Male circumcision: a cutting issue

By: David Beniuk
21 August, 2012

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute has recommended that male circumcision should be banned unless the religious or cultural reasons for the surgery are ‘well established’.

The circumcision of boys could be banned in Tasmania following a report on the legality of the controversial procedure.

The has recommended the practice be deemed an offence unless it is performed for "well-established" religious or cultural reasons.

The institute says law reform is needed to clarify its legality and make unscrupulous practitioners face criminal sanctions.

"Analysis of the legal position reveals that the law is uncertain as to whether non-therapeutic infant male circumcision is lawful," the institute's director Professor Kate Warner said.

"In the interests of certainty the institute recommends that the law be clarified."

The 101-page report, titled Non-Therapeutic Male Circumcision, recommends a new offence: "generally prohibiting the circumcision of incapable minors".

An exception should be granted for traditions such as the Jewish and Muslim faiths, it says.

"The law ought to accommodate established religious and ethnic circumcising traditions," the report says.

"It should also support measures to encourage individuals associated with these traditions to move away from loosely entrenched and particularly contentious practices."

Among the other recommendations is the need for a court order for a circumcision to take place if a child's parents disagree on it.

Pain and trauma affecting mental health can be associated with the practice, while the benefit of fighting some infections is not significant in developed countries, the report says.

Australia already has laws outlawing female genital mutilation but the circumcision of boys has largely been considered a decision for parents.

The report says more than 19,000 Medicare claims were lodged in 2010 for circumcisions performed on boys aged under six months throughout Australia.

The rate has dropped from around 90 per cent in the 1950s to around 12 per cent in recent years, and is only around 1.5 per cent in Tasmania.

Only Queensland public hospitals still perform the procedure, the report said.

International debate over the practice flared in June when a German court ruled that it represented the illegal harming of a child.

The Royal Australian College of Physicians said at the time the practice was medically unnecessary and a choice for parents.

The state government will consider its response to the report, a spokesman said.

Source: AAP