Ritual Male Infant Circumcision and Human Rights

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Allan J. Jacobs & Kavita Shah Arora

Tag(s): Journal article


Opponents of male circumcision have increasingly used human rights positions to articulate their viewpoint. We characterize the meaning of the term “human rights.” We discuss these human rights arguments with special attention to the claims of rights to an open future and to bodily integrity. We offer a three-part test under which a parental decision might be considered an unacceptable violation of a child’s right. The test considers the impact of the practice on society, the impact of the practice on the individual, and the likelihood of adverse impact. Infant circumcision is permissible under this test. We conclude that infant circumcision may be proscribed as violating local norms, even though it does not violate human rights.

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