Strasbourg, 27.06.2013 – “Some parents, often with the best of intentions, give their consent to medically unjustified operations or interventions, which may have serious consequences for the physical integrity of their children, some of whom suffer for the rest of their lives,” said Marlene Rupprecht (Germany, SOC), whose report was today adopted by the PACE Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.
The practices condemned by Ms Rupprecht include the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons, female genital mutilation in some cultures, medical interventions in the case of intersexual children, and the submission to or coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.
If circumcision seems to be indicated for medical reasons, its necessity should be closely examined on a case-by-case basis; in the religious context, families should be systematically made aware of the risks of the procedure and be provided with full information on the alternatives, the report says.
The committee found that female genital mutilation, which evidently has no medical benefit whatsoever but is a procedure intended to control the sexual behaviour of girls and women throughout their lives, must be officially prohibited through legislation, backed by effective measures and sanctions to eradicate the practice and make the public aware of the problem.
The report recommends various steps that can be taken to effectively protect children, in particular filling the most evident legal loopholes (for example, by prescribing that only qualified medical staff be allowed to undertake circumcisions, in sterile conditions), educating families so that they understand the risks involved in certain operations, and, in the longer term, changing deeply rooted and unquestioned religious and cultural practices that can very often be harmful to children.
This issue is to be debated at the next plenary session of the PACE in Strasbourg (30 September-4 October 2013).