the New Era—Four Fatal Flaws in the German Law Legalizing Male Circumcision.” As suggested by the title, I discussed four distinct reasons the legislation is invalid and the earlier court decision is soundly based in medical ethics, law, and human rights. The four core problems are: 1) the law fails to comply with the German requirement of equal protection of males and females; 2) the law is oddly formulated under family law rather than as an exception to the criminal law, which would be expected; 3) the law incoherently attempts to incorporate a consideration of the reason for the procedure; and 4) the law contradicts itself in requiring the procedure be performed even by non-medical practitioners to the existing medical standard, which is impossible since anesthetic must be administered and under German law anesthetic can only be administered by physicians.

The talk went very well and the questions afterwards were quite perceptive. (While I was on the plane home, another German court case was decided in favor of protecting the child’s bodily integrity, and this recent case will also be incorporated into the article I am writing.)

Other speakers included Dutch medical ethicist Gert Van Dijk, Australian-born British barrister James Chegwidden who gave an invaluable review of the legal status of male circumcision in the United Kingdom, Antony Lempert of the Secular Medical Forum, the reliably erudite University of Oxford Research Fellow Brian D. Earp, NORM-UK’s John Dalton, eminent medical historian Frederick Hodges, powerhouse Danish activist Lena Nyhus, the always impressive Norwegian Children’s Ombudsman Anne Lindboe, Global Discourse‘s Matthew Johnson, and Michelle O’Brien, who gave a broad overview of the intersex rights movement.

Lena’s amazing efforts have led to the Social Liberal party passing a motion on September 18, 2013 to oppose male circumcision in the absence of medical justification. She asks that the rest of the world support her work by putting the word out that we are watching Denmark attentively to make sure it does the right thing regarding male circumcision.

ARC Newsletter Vol. 10, No. 2 contains a more detailed discussion of the conference.

Steven Svoboda
Attorneys for the Rights of the Child