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Argument: No right to impose religious belief in circumcision on child

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Supporting quotations

Somerville, Margaret (November 2000). "Altering Baby Boys’ Bodies: The Ethics of Infant Male Circumcision". 2000. - In my view, the only way to justify the practice would be on the basis of rights to "freedom of conscience and religion" and respect for the religious beliefs of the parents as set out, for example, in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in the Sheena B. case, in which, as explained in Chapter 7, the court authorized physicians to give a blood transfusion to a baby who needed it, despite the refusal of this treatment by her Jehovah's Witnesses parents, there are strict limits to what parents may decide with respect to medical treatment of their child on the basis of their freedom of religion and religious belief. They may not withhold medical treatment necessary to protect the child's life or health and they may not inflict harm on their child. Therefore, it is far from clear that the parents' right to freedom of religion would validate infant male circumcision carried out for religious reasons.

The law sometimes allows individuals to refuse to comply with certain laws when compliance would contravene their religious belief. These exemptions are implemented on the grounds of conscientious objection. For example, Quakers, who have a fundamental belief in pacifism and believe that to fight in a war is morally wrong, can be granted exemptions from laws that authorize conscription into the services. But in these cases, the beliefs are those of the person granted the exemption. In the case of infant male circumcision, the parents are using their beliefs to justify an intervention on their child who is not yet capable of holding any similar belief.


"Child Health Rights", subtitled "Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child within the National Health Service", ISBN 0 9525928 00, 1995 (Price) - The right to physical and personal integrity, that is to protection from all forms of inter-personal violence, is a fundamental human right which extends fully to children, who are entitled to special care and assistance.

The Convention [on the Rights of the Child] establishes the right to protection from 'all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse' while in the care of parents and other carers (Article 19); from 'inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment' and unlawful or arbitrary restriction of liberty (Article 37); from harmful traditional practices (Article 24.3), and from all forms of exploitation (Articles 34 and 36). In particular the Convention emphasises that this right to freedom from all forms of violence must be available to all children without discrimination. Forms of violence to children cannot be justified on grounds of; for example, religion, culture or tradition.[1]

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